The opening scene-setter for the 1996 film “Independence Day” might serve as a metaphor for what Egyptians could face if a draft constitution written by a panel dominated by Islamists and based on Sharia law wins approval in a referendum: “A loud rumble is heard. Suddenly, we are covered in darkness as the shadow engulfs us. Only the image of our Earth hangs in the air, until a huge silhouetted object suddenly blocks our view.”
Egypt could well embrace the dark side (to mix movie metaphors) and become the region’s biggest force for extremism, just ahead of the Wahaabists in Saudi Arabia, though Iran with its race toward nuclear weapons poses the most immediate danger.
The lowlights of the draft constitution ought to alarm all but the most complacent, as well as those who have been in denial, claiming we have nothing to fear from this “peaceful religion,” which somehow keeps providing examples to the contrary.
According to the Associated Press, the new draft says, “…the principles of Islamic law” are to be enshrined in the Egyptian constitution. Previously, notes the AP, those principles were open to interpretation, but in the latest draft a separate new article is added that defines “principles” by “pointing to particular theological doctrines and their rules,” which will likely result in a stricter interpretation.
Other articles in the draft fail to guarantee equal rights for women, or tolerance for other religious beliefs, including, presumably, moderate Islamic beliefs that conflict with the doctrines of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptians won’t be allowed to “insult or defame the Prophet,” but what constitutes an insult and the punishment for the affront is not spelled out.
Another article preserves military tribunals, allowing them to try civilians. AP estimates 11,000 civilians “were tried before military tribunals during the post-Mubarak transition…” The constitution does not ban slavery, according to AP, or guarantee that Egypt will adhere to international rights treaties.
All of this was foreseeable, if the West had listened to what Islamists promised to do when they achieved political power. We’re not dealing with classified information here. In other countries where Islamists have gained power — in our era and throughout history — they have behaved toward others with differing beliefs and religions exactly as they are behaving now. Except now, opponents scatter for fear of being labeled an “Islamophobe.” Are they Islamophobes if they quote Islamists’ words and point to their actions in an effort to warn others what is coming? Free people ought to be afraid and act accordingly.
The cloud has also spread to Northern Mali where Islamic extremists have banned music in a land where it has long been part of their culture. The Washington Post reports that Northern Mali is “one of the richest reservoirs of music on the (African) continent, (but) is now an artistic wasteland. Hundreds of musicians have fled south to Bamako, the capital, and to other towns and neighboring countries, driven out by hardliners who have decreed any form of music — save for the tunes set to Koranic verses — as being against their religion.”
It is fine to say Islamists don’t represent “mainstream Islam,” whatever that is. But if moderate Islam exists, it is having great difficulty asserting itself in the face of extremists who have the guns, the knives and the will to impose their creed on others, killing or imprisoning anyone who resists.
This is the future and it has policy implications for the United States and every other country that is free and tolerant of all beliefs and wishes to remain so.