In the Arab Middle East, a betting man should always bet on a pessimistic outcome to life changing events, because generally speaking, he will be proven right. The so called Arab Spring that began early this year created a sense of euphoria around the world, as well as in America and Israel and especially in the liberal press. Even in Egypt, the largest Arab state, Christian Copts and Muslims shared optimism as to the outcome of the people’s uprising. Although in the minority, the pessimists who warned of an Islamist takeover were dismissed and in fact castigated for their views.
The pessimistic minority however was proven right. In Libya, where longtime dictator Gaddafi was ousted and killed by the revolutionary forces aided by the Obama administration and NATO, the interim leader of Libya, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the Transitional National Council declared in his ‘liberation’ address that Sharia law would govern the new Libya. Sharia – the source of the doctrine of jihad that triggered the attack on America on 9/11. Mustafa Abdel Jalil was careful not to utter the word ‘jihad,’ which is obligatory to anyone following the application of Sharia in the public domain. Rather Jalil’s pronouncement took on the more salacious aspect of Sharia: “We as a Muslim nation have taken Islamic Sharia as the source of legislation; therefore any law that contradicts the principles of Islam is legally nullified. This includes changing marriage laws to allow men to more easily take on a second wife.” In other words, bigamy is now lawful in Libya.
In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions, the “moderate” Islamic party won 41.47% of the vote in free elections where liberals and Islamists faced off this past weekend. Thousands of Islamist supporters swooped down on central Tunis on Saturday to confront liberal demonstrators rallying against extremism as MPs were drafting a new constitution for Tunisia. The protest was partly a response to ongoing demonstrations at a university outside the capital, where Islamists disrupted courses, demanding a stop to mixed-sex classes and the wearing of full-face veils or niqabs for female students. Shaikh Rashed al-Ghanushi, the leader of the winning Islamist Party Al-Nahdha (“The Revival”), called for jihad against Israel, but in the West he is considered a “moderate Muslim.”
Similarly in Morocco, the Islamic Justice and Development party (PJD), called moderate by the British Guardian newspaper, won the majority of the votes in the parliamentary elections, and for the first time an Islamist, Abdelillah Benkirane, will likely serve as Morocco’s next Prime Minister.
President Obama and his administration are particularly fond of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt. In February this year, the White House demanded that the next government in Egypt “has to include a whole host of non-secular actors (the Muslim Brotherhood fit this bill) that give Egypt a chance to be a stable and reliable partner.”
Fortunately for the MB in Egypt, which adopted the benign name of Freedom and Justice Party and became the largest party in the parliament with 36.6% of the vote, another Islamist party that is far more extreme took second place in the recent elections. The salafist Al-Nour party having garnered 24.4% of the vote in the recent parliamentary elections in Egypt obscures (for many in the press) the true nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. At this point in Egypt’s unfolding history the Islamist parties now control a large majority of the parliament. The difference between the two parties is significant. The salafist Al-Nour seeks to bring 21st century Islam back to the Islam of the 7th century, while the Muslim Brotherhood/Freedom and Justice Party alleges that it wants to fashion 7th century Islam into a 21st century reality. Both parties however intend to see Egypt governed by Sharia Islamic law.