Egypt: Democracy Promotion or Islamist Promotion?
The hope that democracy would bloom in Egypt following our collusion in removing Hosni Mubarak looks more and more delusional every day. Even our foreign policy wishful thinkers are no longer peddling the canard that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is “secular” and “moderate,” thus proving that Muslims devoted to the global expansion of Islam and illiberal shari’a law can be liberal democrats friendly to our interests. But despite being mugged by the Islamist reality, too many democracy promoters in the West still refuse to acknowledge that the Iranian Revolution, not the American Revolution, is the likely model for the so-called “Arab Spring.”
The latest moves by president Mohammed Morsi to aggrandize Muslim Brotherhood power in Egypt would not surprise anyone even casually familiar with that organization’s aims and ideology. But even those presumably in the know still cling to the Western narrative predicated on Western assumptions. For example, New York Times Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick recently said, “The Brotherhood, they’re politicians. They are not violent by nature, and they have over the last couple of decades evolved more and more into a moderate — conservative but religious, but moderate — regular old political force.” It takes just such a massive failure of imagination to ignore the illiberal and Islamist implications of Morsi’s recent autocratic behavior, which is consistent with nearly 90 years of Muslim Brotherhood jihadist goals like “the Koran is our law” and “death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.” Is that not an aim “violent by nature”? What other global “regular old political force” endorses such illiberal aspirations? Like many Westerners, Kirkpatrick confuses pragmatism for moderation.
And don’t be fooled by the fact that Morsi’s November 22 decree insulating his actions from judicial review has been partially rescinded. The decree already has served its purpose. The Islamist-dominated assembly has finished writing the new constitution that enshrines shari’a law, and a referendum on it will be held on Saturday. Ominously, Morsi has deployed the army as “security,” giving it the right to arrest civilians. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “If voters pass the constitution on Saturday, it could give Islamists a nearly free hand to redraft the architecture of Egypt’s nascent democracy.” Andrew McCarthy last week quoted Morsi adviser Khairat al-Shater to give us a hint at what purpose that new constitutional structure would serve: “to subjugate people to God on earth” and “to organize our life and the lives of the people on the basis of Islam,” which is “our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers.” As for Kirkpatrick’s old-fashioned pol Morsi, Freedom Center Shillman Fellow Raymond Ibrahim recently reported that a Muslim Brotherhood official said on Egyptian television that “Supreme Guide” Muhammed Badie “rules Morsi.” If true, this means an Egyptian government hostile to Israel and supportive of the terrorist gang Hamas, which like Badie explicitly endorses genocide, and committed to the “Grand Jihad” of subverting Western civilization from within.
But what about the protesters in Tahrir Square? Don’t they represent a significant liberal opposition to an Iran-like state arising in Egypt? We will know after Saturday, when a postponement of the referendum, or a result rejecting the constitution, will demonstrate that the thousands protesting in Cairo we see on the news represent the preferences of 83 million Egyptians we don’t see. But as Andrew Bostom reports, research by Vote Compass Egypt suggests that 70% of Egyptians will vote for a constitution that legalizes religious intolerance and ignores fundamental human rights, an outcome consistent with several years of polling in Egypt that consistently has found widespread support for shari’a law. Perhaps that’s why the liberals are trying to postpone the vote and are calling for a boycott. They understand that “democracy” understood only as popular sovereignty will lead to illiberal and tyrannical results. If you don’t believe them, listen to influential cleric Sheik Yasser Borhami, who said of the new constitution, “This constitution has more complete restraints on rights than ever existed before in any Egyptian constitution. This will not be a democracy that can allow what God forbids, or forbid what God allows.”
Meanwhile, another venue of revolution against a brutal dictator, Syria, also looks more and more likely to result in chaos favorable not to liberal democracy, but to the Muslim Brotherhood and the more explicitly jihadist gangs fighting against Assad. According to the New York Times, the al-Qaeda franchise Al-Nusra Front “has become one of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces” since “its fighters, a small minority of the rebels, have the boldness and skill to storm fortified positions and lead other battalions to capture military bases and oil fields. As their successes mount, they gather more weapons and attract more fighters.” Other Islamist groups were recently seen in a video leading a sing-along extolling terrorism, the destruction of the World Trade Center, and the Taliban. More frightening still, another video has surfaced that––assuming it’s authentic–– shows the Free Syrian Army killing rabbits with some sort of poison gas.
But don’t worry, the new “opposition alliance” endorsed by France and the U.S. is lead by Moaz al –Khatib. As J.E. Dyer reports, Khatib is “a Muslim Brotherhood member with a history of anti-Semitic, anti-Western statements, who has castigated as ‘revisionists’ fellow Muslims (like Alawites) whose beliefs differ on the margins, and who believes that the bombing of Israelis is ‘evidence of God’s justice.’” Yet despite all the signs that, as FrontPage’s Daniel Greenfield wrote recently, “Syria is coming down to a race between the Iranian allied Syrian government, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda,” according to the London Sunday Times, “The United States is launching a covert operation to send weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time,” including “mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles.” Some of the weapons come from “the stockpiles of Muammar Gaddafi” and “include SA-7 missiles, which can be used to shoot down aircraft.” It’s looking more and more like a reprise of the debacle in Libya, where U.S. military power was used to arm and empower jihadist gangs like the one that assassinated 4 Americans in Benghazi.
So this is what ten years of democracy promotion in the Middle East have brought us: illiberal states increasingly dominated by unstable mixtures of jihadist terrorists and more tactically savvy Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood who both share the goal of creating some version of Iran’s Islamic government. In short, we will have colluded in creating states hostile to our interests and security, and those of our closest ally in the region, Israel. Such are the fruits of foreign policy wishful thinking.
Bruce Thornton is a Research Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization.