The Muslim Brotherhood claims its greatest victory yet.
Sharia is now Egypt’s law of the land. The Islamist-written draft constitution was approved by about 64% of voters. The Muslim Brotherhood believes its time has come. At long last, it has overtaken the land where the group was founded in 1928. For them, this is a blessing from Allah for their years of discipline and patience. And that blessing will continue as it erects a bloc to eliminate Israel, restore Islamic dominion in Europe and wage “civilization jihad” against the West.
The Egyptian opposition, consolidated into the National Salvation Front, cried foul at the results of the first round of voting. It claimed that 66% voted against it in the first round and the result was skewed by mismanagement, vote rigging and election violations. The Front is demanding a formal investigation into the irregularities. The Islamists run the Egyptian government, so that will go nowhere.
Part of the Islamist victory can be attributed to the decision by many to simply not show up. Turnout was only 32%. Some in the opposition wanted to deny legitimacy to the process, while others voted to try to defeat the constitution. As Islamist firebrand Wael Ghoneim explained, “Out of every 100 Egyptians, 69 did not take [part] in the referendum, 18 said ‘yes’ and 13 said ‘no.’”
Article 2 of the constitution declares that “the principles” of Sharia are to be the main source of legislation. This is the same language as the previous constitution but that should give no comfort. This phrase is defined later in Article 219 as: “The principles of Islamic Sharia include general evidence and fundamentalist bases, rules and jurisprudence, as well as sources accepted by doctrines of Sunni Islam and the majority of Muslim scholars.”
The decision to retain the Mubarak-era language was nothing more than a shrewd attempt to disguise the monumental change. BBC observes that the passage that previously stated, “The political system is based on pluralism” has been changed to “The political system is based on principles of democracy and on Shura.”
Al-Azhar University, the most authoritative Sunni institution, is to be “consulted on all matters related to Sharia”—but Sharia encompasses virtually everything. The school has a reputation of being “moderate” but Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi is a senior official. In one speech at Al-Azhar, Qaradawi said that an Islamic bloc is forming that will destroy Israel.
There are some at Al-Azhar who are uncomfortable with its role as described in the Egyptian constitution. An adviser to the Grand Sheikh said the school doesn’t want to be part of a government and “We don’t like to put the law in terms of a religious dogma that says ‘this is right’ or ‘this is wrong.’” The adviser said that they were forced to accept this position and accused the Salafists of seeking to overtake the institution. The Washington Post says, “[F]ar more hardline elements of Egypt’s Islamic mosaic [are staging] a rear-guard action for control.”
The constitution does not mandate Sharia Law’s hudud criminal punishments but that will come later. Qaradawi preached that Egypt should wait five years before cutting off hands. A Pew poll from 2010 shows the majority of Egyptians favor these criminal laws. About 82% favor stoning adulterers; 77% favor cutting off the hands of robbers and whippings and 84% favor executing those that leave Islam.
The Egyptian Coptic Christians should not relax because of the constitution’s kind language that promises freedom of religion and speech. Article 44 says that “insulting prophets and messengers is forbidden.” That means if a Christian contrasts his religion with that of Islam, he could very well end up arrested.
There are verses in the Quran that describe Christian beliefs as blasphemy. For example, 5:72 says, “They do blaspheme who say: '(Allah) is Christ the son of Mary.'" And again in 5:73: “They do blaspheme who say: 'Allah is one of three in a Trinity': for there is no god except One Allah.” To an Islamist authority, the use of the word “blaspheme” could be equivalent to “insulting,” especially if the Christian is making the case for his religion by criticizing Islam and its founder.
Brotherhood preacher Safwat Hegazy, who declared that Morsi would resurrect the Caliphate as the presidential aspirant nodded, threatened violence against Christians. “We say and I say to the Church: Yes, you share this country with us; but there are red lines—and our red line is the legitimacy of Dr. Mohammed Morsi. Whoever splashes water on it, we will splash blood on him.”
The glimmer of hope is that Islamist popularity has taken a hit. President Mohammed Morsi only won his election by 3.4 percent. It’s fair to assume that anyone who voted for his secularist opponent remains against the Islamists. The Brotherhood’s popularity steeply declined after Morsi’s power grab and the proposal of the draft constitution, as evidenced in the hundreds of thousands who protested.
The opposition is coalescing and is considering forming a single political party, but it may be too late. With Sharia as the law of the land, the Islamists have plenty of tools to solidify their power with.
The vice chairman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Essam Erian, said on December 16 that the Brotherhood is considering forming a militia under the authority of the president. “They would have defended themselves in front of the presidential palace and killed the others [anti-Morsi] protesters,” he said.
This weekend’s passing of the constitution is a bigger victory for the Brotherhood than the sweeping of parliament and taking of the presidency. Elected offices are won and lost but the constitution is here to stay. And that means that Sharia law in Egypt is here to stay.
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