Egypt’s One Chance for Democracy
Only capable armed forces can check the violent proclivities of Islamic supremacism.

Secretary of State John Kerry


Andrew C. McCarthy

As Egypt began to implode, yet again, John Kerry inadvertently stumbled into something a lot closer to the truth than the delusional “Arab Spring” narrative that has guided Obama-administration policy. The secretary of state, tied in knots by congressional foolishness that mandates terminating U.S. aid when a foreign government is ousted by a coup d’état, rationalized that, quite contrary to a coup, the Egyptian military’s ejection of President Mohamed Morsi was an exercise in “restoring democracy.”

None of this was quite right, although that is to be expected. After all, the C-word on Kerry’s mind was not “coherence”; he was struggling to avoid saying “coup.” But let’s face it: Morsi was forcibly removed from power, and he is being detained, along with other major Muslim Brotherhood figures. That is a coup to most sensible people — people who are not paid to fret over the statutory ramifications of admitting reality, and who have no patience for fastidious distinctions like whether the generals have actually taken over the government or are “merely” backing the civilian technocrats they’ve put in place.

More to the point, Egypt has never had a “democracy,” so the military cannot be said to have “restored” one. Yet there was a welcome bit of common sense in Kerry’s declaration, even if it eluded the declarant.

The defining mission of the Muslim Brotherhood is the implementation of sharia, as noted for several years by a hardy few of us Islamophobes. An “Islamophobe,” by the way, is someone who takes seriously the things Muslim Brotherhood operatives say and the scriptures on which they rely; the Muslims who say the things that Islamophobes have the temerity to mention are called “moderates” — see how this works?

Sharia is Islam’s societal framework and legal code. Particularly as construed by Islamic supremacists, whose ideology dominates the Middle East, sharia is authoritarian, anti-liberty, anti-equality, and intolerant of minority rights. Indeed, in 1990, Islamic supremacists felt the need to issue their own “Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,” precisely because they cannot abide the aspirations laid out in the purportedly “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” promulgated by the United Nations in 1948. Human rights, for the Islamist, must bow to the repressive injunctions of sharia.

Consequently, in a couple of books that are largely about the history, ideology, methodology, and goals of the Muslim Brotherhood — The Grand Jihad and, last year, Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy — I tried to establish two premises. The first is that Islamic supremacism is fundamentally anti-democratic. That proposition cannot be too Islamophobic since influential Islamic supremacists themselves freely concede that sharia cannot coexist with a secular civil society or with any system in which people are free to ignore sharia in enacting their own law.

The second is that elections do not equal democracy. To the contrary, democracy is a culture of governance committed to the protection of minority rights and equality of opportunity. Sharia abides neither of those principles.

Taken together, these two premises lead, inexorably, to this conclusion: In a sharia culture, popular elections inevitably empower anti-democrats. I began Spring Fever with a quip by Turkey’s Islamic-supremacist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that ought to be a lot more notorious: “Democracy is just the train we board to reach our destination.” Islamists step off the train at sharia station, which is a civilization’s distance away from liberty and equality. In a sharia society, “democracy” — taken to mean mere voting — is not a culture. It is just another means of imposing totalitarian sharia. To be sure, it is a means less brutal than violent jihad, but a means to the same sorry end.

Western commentators should thus stop mindlessly repeating the Brotherhood mantra that Mohamed Morsi is, or was, the “democratically elected” president. He was the popularly elected president of an overwhelmingly anti-democratic society — the same society whose citizens, only eight months ago, voted to approve a sharia constitution by a two-to-one landslide. The Brothers rhetorically tug at our pro-democracy heartstrings, but the fact remains that installing anti-democrats in positions of power, even if done by a popular vote, is the antithesis of real democracy.

That brings us to the aspect of coups most reviled in the West: military control of the government.

The United States has a democratic culture that long predates our national government. Our constitution, in fact, is a reflection of our core principle that fundamental minority rights must be safeguarded. The protection of minority rights is a far more reliable indicator of democracy than are elections. Even totalitarian states hold elections (Iran, for example, just had one). In a society that has an authentic democratic culture, the understanding that the people, not the government, are sovereign is basic. Therefore, civilian control of the armed forces is the mandatory state of affairs. The Constitution, in fact, limited congressional appropriations for a national army to two years precisely because many of the Framers considered permanent standing armies a threat to liberty.

But to break Spring Fever, we must finally stop projecting our values on other cultures as if they were “universal,” to borrow the U.N.’s supercilious claim. The Muslim Middle East is part of a different civilization and does not share our core beliefs. Adherent to supremacist Islam, it rejects equality under the law (the rights of non-Muslims are inferior to those of Muslims, and those of women to those of men). In Muslim countries, religious minorities are systematically oppressed and persecuted. The sovereign is deemed to be Allah, acting through the Muslim ruler or caliph. There are no “constituents” to “represent”; the people are subjects who owe the caliph obedience and whose only legitimate expectation of the caliph is his fidelity to sharia.

Crackdown in Cairo
DAY OF RAGE: After last week's crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood encampments in Cairo, supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi gathered in Ramses square in Cairo on Aug. 16 for a huge protest deemed the "Day of Rage."
Crowds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters gather in Ramses Square in Cairo.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters carry an injured colleague during clashes at Ramses Square.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters march towards Old Cairo with the coffin of a colleague killed during Wednesday's clashes.
A car burns near Ramses Square.
A skull flag flies during clashes near Ramses Square
"Day of Rage" protests were held in cities across Egypt. Pictured, Morsi loyalists raise up posters of the former president during a march in Alexandria.
MOSQUE CONFRONTATION: A group of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters took shelter inside Cairo's al-Fath mosque near Ramses Square.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters clash with police near Ramses square in Cairo on Aug. 16.
Civilians run for cover as Muslim Brotherhood supports exchange gunfire with government forces.
Muslim Brotherhood during clashes outside Al-Fath mosque.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters holed inside the al-Fath mosque negotiation with security forces from a behind a barricade.
Riot police move into the al-Fath mosque, ending the stand-off with Muslim Brotherhood members holed up inside.
Army soldiers inside the al-Fath mosque.
Army soldiers inside the al-Fath mosque.
Police guard the gate of the al-Fath mosque.
Supporters of the interim government talk with police outside the mosque.
Supporters of the interim government taunt members of the Muslim Brotherhood inside the al-Fath mosque.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters voluntarily leave the al-Fath escorted by security personnel.
A large crowd jeers and threatens Muslim Brotherhood members as they are escorted out of the al-Fath mosque by security forces.
An Egyptian man mourns over the bodies of relatives in the al-Fath mosque.
Wreckage and debris litter the area around the Al-Fath mosque after the confrontation.
VIOLENCE ENGULFS EGYPT: The stand-off between the Egyptian military and Muslim Brotherhood supporters that followed last month’s coup in Egypt erupted in violence on August 14, when government security forces moved in to eject supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi from encampments in Cairo.
The escalation of violence highlights concern about the stability of the largest nation in the Arab world, barely a month after the removal of its first democratically-elected president, and stoked fears of continuing unrest among supporters of the former regime.
Supporters of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party had protested the military takeover since Morsi’s ouster. They fought with homemade weapons as police and army units using bulldozers and armored vehicles moved in to camps set up near the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque.
Several protest camps were completely destroyed in the fighting, and other government buildings were heavily damaged. The Rabaa mosque itself (pictured) was also heavily damaged. The military later vowed to rebuild the historic site.
By Thursday, the official death toll was reported at more than 600, including 43 police officers, with more than 3,700 injured. On Thursday, the government authorized deadly force to protect personnel and property.
On Thursday, the interim military government announced a new month-long state of emergency. Earlier in the week, acting vice president Mohamed El Baradei has resigned his office because of the violence.
Riot police and army soldiers moved in force on August 14.
Fighting between government forces and Muslim Brotherhood supporters quickly escalated in Rabaa Adawiya square.
A riot police armored vehicle navigates the smoking remains of the encampment.
Fires engulfed the camp and nearby buildings.
Bulldozers were used to take down the temporary camp structures.
A defiant Egyptian woman attempts to halt a bulldozer’s advance.
A protester comforts a wounded colleague.
Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were injured and killed in the assault.
Fighting continued even as the camp site went up in flames.
Defiant Muslim Brotherhood members stood their ground.
Protestors throw rocks from amid the ruins of the Rabba encampment.
Army soldiers move in finish clearing the camp.
Soldiers carried wounded protestors and arrested scores of others.
The fighting also spilled out on to nearby roadways.
Protesters topple a government vehicle over a highway overpass. The driver was pulled from the vehicle and stripped of his gear.
Protesters pushed over another government vehicle.
More armored vehicles stand by as the Rabba camp burns.
Egyptian security forces members hold copies of the Koran during the operation.
Some of the many protesters arrested during the siege.
THE AFTERMATH: Hundreds of protesters were killed in the fighting, and the death toll seems likely to rise. Pictured, a protester mourns over the bodies of some of those killed.
A woman reacts after identifying a dead family member at the Rabaa al-Adaweya Medical Center.
A father grieves outside a makeshift morgue after seeing the body of his son, who was killed in the fighting.
Emotions rise in a woman as she sees some of the victims of the day’s clashes.
Wounded protesters wait for medical attention in the Rabaa al-Adaweya Medical Center.
Smoke rises from a gas station badly damaged in nearby fighting.
Posters of Mohammed Morsi remain amid the ruins of one of the caps.
A Morsi supporter tries to put out a fire at an encampment near Cairo University.
A military police officer walks through the remains of the camp outside the Rabaa Adawiya mosque.
Egyptian army officers tour the smoldering ruins of the larger protest camp.
A banner of Mohammed Morsi hangs from a nearby government building damaged during the fighting.
A line of burnt vehicles near the Rabaa camp.
Surveying the extensive damage inside the Rabaa Adawiya mosque.
Updated: Mar. 01, 2014