Consistent with the Arab Spring fable to which they continue clinging, Western commentators are enthralled by the new round of Tahrir Square protests against Morsi’s power grab. But they are a pale imitation of the anti-Mubarak uprising, because the Islamists now side with the dictator. They are the zealots who gave the original Tahrir protests their fearsome edge. Morsi is not backing down, because he is doing what he was put there to do and he has little to fear. He has already faced down the remnants of Mubarak’s armed forces and replaced them with Brotherhood loyalists — a ragtag collection of Facebook malcontents does not faze him. He also knows the national referendum on the new constitution will go the same way as the original referendum on constitutional amendments: Sharia will win going away.
Deep down, the Western media know it too. Desperate to preserve its narrative about moderate, modernizing Islamists, Reuters was quick to suggest
that the Brotherhood-dominated constituent assembly had not really Islamized the new constitution. Sure, it provides that “principles of sharia” are the main source of legislation, but that, the report crowed, is the same thing the Mubarak-era constitution said — the Islamists did not alter it. You are supposed to conclude from this that “principles of sharia” are not as repressive as plain old “sharia” (the formulation preferred by Salafists) would have been.
Yet, the new constitution actually goes much farther. Not only does it add provisions that make clear “principles of sharia” means “sharia”; it also installs the scholars of al-Azhar University as official expert consultants on all sharia-related matters — a longtime Morsi goal. Egypt thus becomes the Sunni version of Iran’s totalitarian regime, in which Shiite mullahs exercise ultimate authority.
And how exactly is sharia interpreted by the scholars of al-Azhar, whose alumni include such jihadist eminences as Sheikh Qaradawi and the Blind Sheikh? Not to wear you out with Spring Fever, but as it outlines (with citations to the Azhar-approved, Brotherhood-certified sharia manual, Reliance of the Traveller), they interpret it to call for: death to apostates from Islam; “charitable” contributions to those fighting jihad (expressly defined as “war against non-Muslims”); discrimination against women; discrimination against non-Muslims; death to homosexuals; death to those who spy against Muslims; death by stoning for adulterers; and so on.
It is going to be a long, cold spring.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which was published by Encounter Books.