How, Oh How, Were We To Know?
At first Egyptians were shocked that Morsi would make such an obvious and, according to Egyptian judges, blatantly illegal move. It’s clear now, as some analysts have long feared, that the brotherhood is making sure it doesn’t lose power again by taking control of Egypt’s constitution. The Brotherhood wants to write the rules of the game. Now they’ve done that too.
Protected by the president’s new-found supreme and unquestionable powers, Morsi ordered his Islamist allies to finish writing the constitution and get it on his desk by the end of this week. They did it, even though many independent legal experts, Christians and opposition politicians boycotted the drafting process. The Brotherhood called the new constitution “a jewel.” Many Egyptians say it leaves too much room for the implementation of Shariah law.
The constitution also empowers the people and government with a duty to uphold moral values, a vague clause that could pave the way for vigilante morality police. The constitution barely mentions protecting women’s rights. According to women who were originally involved in the drafting process, and who subsequently left because they felt they were being ignored, clauses specifically demanding that women be protected from violence and sex trafficking were dropped because Islamists feared it would conflict with their desire to allow child brides.
Looking back now, it all seems so obvious, yet many Egyptians refused to see it coming. In fact, many of the secular revolutionaries backed the Brotherhood, arguing they were better allies than the hated military. The Brotherhood played its cards well.
Eric Trager says people who thought Morsi would be a moderate were idiots who should have seen this coming:
Washington ought to have known by now that “democratic dialogue” is virtually impossible with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now mobilizing throughout Egypt to defend Morsi’s edict. The reason is that it is not a “democratic party” at all. Rather, it is a cultish organization that was never likely to moderate once it had grasped power.
That’s because the very process through which one becomes a Muslim Brother is designed to weed out moderates. It begins when specially designated Brotherhood recruiters, who work at mosques and universities across Egypt, identify pious young men and begin engaging them in social activities to assess their suitability for the organization. The Brotherhood’s ideological brainwashing begins a few months later, as new recruits are incorporated into Brotherhood cells (known as “families”) and introduced to the organization’s curriculum, which emphasizes Qur’anic memorization and the writings of founder Hassan al-Banna, among others. Then, over a five-to-eight-year period, a team of three senior Muslim Brothers monitors each recruit as he advances through five different ranks of Brotherhood membership—muhib, muayyad, muntasib,muntazim, and finally ach amal, or “active brother.”
Throughout this process, rising Muslim Brothers are continually vetted for their embrace of the Brotherhood’s ideology, commitment to its cause, and—most importantly—willingness to follow orders from the Brotherhood’s senior leadership. As a result, Muslim Brothers come to see themselves as foot soldiers in service of the organization’s theocratic credo: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.” Meanwhile, those dissenting with the organization’s aims or tactics are eliminated at various stages during the five-to-eight-year vetting period.
Of course we never do see this coming, in part because the Muslim Brotherhood’s operatives in the US — they fund most major US Muslim organizations — are highly adept at working American elites’ fears of seeming anti-Islam. When I was working at the Dallas Morning News, some local Brotherhood-affiliated Muslim leaders were fairly relentless in meeting any criticism I made of Islamic radicalism with the broad, groundless charge that I was “Islamphobic.” They were not about to tolerate dissent from their line, no matter how fact-based and respectfully articulated. The idea that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to tolerate anything resembling liberal democracy is and always has been a fantasy.
Trager points out that Morsi is not going to back down because he never has; he’s been the Brotherhood’s hardline ideological enforcer. I’m not sure that we can do a thing about this, or ever could have. It has been clear for many years that Egypt would one day be governed by Islamists. But we could at least not deceive ourselves as to what’s happening in Egypt, and what’s likely to happen. This is the point at which the Girondins find themselves sequestered.
Walter Russell Mead says that the Islamists seem to have reached an accommodation with the military:
As long as the military and the Islamists stick together, it seems unlikely that the liberals can do more than protest. And in a country like Egypt, rural masses tend not to side with urban liberals in a political showdown. Egypt’s flawed constitution will likely probably win a referendum if both the Brotherhood and the Army stand behind it, and there isn’t much the liberals can do about it.
Egypt’s liberals and Christians are not completely powerless, but they seem to have lost the most in a revolution most of them enthusiastically backed. It’s an old story in the history of revolutions: relatively liberal figures like LaFayette in France and Kerensky in Russia are prominent when the revolution begins, and get sidelined if not worse as things progress.