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Posts Tagged ‘Sharia’

The Western Left Abandons the Arab Left

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Originally published by Rubin Reports.

OH! pleasant exercise of hope and joy! For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood Upon our side, we who were strong in love! Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!–Oh! times, In which the meager, stale, forbidding ways Of custom, law, and statute, took at once The attraction of a country in romance! –William Wordsworth, Poem on the French Revolution, 1789 A decent but very leftist British Middle East expert once described for me his experience in Iran in 1979. As a leftist, he had discounted any idea that Islamists might take over the country before the revolution, dismissing them as insignificant. But then he supported the revolution against the “reactionary, pro-Western” shah.

He had many friends among Iranian leftists. Quickly, he went to Tehran and scheduled meetings at the leftist newspaper established after the revolution. The newspaper was named with the Persian word for dawn, recalling—intentionally or not I have no idea—the words of another revolutionary romantic quoted above.

As he arrived, however, a cordon of revolutionary Islamist police held him back. The supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were busy closing down the newspaper, ransacking the office, and dragging the journalists away to prison. The enthusiastic supporters of revolution, betrayed by their allies (Wordsworth’s “auxiliars,”) were discovering that it wasn’t their revolution at all. The “meager, stale, forbidding” laws and customs were coming back with a vengeance.

The left may believe itself to be “strong in love” but the Islamists have got the guns, money, organization, and the willingness (even eagerness) to kill for power.

This was not the first time in history such things happened. And now with the “Arab Spring” it won’t be the last either.

The leftist forces in the Arabic-speaking world as relatively weak but they can be disproportionately significant, especially in Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia. While Arab liberals have often been implicitly secular-oriented, it has been the leftists, Marxists to some degree, who have been militantly outspoken.

In recent years, though, the Arab left has also hitched its star to the far more powerful Islamists, reasoning that they, too, were against the regime and the West. “After Hitler, us,” over-optimistic German Communists proclaimed in 1932. In a sense, they were right since after the Third Reich’s fall the Soviets would make the survivors the puppet rulers of East Germany. But that’s not the scenario they had in mind.

Now Arab leftists are repeating that pattern. In Egypt, the left provided a youthful, pseudo-democratic cover at the revolution’s beginning that fooled the Western governments, journalists, and “experts.” Now the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t need them anymore.

Here’s a small example of that. The Egyptian leftist newspaper is al-Tahrir and its editor is Ibrahim Issa. He is now being investigated by the government prosecutor on charges of ridiculing the Quran and Sharia law as well as mocking Islam. Soon, people are going to be shot by Salafist terrorists on the basis of such accusations. For now, they just face trials and possible jail time.

What is worth noting is that just about anyone—in this case, as usual, it was an Islamist lawyer—can urge that charges be made against people who say something that offends the Islamists.

I was fascinated by one of the statements that got Issa in trouble. It was a very typical leftist theme whose equivalent is used about every five minutes in the United States and every day in these times by Obama Administration officials. Issa sarcastically remarked that if someone steals a wallet Sharia mandates that their hand be cut off but for stealing millions the punishment is far less harsh.

Issa certainly has guts. He was once sentenced to death under the Mubarak regime, and then pardoned by that dictator. But now there has been a supposed democratic revolution.

If the opposition cannot make such non-theological points how can it criticize Sharia and Islamist rule at all? And while Issa may be defiant, most will be deterred from speaking out or acting by fear of punishment. A common mistake is to think that repression is aimed at silencing courageous critics. Not really. It is intended—and usually works—in getting a far larger number of bystanders to shut up.

Much of What You Think You Know about Islam Is Wrong (Video)

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Editor’s Note: Some of the terminology used by this Muslim author to describe the relationship between God and people is foreign to us. Notions of God “cursing” people for their actions have long been cast off by our own Rabbinic tradition. But restraint and openness are essential if we are to admit into our intellectual environment Muslim voices that seek to dialog with us. In your comments, we encourage you to challenge any point you wish. But we ask that you not denigrate the character, honesty, sincerity and courage of Ms. Tezyapar.

This article is a response to antisemitic notions common among some Muslims, and expressed in a vile video made by Egyptian Cleric Mahmoud Al-Masri.

Yori Yanover 


It is important for people to understand the context of the verses and hadiths regarding the Jews, and it is particularly important for Muslims to understand them properly. Taking verses or hadiths out of context leads not only to poor understanding, it leads to prejudicial attitudes and outright hatred of people who have done nothing wrong. Perhaps even worse is the hypocrisy of those who wish to impose their extremist views by selecting particular verses and hadiths and deliberately distorting the meaning.

Thus it is important to stand against such despicable tactics and to speak out when these are used as a way of incitement. Here are a few of the main examples that cause a prejudiced mindset among many and are frequently misused as political propaganda by certain Islamic groups.


Why It Is a False Statement to Say Jews Are Cursed or Apes According to Islam?

Those Muslims who say “All Jews are cursed” are mistaken. They do not understand the Qur’an. They do not pay attention to the provisions in the Qur’an and interpret it only superficially. Yet if they read the verses with care, they would know that God would never issue an unjust commandment.

Every child is born innocent; this is a fundamental aspect of Islamic theology. How can a child be born cursed? Such a claim is incompatible with God’s justice. Such people are ignorant of the existence and attributes of God. They think that God could commit such an injustice. They think a child can be born cursed for reasons beyond its control, cursed for no crime, and that no matter what it does it can never escape that curse. This has nothing to do with Islam. To expect such injustice from God means to truly not understand Him. No true believer in God could ever say this. In the Qur’an

God says:

“They said ‘Our hearts are wrapped up in covers.’ Nay, God has cursed them for their disbelief. Little is that which they believe.” (Qur’an, 2:88)

They have obviously failed to pay attention to what is set out in the verse. Why does God curse people? For disbelief. If someone denies God’s commandments and does not repent, and if God does not forgive him, he will go to hell; that person is already cursed. God imposes the condition of denial. God does not say ‘I have cursed every Jew, I regard them as cursed en masse.’ He says He curses people who deny Him. Some people who have set themselves up as hodjas and scholars misunderstand this and use it as anti-Jewish propaganda. In another verse, God informs the crimes of some people from the community of the Prophet Moses:

“And for their covenant we raised over them (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai); and (on another occasion) we said: ‘Enter the gate with humility’; and (once again) we commanded them: ‘Transgress not in the matter of the sabbath.’ And we took from them a solemn covenant. (They have incurred divine displeasure): In that they broke their covenant; that they rejected the signs of God; that they slew the Messengers in defiance of right; that they said, ‘Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve God’s Word; We need no more)’;- Nay, God hath set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy, and little is it they believe.” (Qur’an, 4:154-155)

Yet all the things listed in these verses are crimes. God lists those actions that are unlawful. People are cursed because of these, and those who commit them in any case go to hell. What about the provision regarding people who do not do these? Why should they be cursed? God imposes these conditions and says that people who do these things are cursed.

God also speaks of the existence of believers. Believers are obviously not cursed. God does not regard people as cursed if they abide by His commandments. People who are immoral, who are cruel or declare war on God’s commandments are cursed. People who do these things in any case go to hell. There are also Muslims who will go to hell. If they disobey God’s commandments, then they go to hell, and they are cursed. It is wrong to ascribe this to the Jews alone, or to interpret it in such a way as to apply only to Jews. God regards all those who declare war on His commandments as cursed. Many people misunderstand this.

The Qur’an refers to the community of the Prophet Moses who must abide by the Torah. God sometimes mentions their crimes and sometimes their good acts. For instance, in one verse we are informed about the existence of righteous Jews as such:

“Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth.” (Qur’an, 7:159)

This is actually very similar to the threat of a curse in the Torah. God explains the potential curses in great detail in Deuteronomy, chapter 28 if they don’t obey the His commandments and the reason for this curse is stated as such:

“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country… All these curses will come upon you… because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees He gave you…” (Deuteronomy, 28:15-45)

Furthermore some Muslims unwisely say that all Jews are apes based on this verse:

“When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected.’” (Qur’an, 7:165-166)

However, God says that they are cursed if they rebel or insist on doing something they should not. God does not call people apes if they do not rebel against His commandments but some Muslims fail to understand this and say Jews are all humiliated like apes. God does not say this unless they rebel against Him.

It is also important to remember that God curses people because of their denial. If a Muslim stands in denial, then he is cursed as well. This is a valid statement for all people, and thus Muslims are also addressed in these verses. To present this as a curse on all Jews or calling them all apes is against the Qur’an. Most of those who say such things are mistaken and they expound on these verses falsely. However the verses are more than clear, and God discriminates between innocent people and those regarded as cursed, and He explains the conditions of what causes some to be cursed in a clear and straightforward manner.


Why It Is a False Statement to Say Jews Are the Army of Dajjal (Anti-Messiah) According to Islam?

People keep asking me if Islam is as I say, then why there is so much hatred and violence among the Muslims. And the answer is given by the Prophet of Islam 1,400 years ago. He reveals the hypocrisy prevalent in the Muslim community in the End Times as such:

“Such a time will befall my community that rulers will be oppressive and scholars will be avaricious and without fear of Allah, those who worship will be hypocritical…” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 23, p. 22)

In another hadith (saying of Prophet Mohammed) he says:

“People will spring up in the End Times: but their brains will not function. They will speak fine words when they. The will read the Qur’an, but their faith will go no further than their throats…” (Buhari, 3611, 5057, 6930, Muslim, 1066, Abu Dawud 4767, Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Musnad 1, 81, 113, 131, 289; Al-Tayalisi, al-Musnad, no. 1984.)

So it is clear that people will read the Qur’an but not think and live according to the teachings of the Qur’an. This is what I call the religion of the bigots. They implement a faith they have largely invented themselves under the name of Islam. And in this faith there is hatred, violence, darkness. These people who follow the religion of bigotry are the enemies of beauty, art, aesthetics and science as well as women, children etc. They attach no value to human beings and their hearts are far removed from love or compassion.

This is why their life and spirit contradicts the Qur’an concerning love, peace, affection, brotherhood and unity; and the Qur’an encourages beauty, art and science. They only speak hostility and they espouse bloodshed in the name of Islam, spread hatred toward Christians, Jews and even other Muslims. These loveless, misguided people are most definitely not Muslims, but bigots or radicals -however you would like to name them. And this is why we also see hatred for Jews in their mindset.

In Islamic eschatology, there is a hadith that the dajjal (anti-messiah/anti-christ) will come and will be followed by 70,000 Jews.

“Seventy thousand people from the Jews of Isfahan with turbans and gowns will follow the antichrist.” (Muslim, At-Taj Ali Nasif al-Husayn, vol. 5, p. 627)

Based on this hadith, some people who present themselves as Muslim clerics falsely claim that all Jews will be the army of the dajjal, in other words anti-messiah. It goes without saying that this hadith is not referring to each and every Jewish man, woman or child. It is referring specifically only to some who are against God’s way. Like many things from the Qur’an and hadiths, this particular example has been taken out of context and used by extremists to justify their desire to commit wanton slaughter.

However there is an apparent evidence to this hypocrisy. In another hadith, Prophet Mohammed says that “Seventy thousand scholars from my community, all wearing turbans, will follow the dajjal [anti-messiah].” (Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, p. 796)

In referring to the people who will follow the anti-messiah in the hadith, Prophet Muhammed speaks in particular of those who are from the Islamic community and what is more, he draws attention to the ones who regard themselves as scholars.

The army of the anti-messiah will emerge from every religion, and they will constitute bigots who seek to damage their own faiths and the world. Among them there will be Muslims, Jews, Christians and others who are insincere in their faith and who are removed from God’s will. As a matter of fact, backwardness, fanaticism and bigotry is a real threat to Islam as well as to all humanity. Prophet Mohammed himself also warns against this threat:

“My community will be destroyed because of evil scholars and ignorant servants.” (Darimi)

And in another one he says:

“Such a time will come that scholars will be an element of mischief.” (Abu Nuaim)

These statements are all talking about the corruption and mischief among the Muslim community. The harm done by some religious scholars is highly destructive to be sure because they lead many ignorant people astray with their false teachings. And just as it was in history, to this day they are largely responsible for the disasters that have befallen Islamic states.


Mahdi (King Messiah) Will Surely Not Kill Jews:

These people who misuse the hadiths while referring to Jews as an army of the anti-messiah also claim that the Mahdi will kill all the Jews. This is far from the truth. This anti-Jewish hatred does not reflect anything about Islam.

First of all, the Mahdi that Muslims are waiting is the same holy person that the Jews are waiting for as King Messiah and this leader’s attributes are similar in both Islamic and Judaic accounts. The Mahdi will govern the world through love, not through war. He is someone who avoids war, a man of peace, who is full of love and compassion for all humanity. The way he will operate is described as follows in the hadith:

In the time of [Mahdi/King Messiah] no one will be woken up from their sleep or have a bleeding nose. (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi ‘Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 44)

“People will seek refuge in the Mahdi [King Messiah] as honey bees cluster around their sovereign. He will fill the world that was once full of cruelty with justice. His justice will be as such that he will not wake a sleeping person not even one drop of blood is shed. The earth will return to the age of happiness.” (Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi ‘Alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 29 and 48)

“Enmity and hatred between people will cease… Like the cup fills with water, so will earth fill with peace… There will be religious unity. Nobody but Allah will be worshiped. War will put down its burden.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, 10:334)

The climate of peace in the time of King Messiah -the Mahdi- is described very similarly in the Judaic scriptures:

“… In the last days… He [the Lord]… will settle disputes for many peoples… Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah, 2:2-4; Micah, 4:1-3)

“… Burn them [the weapons] up—the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears… They will use them for fuel… declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel, 39:9-10)

Consequently it is not only false information that the Mahdi will kill Jews, but it is also against Islamic theology in every way, shape and form. “Not one drop of blood will be shed” is an indisputable expression and thus the Mahdi will not shed the blood of anyone from any religion.

Egypt Falls Over the Islamic Cliff

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Both the Islamists and the opposition in Egypt confirmed that Egyptians overwhelmingly chose to become yet another Islamic, Sharia-based state with the adoption of their new constitution.

It is estimated that 64% of those voting in both rounds, voted “yes”, with numerous irregularities reported during both votes.

And to top it off, as pointed out in Forbes, the new constitution does more than just enshrine Islamic Sharia law, it also enshrines socialism as their economic structure.

Ahram Online reports that Egyptian President Morsi has announced his list of 90 representatives who will become members of the Shura council (out of 270 members).  The Shura Council will take on the powers from the president to issue laws.

But despite Morsi including a handful of women and minorities in his list, Ahram Online reports:

Tens of liberal and leftist figures have declined the positions offered to them by the president in the Shura Council.

This means that members of the main opposition’s parties, previously represented in the now-dismantled People’s Assembly, are now not represented in new appointments to the Shura Council.

 

The Breakneck Speed of Islamist Transformation in Egypt

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

A critical moment has arrived for Egypt. But in what way?

President Morsi has rescinded much of his decree claiming total power right now. But he could accomplish much the same thing after the Constitution is confirmed and perhaps by forcing reinstatement of the parliament whose election was declared invalid by a court. At any rate, Morsi’s concession has not quieted the demonstrations–another sign that concessions in the Middle East don’t bring agreements–and so this crisis isn’t going away.

There are three broad possibilities: the regime will fall; the opposition will be repressed; or there will be an increasingly violent civil war.

The regime will not fall due to these demonstrations. Remember what happened to the previous, Mubarak regime. It fell for the following reasons:

–The army would not defend it.

–The army then overthrew it.

–The Muslim Brotherhood-led opposition would not compromise.

–The West would not support the regime.

These conditions, except possibly the first one, are not in place today. Ultimately, Mubarak’s regime—not just Mubarak but the whole regime—fell only because the army overthrew it. There is no sign of this happening now. And the West, ironic as that might be, supports the Muslim Brotherhood government, especially because it is willing to go ahead with almost $10 billion in aid. And the Brotherhood will not give in to the opposition on any substantive point, whatever cosmetic maneuvers it makes.

Let’s remember that Western, and particularly U.S. policy has spent the last two years talking about how terrible it is to have a dictatorship or military rule. The armed forces have been systematically discouraged by the West from being in government.

By definition, of course, the Brotherhood regime is supposedly not a dictatorship because it won two elections and is probably about to win a third one. So an elected regime cannot be a dictatorship? Yet this regime has declared that it is above all court decisions and all previous laws. Isn’t that a dictatorship? It intends to impose a highly repressive law on its society. Isn’t that a dictatorship?

The opposition thinks so; the West doesn’t. But what does the army think? Well, it does not take a principled stance against having a dictatorship. It is happy to live with a dictatorship that meets the military’s conditions. These are:

–The army chooses its own leaders.

–The security services set their own budgets.

–Nobody interferes with the military’s vast economic holdings.

The regime has already met the second and third conditions and to retain the military’s backing would give in on the first as well. But the regime wants more: that the armed forces actively put down the demonstrations and this is something that the generals are reluctant to do.Now Morsi has given the army the power to arrest civilians but does it want to do so? The army doesn’t want to be hated, shoot down people, and set off a civil war in which it has to round up hundreds of thousands of people and launch scores of operations each day. True, the police are obedient and will act against these demonstrations just as it formerly tried to repress the anti-Mubarak demonstrations. But the police alone aren’t sufficient.

What happens, then, if the regime doesn’t give in and the army doesn’t stop the demonstrations? The logical conclusion is that the Brotherhood and Salafists will increasingly send violent vigilantes into the street to defend their government. (As this article predicted, on December 11 gunmen opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir Square, wounding nine.) They want to ensure the Constitution is adopted on December 15—whether the opposition boycotts the vote is irrelevant to them—and afterward the Brotherhood regime can operate under that Constitution.Then, the opposition will be told: you’ve lost, accept it; you have no choice. And besides, we are acting legally under this Constitution that the people accepted.

President Morsi will have to decide whether to try to override the courts and reinstate the previously elected parliament (almost 75 percent Islamist) or make a concession and allow elections for a new parliament (that might be only 55-60 percent Islamist).

Thus, the key issues are how high the level of violence will rise and whether the current conflicts will make the regime speed up or slow down the fundamental transformation of Egypt into a Sharia state in which Islamic law is strictly interpreted.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Egypt’s New Constitution Laying Foundation for Sharia State

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

On November 30, a Constituent Assembly consisting almost 100 percent of Islamists voted to approve the draft of Egypt’s new Constitution. The next day, President Muhammad Mursi ordered that a referendum be held on December 15. In other words, Egypt’s population will be given two weeks to consider the main law, which has 230 articles, that will govern their lives for decades to come.

Most of the non-Islamists had walked out of the Assembly because they objected to the proposed Constitution and it seems as if the remaining opposition members did not even attend the vote. So great is the outrage that Egypt’s judges–who supervise elections and were explicitly asked by Mursi to oversee the forthcoming referendum–have refused to do so.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief spiritual guide raved about how great the Constitution is and then responded to the walk-out with a phrase that might serve as the slogan for the new democracy in Egypt and other Arabic-speaking countries:

“You should not have withdrawn. It’s your right to express your opinions freely.”

Yes, they could say what they thought and then be outvoted. Now that, indeed, is democracy. But what if you can already see that the democratic procedure will produce a dictatorial result? For example, Mursi was democratically elected president. He then issued a decree that said no court could countermand anything he decides. Isn’t that democratic, at least in the broader sense? Well, no it isn’t.

The competing street demonstrations of regime supporters and anti-Islamist oppositionists have now coalesced around two slogans. Pro-Islamists chant, “The people want the implementation of God’s law.” The opposition chants, “The people want to bring down the regime.”

But this time, unlike 2011, it is the regime that enjoys the support of the armed forces and Western governments, being buttressed also with almost $10 billion in aid. “The people” aren’t going to bring down this regime and the new rulers are going to implement their interpretation of “God’s law.” That is the new meaning of democracy in Egypt.

I draw here from the analysis in the Egypt Independent newspaper. For a BBC comparison of this with the previous Egyptian constitution see here. And here’s the full text. Keep in mind that neither we nor Mursi knows for sure what will happen to the parliament already elected. The Islamists have 75 percent of the seats in that body (Muslim Brotherhood, 50 percent; Salafist party, 25 percent) but the high court has ruled the lower house’s election to have been unconstitutional. If this decision stands new elections will be necessary next year. In the presidential election, the Brotherhood’s vote was only 52 percent.

While this lower vote could be due to extraneous factors–the abstention of many Salafist supporters for partisan reasons; some Islamists preferring someone other than Mursi in the first round presidential balloting and not switching to support him in the second–Mursi doesn’t know how well the Brotherhood will do if there is a new parliamentary election. Consequently, he needs to find a way to either overrule the court’s decision (hence, his decree letting him overturn what the judges say) or prepare for rule with a parliament less favorable to the Brotherhood. Hence, the constitutional provisions creating a strong presidency are very much in his interest and frighten the non-Islamist opposition.

–Islamic Sharia law is the main source of Egypt’s laws. While this has been in previous constitutions, the problem is interpreting how strictly Sharia will be interpreted and how widely it will be applied. What that passage means for Egypt is going to be a lot more significant under a Muslim Brotherhood government with major input from even more radical Salafists than it did under President Husni Mubarak’s relatively secular-style regime.

–A basic principle of the Constitution (Article 4) is to consult al-Azhar, the country’s influential Islamic university on any issue when Sharia is concerned, which potentially means on every issue. That elevates al-Azhar above all other non-governmental institutions. Al-Azhar is not (yet?) in Muslim Brotherhood hands but its leaders, who know which way the wind blows, can be expected to back a tough interpretation of Sharia law.

–To further ensure that Egypt will be a Sharia state, another provision (Article 219) states that the principles of Sharia are to be found in the four Sunni schools of thought, ruling out any reformist possibilities.

–The state must preserve the “genuine nature” of the Egyptian family and its moral values (Article 10) and has the power (Article 11) “to safeguard ethics” and morality. In other words, the government can do just about anything to determine how people should live and any aspect of their existence it chooses. This is repeated in other articles which limit rights to those that do not contradict what the state might not allow as unacceptable (Article 81) and lets the police arrest people for such crimes (Article 199).

–Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are the only legal religions in Egypt (Article 43). This is in accord with the general interpretation of Islamic law that only these three “people of the book” religions are legitimate. Of course, the face of Christian property will be in the hands of an Islamist government that is unlikely, for example, to approve the construction—or possibly even the renovation—of churches, again in accord with Sharia. Many of these things were also done by the Mubarak regime but one can expect an even tougher approach now.

–It is against the law to insult a prophet (Article 44). This might seem only to be a bother for those who would burn Korans or Bibles or make deliberately provocative videos. But it is important to remember that Islamists have charged that academic research has crossed this line and also the novels of Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s Nobel Prize-winning author as well as a tweet from the main backer of the leading non-Islamist party. Islamist groups will be able to bring law suits against anyone whose writing or statements or tweets they don’t like.

–Freedom of expression is limited (Article 48) by the principles of state and society, national security, and others things. That means that any television station or newspaper that says anything that can be deemed contrary to Sharia or Islamic morality as interpreted by a Muslim Brotherhood government can be shut down. A National Media Council (Article 215) will be responsible for preserving “societal principles and constructive values,” which presumably means it can order publications and television channels to be closed down.

–There can be only one trade union for each profession (Article 53). This has hidden implications since in the past the state has controlled the sole such organization in each area. In addition, though, suppose doctors, journalists, engineers, or members of other professions are tired of being in associations that are controlled by the Brotherhood. They cannot form their own separate groups.

–The president can force parliament to meet in secret rather than public session (Article 93). In that case, the legislators would have no say in the decision. This makes observers suspicious about how much the president will dominate parliament, since Egypt has been a country ruled by a single man for six decades in which parliament was a rubber stamp. In addition, anything critical of the regime can be kept secret.

–This concern is furthered by another provision (Article 104) only allowing parliament to overturn a presidential veto on laws by a two-thirds’ majority. This is, of course, also in the U.S. Constitution but, again, Egypt is a country that has long seen a dictator who rules and a parliament which has no significant influence.

–There is no maximum number of members for parliament set (Article 114 and 128), raising suspicions that the president and the Brotherhood’s political party can add more people if needed to maintain control.

–If the lower house of Parliament does not approve the government platform set by the president (Article 139) he can dissolve it. Since members of parliament don’t like to be forced to run for reelection and possibly lose their seats, this pressures them to accept the president’s policies. This provision is also found in other parliamentary democracies but again there are suspicions given Egypt’s history and the regime’s ideology.

–A provision intended to make the army accept Muslim Brotherhood rule (Article 197) establishes a National Defense Council, with a majority of officers, to set the military budget. This had been a major demand of the armed forces. Another thing that will make the army happy (Article 198) lets civilians be tried by military courts for crimes that “harm” the armed forces.

–The president has the power to appoint the heads of many public institutions (Article 202).

–Two provisions (Article 231 and 232) are explicitly designed to reverse the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling that parliament was elected on the basis of an unconstitutional the elections law. Thus, approval of the Constitution at the referendum would lead to Mursi arguing that a parliament with two-thirds Islamist membership would be legitimate, rather than facing new elections in which the Islamists might lose seats.

Probably the provision most bruited in the Western media will be the taking out of a provision that explicitly said women’s equality would be subject to revision based on Sharia (removed from Article 68). Another article (Article 30) states that citizens are equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination.

Presumably, however, this changes nothing since conformity with Sharia law is already mandated in the Constitution. But that last point is a good symbol of the Constitution’s meaning. It enshrines Sharia rule without rubbing people’s faces in it. Thus, the Western media and governments can cheer the Constitution as democratic and proof that Islamists are now moderate even though that document opens the door for dictatorial rule.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Protester Dies: When Is a Dictator Not a Dictator? Never

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

The recent Hamas-Israel confrontation ended abruptly when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last Wednesday, November 21, a ceasefire that essentially put the relatively new, largely unknown Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in the role of peacekeeper for Israel and Gaza.

“Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace,” exclaimed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Well, Egypt had been a source of stability in the area, but Egypt’s new leader was not exactly in the mold of a Mubarak.  At least not in the positive ways.

The day after the U.S. administration cast Morsi in the role of new peacekeeper, he recast himself as something more like a new pharoah.  And, despite what the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote, he is not giving back any of the real power he’s granted himself.

On Thursday, November 22, while most Americans were eating turkey, Mohamed Morsi, the post-revolutionary leader of Egypt, issued a stunning series of decrees in which he usurped virtually all governmental power.  Morsi placed himself above the judiciary, sidelined the moderates in his council and signaled to all that his lifetime in the Muslim Brotherhood is his essence, no matter what role the U.S. seeks to cast him in.  He was now – in virtually every way possible – above the law.

On Friday, Samir Morcos, a Coptic Christian presidential adviser, resigned in protest, calling Morsi’s Decree, “undemocratic and a leap backwards.”

Secularists, liberals, women, journalists, and Christians have all resigned from the council, out of protest over the dominating influence of the Muslim Brothers and Salafists.  Nearly one quarter of its members walked out.

The Egyptian people were – briefly – stunned, and then they came back to doing what they do best: they rioted, and were beaten – some to death – in Tahrir Square.

After three days of ugliness captured on film and in photographs, President Morsi seemed to acknowledge he had gone too far, and “reminded” his people that his usurpation of power is intended to be only temporary, “until a new constitution is ratified. ”

Yeah, right.  When was the last time a dictator decided it was time to relinquish his control?

In at least one draft of the constitution, the Islamists insisted on changing women’s rights and obligations to match those under the rules of Sharia law.  This would require all women to wear the hijab and to be subservient to men, as is the case in Saudi Arabia and Iran.  If Sharia is to be applied, the rulings will have to be interpreted by Muslim legal scholars who would then have the same status as constitutional judges.

There have also been discussions in the constitutional council about lowering the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 14, or even to as young as 9 years.  The constitutional council, which is now dominated by Islamists, could have been disbanded under the constitutional court, but Morsi’s decree made the council immune from such action.

The 2012 Egyptian uprising already has its first martyr – a teenager, Gaber Salah, nicknamed “Jika,” a member of the April 6 movement.  The boy died from wounds he received during confrontations between police and protesters on Mohammed Mahmud street where protesters had been marking the first anniversary of deadly clashes.

Two other protesters have since died, the latest, Monday morning, November 26.  Since Morsi issued his dictatorial decree, there have been three deaths, more than 450 injuries, more than 260 detainees, and most of Egypt’s courts have been on strike.

Muslim Brotherhood’s political party offices were torched in several cities on Friday. In Alexandria, Egypt, Brotherhood members held up prayer rugs to protect themselves as they were pelted with stones.

Throughout the day on Monday, clashes were reported between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters in eight governorates. Those clashes reportedly took place in Alexandria, Ismailia, Assiut, Port-Said, Suez, Mahalla, Damietta, Menya, and Aswan.

Not surprisingly, the Muslim Brotherhood issued an official statement in support of Morsi’s declaration, one that is highly critical of the opposition.  The Brotherhood stated that Morsi’s actions were taken in order to rid the government of Mubarak holdovers and to fully complete the revolution and attain stability, “economic prosperity and social justice” for all Egyptians.

The Brotherhood described all those who oppose Morsi’s actions as seeking to keep Egypt in a state of chaos “as a prelude to toppling the elected regime and grabbing power.”

The Brotherhood claimed that certain political leaders were promoting distorted views of the president’s Decree.  The statement continued:

Thus they went out in counter-demonstrations chanting insults and obscenities for slogans. Joining them were groups of thugs who went on the rampage, destroying and burning the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Alexandria and in other cities. Others attacked police officers with Molotov bombs and stones, setting public and private institutions on fire.
Then we heard irresponsible calls for escalation, sabotage and strike actions to disable state facilities. All this is certainly neither wise nor patriotic. In fact, it ignores the higher interests of the country, the popular will and the majority that represents the principles of democracy, which all parties claim to respect.
Despite material and moral harm, we still call on everyone to show a spirit of responsibility and to work with citizens to gain their trust. We call for honest political rivalry to achieve the interests of the country in the light of democracy and justice.
The majority of Egyptians, including the Muslim Brotherhood, strongly support the President’s Decrees, seek to build constitutional institutions and achieve the demands of the people and the revolution.
Ahmed Mekki, Egypt’s Justice Minister,  has been walking a political tightrope.  Mekki has expressed support for Morsi, but he has also said that it was wrong to place the president above the judiciary in the Nov. 22 Decree.

Earlier this week, more than a dozen groups called for mass demonstrations across the country on Tuesday to protest Morsi’s decree and the Constituent Assembly. Those groups include the liberal Constitution party, the Socialist Popular Alliance party, the Egyptian Social Democratic party, the leftist Popular Alliance, the Free Egyptians party, the Karama party, the April 6 Youth Movement, the National Association for Change, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Youth for Justice and Freedom movement, the Kefaya movement and several others.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo announced that it will be closed today, November 27, in order to avoid anticipated violence between anti- and pro-Morsi factions.

The Egyptian Government and its supporters also announced plans to hold rallies today, but after moving the location from Tahrir Square to Cairo University, the pro-Morsi factions eventually cancelled their events.

U.S. REACTION

Thus far the U.S. government has been largely silent about the roiling unrest in Egypt.  The State Department’s spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.”

But Egypt is heavily dependent on the U.S. for financial aid.  Will this country use its financial leverage to dissuade Morsi from continuing in his dictatorial march?

According to the American Enterprise Institute’s vice-president for foreign and defense policy studies Danielle Pletka, “Obama has already made it clear he’s okay with Egypt as Morsi likes it – refusing to suspend aid after Morsi ignored attacks on the US Embassy in Cairo.”  Pletka then asks, “Will Congress take the same attitude?”

Pointing out that the Senate refused to suspend aid to Pakistan, Egypt and Libya in the wake of anti-U.S. demonstrations on 9/11 this year, Pletka wonders whether Congress will simply rubber stamp the $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars without making some demands?  And, “shouldn’t those conditions relate to rule of law, treatment of minorities, economic reform, and other priorities that could insulate the Egyptian people from yet another pharaoh?”

IMF INFUSION

Not only was Egyptian President Morsi catapulted to global stature by the Middle East peacekeeping role bestowed upon him by the U.S., at the same time Egypt was informed it was to become the recipient of a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund Loan.  Would those funds be in jeopardy because of the anti-democratic presidential decrees and crackdown on dissidents authorized by the Egyptian President?
The answer to that question is probably no.
“The latest developments could bring into question the stability of state institutions and raise doubts that could delay the loan,” stated an anonymous IMF official to Ahram Online.
“Broad-based domestic and international support will be crucial for the successful implementation of the planned policies,” Andreas Bauer, IMF Division Chief in the Middle East and Central Asia Department, stated last week.
“I do not think the IMF will rescind its agreement, but if the situation in Egypt deteriorates it could suspend the loan,” Samir Radwan, former Egyptian finance minister, told Ahram Online.
RESPONSE TO UNREST BY MORSI

On Monday, tensions rose in Egypt as protests continued in the streets.  An anxiously anticipated meeting between the judiciary and President Morsi took place late in the day.  It was an effort to negotiate a compromise between what the judiciary could accept, and what President Morsi was willing to relinquish of his newly-wrested powers.

The meeting ended with an announcement issued by Morsi’s spokesperson.  That statement was covered by a New York Times article which was headlined: “Egypt’s Leader Said to Agree to Limit Scope of Judicial Decree.”  Well, the title of the article is correct, Morsi did say that, but a more than cursory review of Morsi’s statement reveals something quite different.

Following his meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council, Morsi issued a statement that his decrees would only remain immune from judicial review in cases pertaining to “sovereign matters.”  But of course, it is entirely within Morsi’s control to decide what constitutes a “sovereign matter.”  In other words, there was no agreement whatsoever.

Members of Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council told the Egypt Independent late on Monday, there had been no resolution to the crisis between the executive and judicial branches, and that while they had tried to reach an agreement, their efforts were in vain.
In other words, President Morsi is now not only immune from judicial review, he feels entirely comfortable in speaking for the judiciary, even when what he says completely contradicts the views of the judiciary.

On December 4, a case brought by lawyers and activists challenging Morsi’s power grab will be heard by a Cairo administrative court.  More than a dozen suits against the decree have been filed, according to Abdel Meguid Al-Moqannen, the deputy chief of the State Council, Egypt’s highest administrative body.

In one indication of Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi’s quirky rise to fame, Time Magazine included Morsi in its list of potential “2012 Person of the Year” candidates for online polling.

In the short time that Morsi has become almost a household name, he has gone from rock star status to one who is being referred to in the social media of Twitter as “Morsilini” and “Mubarak 2.0.”  He probably considers the latter a bigger insult.

UPDATE: During protests taking place today in Cairo, 50 year old Fathy Gharib, a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), died of asphyxiation from tear gas inhalation. According to eyewitnesses, there are hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters in the streets. Tahrir Square is bursting with people chanting.

Libya: Not Just a Tragedy, but Another Endless War for America

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Visit Barry Rubin’s blog, Rubin Reports.

Yahoo highlighted two “amazing” stories shortly after the murder of five American diplomats in Libya and the attack on the U.S. embassy in Egypt that tell us a lot about the intersection between American reality and Middle East reality.

The first article insisted that American officials thought the terror attack on the U.S. embassy was planned (yeah, I don’t think the terrorists were passing by and just happened to have a rocket with them). The other asked tentatively whether maybe the “Arab Spring” hadn’t worked out so well. It’s almost the end of 2012 and these people are still in kindergarten!

Libya tells the story with a terrible irony but we should understand precisely what is going on and how the situation in Libya differs from that in Egypt. For it is proof of the bankruptcy of Obama policy but perhaps in a different way from what many people think.

So far the U.S. ambassador, four diplomats, and two U.S. soldiers trying to rescue the rest of the staff have been killed. According to a Libyan officer whose unit was helping the American rescue effort, the terrorists seemed to know precisely where the staffers were hiding. Might they have been tipped off by sources in the Libyan government or military? Probably, yes.

What happened in Libya has nothing to do with an obscure video from California, it has everything to do with the question of which side rules Libya. And the relationship of the attacks to the September 11 anniversary was meant to show that the Libyan terrorists supported September 11 and wanted to continue that battle.

In one sentence: the problem in Libya is that Obama got what he wanted and thus set off all the usual Western policy dilemmas—that he always denounced—which had existed in the region for a century. But Obama is not only ill-equipped to deal with these problems, he either cannot even recognize them or interprets them in ways disastrous for U.S. interests. For whatever reason you would like to attribute, he wants to make nice with people who want to destroy his country. That might have been a forgivable naivete in early 2009 but by this point it is clear that Obama will never change, and that four more years in office will not improve him and his administration by one millimeter.

Obama decided, although only after what we are told was a titanic inner struggle, to kill Usama bin Ladin because bin Ladin launched a direct attack on American soil. But he sees no need to battle those trying to take over the Middle East and crush its people (including women, Christians, homosexuals) and wipe Israel off the map. Nor does he see the need to wage effective struggle with governments that stand and deliberately do nothing while the American embassy is invaded or the American ambassador is murdered.

President Barack Obama and U.S. NATO allies got rid of a terrible dictatorship in Libya. Of course, there were dreadful murders and human rights’ abuses by the rebels—even racist murders of people because they had black skin, and were thus presumed to be supporters of the old dictator!–but Libya was too obscure a place and the mass media either didn’t care or wouldn’t hold Obama responsible for these things.

Then Obama had a second success in the election, where his client politician won over the Islamists. True, the new regime gives lip service to Sharia law but it is not a radical regime but precisely the kind of government, given the limiting conditions of Libyan society, that the West would want in Libya.

And now the problem begins. For the great “anti-imperialist” Obama has set up a classical “imperialist” situation. In Iran, for example, the Eisenhower Administration helped an existing, legitimate regime stay in power in 1953 and this supposedly led to Iranian radicalism and seizure of the U.S. embassy a quarter-century later. In Libya, the process may just take a few months.

The Islamists of various factions, ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaida supporters, loathe the new government and the fact that the United States is behind it. In other words, Obama has just done what he has been denouncing his whole life: he interfered in another country and “bullied” it into submission to America’s will. Now he has sent two American warships to Libya’s coasts. Obama’s friends call this “gunboat diplomacy.”

One special feature of this situation, of course, is that some of those he helped were anti-American terrorists, armed and trained by NATO. Some of these people have entered the new military, others are now trying a stage-two revolution to overthrow the regime and institute a real Islamist revolution.

Otherwise, though, it follows the usual pattern. The Islamist revolutionaries have not accepted the status quo and hope to seize state power and drive out the Americans.

Obama has fallen into precisely the trap he has denounced in all his books and speeches. True, America is not claiming Libya as its territory but Obama’s friends call this “neo-colonialism” and “post-colonialism.” He is now the patron of the Libyan government. If it is incompetent, corrupt, or oppresses the people, Obama shares responsibility.

Moreover, as it does all these things and refuses to implement serious Sharia law lots of Libyans will blame those arrogant, imperialist Americans. Why shouldn’t they want to kill the American diplomats who “supervise” the status quo and prevent them from turning Libya into Afghanistan under the Taliban; Iran; Gaza under Hamas; or, somewhat more mildly, Lebanon under a mainly Hizballah government, and maybe what will happen in Syria at some point in the future.

What are the Libyan government’s options? It can try to appease the opposition by more Islam. But that won’t work really. It can try to appease the opposition by distancing itself from the United States, but given its weakness that won’t work. And it can try to repress the rebels but since it cannot depend on its own military forces–which are riddled with jihadists–that won’t work either.

That is the real lesson in Libya. For once, Obama took sides against the revolutionary Islamists. We are seeing in Egypt and the Gaza Strip that appeasement doesn’t work; we are seeing in Libya that engaging in conflict has its high costs, too. Obama claims to have “liberated” Libya but to many Libyans he has enslaved it to infidels.

So what next? American military aid to the Libyan government and U.S. military advisors? An endless war against the jihadists? And what if the government in Libya, which is pretty fragile and cannot fully depend on its own military, starts to fall? In Somalia, the local al-Qaida branch didn’t win only because Ethiopia and other African nations sent in thousands of troops. In Bahrain—a complicated situation in which there is a mistreated Shia population whose opposition has both moderates and radicals—the government was only saved by Saudi troops and against the will of the White House.

Treating what has happened in Libya as an isolated tragedy misses the point. Viewing it as generalized proof of Obama’s terrible policy doesn’t get us to the solution. There is a battle going on in the Middle East that will continue for decades. Obama has largely helped the enemy side. In Libya while he gave some help to the Islamists, his basic policy supported the moderates for once. Now the price must be paid or one more country fall to revolutionary Islamist rule and U.S. influence and credibility decline even further.

This is a war, not a misunderstanding. It is a battle of ideologies and a struggle for control of state power, not hurt feelings over some obscure video.

PS: I have a lot of friends in the Foreign Service, now and retired, and I was very upset about the deaths of five American diplomats and two American soldiers in Libya. I know this person was a colleague, too. But my goodness, how horrifyingly revealing is this quote:

“They got the wrong guy,” said a friend of the slain Ambassador Christopher Stevens at the [notoriously anti-Israel, BR] U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, “If there was someone who cared about the Arab and Muslim world, it was Chris,” who had previously served there as chief of the political section. “He spoke Arabic, he was dedicated to the cause of the Arabs.”

Perhaps this diplomat should give al-Qaida a list of approved Americans they should be assassinating. In other words, what? It would have been better to have killed a Foreign Service officer more friendly to Israel? To have murdered some Republicans or Jews? I’m afraid that this is very frankly how these people think. And what is “the cause of the Arabs?” Which Arabs? To wipe Israel off the map? To have radical nationalist dictatorships? To have Sharia states? At least define your “Arabs” as the genuine moderates, genuine democrats, genuine liberals or even–since there aren’t so many of those people–those who feel their self-interests basically coincide with those of the United States.

I find this person’s statement even more shocking than the apology over the mysterious little you-tube film. And yes I have heard this before in private. OK, an anecdote. I’m sitting with about a dozen U.S. military officers doing a briefing a couple of years after September 11 and my co-briefer–a medium-high State Department official in the Middle East section–starts visibly panicking as he’s speaking. “Other issues might threaten you,” he tells them looking really scared, “but only the Israel issue can endanger your life.” I can only report that the looks of contempt on the face of the officers made me proud of the U.S. army.

Note: I don’t mean this as a criticism of all Foreign Service Officers. There are many good ones. But this reaction from a Jerusalem-based American diplomat to the death of Ambassador Stevens, plus four diplomats and now two U.S. soldiers rescuing the rest of the embassy staff is all too revealing. Perhaps he’s just too confused about what country’s capital he’s in.

Visit Barry Rubin’s blog, Rubin Reports.

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