Egypt's High Court Tries to Stave off ShariaBy Robert Spencer
Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that one-third of the parliamentarians had been elected illegitimately; as a result, "the makeup of the entire chamber is illegal and, consequently, it does not legally stand." The court dissolved the parliament entirely, dealing a major blow to the pro-Sharia forces in Egypt that had dominated it since elections last November.
Will the court's action be enough to prevent Egypt from becoming an Islamic state? For that, it may be too late. Many see the upcoming runoff presidential election between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and secularist Ahmed Shafiq, a longtime friend and associate of Hosni Mubarak, as the great showdown that will determine whether Egypt will embrace Sharia and become an Islamic state, or whether it will continue on the relatively secular path it has been on for decades. But in reality, even if Shafiq is elected, it is unlikely that the Islamization of Egypt is going to be stymied in any significant way.
The transformation of Egypt from a Western-oriented state to one dominated by Islamic law has been proceeding for decades. The Muslim Brotherhood's societal and cultural influence has long outstripped its direct political reach, and shows no sign of abating. One highly visible example of this influence is the fact that while in the 1960s women wearing hijabs were rare on the streets of Cairo, now it is rare to see a woman not wearing one.
Meanwhile, since the presidency of Gamel Abdel Nasser (1956-1970), the Egyptian government has practiced steam control with the Brotherhood, looking the other way as the group terrorized Coptic Christians and enforced Islamic strictures upon the Egyptian populace, but cracking down when the Brotherhood showed signs of growing powerful enough actually to seize power. Nasser's successor Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) not only released all the Brotherhood political prisoners who had been languishing in Egyptian prisons, but also promised the Brotherhood that Sharia would be fully implemented in Egypt.
Sadat didn't live long enough to fulfill that promise; he was murdered by members of another Islamic supremacist group that was enraged by his peace treaty with Israel. Sadat's successor Hosni Mubarak didn't keep that promise to the Brotherhood either, and so it remains unfulfilled to this day, and the Muslim Brothers still want to see Sharia in Egypt.
So do most Egyptians. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in Spring 2010, before the Arab Spring and the toppling of Mubarak, found that no fewer than eighty-five percent of Egyptians thought that Islam was a positive influence in politics. Fifty-nine percent said they identified with "Islamic fundamentalists" in their struggle against "groups who want to modernize the country," who had the support of only twenty-seven percent of Egyptians. Only twenty percent were "very concerned" about "Islamic extremism" within Egypt.
Another survey in May 2012 found little difference. 61 percent of Egyptians stated that they wanted to see Egypt abandon its peace treaty with Israel, and the same number identified the hardline Islamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the country that should serve as Egypt's model for the role Islam should play in government. 60 percent said that Egypt's laws should hew closely to the directives of the Qur'an.
Morsi would be happy to oblige them: "It was for the sake of the Islamic sharia that men were thrown into prison," he recalled at a recent rally.
"Their blood and existence rests on our shoulders now. We will work together to realize their dream of implementing sharia."
In an ugly hint of what might happen if he loses, Morsi's supporters have pelted Shafiq with stones and shoes, and set fire to his campaign headquarters. Campaigning for Morsi, Muslim preacher Safwat Hegazy warned Egyptians:
"If you choose a man who corrupted the country, you will be responsible with him for his corruption and will be held accountable with him [before God]. But if you choose a man who abides by the law of God and establishes justice, you will be rewarded with him. Everyone will be held accountable [by God] if the next president is ill-chosen, and we should not blame but ourselves."
A Muslim cleric, Shaykh Usamah Qasim, was clearer about what this meant when he warned of violence if Islamic supremacists were denied power and Shafiq or anyone else but Morsi were elected president:
"The fate of any of them who reaches the presidency will be like that of former President Anwar al-Sadat, who was assassinated."
Egypt's Coptic Christians are understandably worried. Yousef Sidhom, a Christian newspaper editor, said flatly:
"There is a Brotherhood strategy to work toward building an Islamic country."
He said, according to the Associated Press, that Christians were concerned that "the Brotherhood will keep Christians out of some government positions, tax non-Muslims, base education around Islam and create a foreign policy that favors Muslim over non-Muslim nations."
The Brotherhood and the Salafis may still get a chance to do this, despite the Egyptian high court's Thursday action. The court may have just been trying to stave off the inevitable.
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