It is hard to keep a straight face hearing and reading the mainstream media’s accounts of Egypt’s constitutional referendum. Reuters is typical: Yes, the sharia constitution is going to pass, but Islamists achieved only a “slim vote win” which should “embolden” the “opposition” going forward.
Cases of spring fever abound in the West, but this one is clearly terminal. The sharia constitution is not winning by a slim margin. It is winning in a landslide. At the moment, the vote stands at about 56.5% to 43.5% against the “opposition” — which is called the “opposition” rather than the “supporters of democracy” in order to avoid the embarrassing reminder of what is being so soundly thrashed.
The referendum is already a rout for Islamic supremacists, but there is more. As noted here last week, Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader Egyptians freely elected to be their president, bifurcated the referendum. Only about half the country voted, the rest will vote next Saturday — after being fired up by pro-constitution imams in the mosques on Friday. Understand that of the two halves, the one that already voted this past weekend was expected to have the larger number of “opposition” votes. When all is said and done, the final tally will be closer to a 2-to-1 romp for the Islamists.
If you pierce the “Arab Spring” fantasy and deal with Egypt and the broader Middle East as they are — as I have tried to do in Spring Fever and, before that, in The Grand Jihad — this result is inevitable. Reliable polling, years before Mubarak fell, told us that about two-thirds of the populace favors the imposition of strict sharia. When they finally got an opportunity to vote freely, Egyptians voted overwhelmingly in favor of Islamists — by a 4-to-1 margin in both the initial election on constitutional amendments (which allowed popular elections to go forward quickly) and in the parliamentary election.
Naturally, many Western commentators and politicians, heavily invested in the Arab Spring narrative, strained to find a silver lining when Morsi was elected in a fairly close race (about 52% to 48%). But they neglected the inconvenient details: (a) Morsi’s win was actually impressive given that he was a virtual unknown who became the Islamist standard-bearer only after the then-ruling military junta disqualified the more popular Brotherhood candidate (Khairat el-Shater) shortly before the election; and (b) Morsi’s opponent in the run-off was not a secular-democrat but a Mubarak regime relic — i.e., those opposed to the Brotherhood were not turning to democracy in trying to stop the Brotherhood.
What you are seeing in the referendum on the sharia constitution is the real Egypt and the real Muslim Middle East. There is no democratic revolution — not if we’re talking about real democracy. There is sharia. And here is another guarantee: things will get worse. Once sharia is formally recognized as law, Islamists and their vigilante gangs feel far more comfortable taking enforcement matters into their own hands on the streets.
Dark times ahead.