Phase II of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s declaration of sweeping dictatorial powers was completed on Thursday night. That is when the “constituent assembly” hastily completed a draft constitution that would enshrine sharia principles as fundamental law.
Morsi grabbed the reins with a shrewd caveat: His dictatorship would end once the draft constitution was approved by Egyptians in a national referendum — which is to say, once the dictatorship had served its purpose. Nearly three months ago, in my e-book Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy (which is about to be published in paperback), I explained that Morsi’s agglomeration of power — which was already underway only weeks after his election — was just a placeholder. He is an Islamic-supremacist hardliner whose ultimate goal has always been to impose sharia, the real dictatorship.
Remember the Brotherhood’s notorious motto, which includes the proclamation “the Koran is our law.” It is about to be. In effect, Morsi has used the West’s democracy fetish to put a gun to his population’s head: Either democratically approve anti-democratic sharia or accept the sharia-compliant rule of your democratically elected Islamist despot. Some choice.
Naturally, secularists and religious minorities are grousing. This has the Western media, once again, in full spring-fever flush. For our intelligentsia, the Middle East is a wonderland where Islamists are imagined to be “moderate” (even “largely secular”!) and — to hedge their bets, on the off chance that the Islamists turn out to be, well, Islamists — the population is imagined to be teeming with freedom-loving Jamal al-Madisons who crave American-style civil rights. In reality, supremacist Islam is the predominant ideology of the region. The Muslim Brotherhood is strong because it is the avant-garde of the Islamic masses. Non-Islamist democrats are a decided minority.
Of course, in a place like Egypt, with its population of 80 million people, a decided minority can easily be masqueraded as the majority. The West’s progressive media is good at that — ignoring tea-party throngs while lavishing coverage on five-person Occupy protests as if they were a groundswell. But, you see, the hocus-pocus works here only because we’ve ceded all the leading institutions of opinion to progressives for a half-century. Conditioned to see what they’ve been told to believe, half of our population no longer sees through the smoke and mirrors.
In contrast, the Islamists control and otherwise intimidate Egyptian society’s influential institutions by vigorously enforcing sharia’s repression of discussion and dissent. The public knows the tune is called by the likes of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s powerhouse jurist, not by Wael Ghonim and the young, tech-savvy progressives beloved of the New York Times. In Egypt, the conspiracy theories run against the progressives. The public won’t be snookered into seeing an Islamist uprising as a “democratic” upheaval. They’ll leave that to us.
The Times and the Brotherhood-smitten Obama administration won’t tell you, but Spring Fever will: The constitution was always the prize. That is why the Brothers pursued it with their signature mendacity. The story goes back to the weeks immediately after Mubarak’s fall in early 2011 — back to the most tellingly underreported and willfully misreported event in the “Arab Spring” saga: Egypt’s first-ever free election.
With the trillion-plus dollars U.S. taxpayers have expended to promote “Islamic democracy” and its companion fantasy that elections equal democracy, you’d think you might have heard a bit more about the maiden voyage in Arabia’s most important country. But no, the story barely registered. That is because the Islamists crushed the secular democrats. To grasp what happened on Thursday night, you need to understand why. That first election, zealously contested in sectarian terms, was precisely about Egypt’s future constitution.
Technically, the referendum concerned amendments to the constitution in effect during Mubarak’s reign. Despite the “Arab Spring” paeans you were hearing from Washington, Egyptian democrats knew they were weak. To have any hope of competing with the Brotherhood’s vast, long-established, highly disciplined organization, they would need time. So they argued that before parliamentary and presidential elections could take place, a new constitution should be written. That would take a while and would put voting off into the distant future. The idea was that as long as no one had been elected yet — as long as the Islamists could not claim a popular mandate — the democrats would be in a better position both to influence the content of the constitution and to buy the time necessary to build party organizations that might contest elections effectively.