Virtually Absent From U.S. Press Coverage of Egypt's Constitution and Referendum: It's About Sharia Law

December 15th, 2012 9:21 AM

As voting on Egypt's constitution begins, an Associated Press story this morning by Aya Batrawy and Sarah El Deeb typifies how the U.S. press is only nibbling around the edges of its content. The headline reads "EGYPTIANS VOTE ON ISLAMIST-BACKED CONSTITUTION." In the story's content, the pair found an 23 year-old Egyptian engineer who told them, in their words, that "he felt the proposed constitution needed more, not less, Islamic content," and expressed a belief that "All laws have to be in line with Shariah."

Nice misdirection there. As Andrew McCarthy, "arguably the most important prosecutor in the War on Terror" and "among the most authoritative writers anywhere on the dangers of Jihad," explained at PJ Media on Wednesday morning, and as much of the non-U.S. press accurately comprehends, the proposed constitution is about institutionalizing sharia in Egypt, and the last-minute splitting of the vote, originally scheduled for only today but now taking place today and next Saturday, is about ensuring its victory at the polls (bolds are mine throughout this post):

... President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood has now decided to bifurcate the referendum on the proposed sharia constitution. The voting will go forward as scheduled this Saturday, but only in ten governorates. The rest of the country will then vote the following Saturday, December 22.

The whole point of Morsi’s presidency, the point of everything he’s done for the last five months, is the implementation of a sharia constitution. ... that is what Morsi and the Brotherhood promised to do during the campaign leading to his election as president. Sharia implementation is the goal behind his seizures of dictatorial powers: In August, Morsi awarded himself legislative authority in the wake of the then-ruling junta’s dissolution of the elected, Islamist-dominated parliament in order to ensure that the Islamist agenda proceeded. In late November, he declared his “sovereign” acts immune from judicial review specifically to protect the Islamist-dominated “constituent assembly” that was writing the sharia constitution from being invalidated by the courts.

The ongoing, occasionally lethal controversy over the constitution brings into sharp relief the fraud that is the “Arab Spring” narrative. Morsi, an authoritarian, anti-democratic, sharia hardliner, is lauded as Egypt’s “democratic” ruler because he won a popular election. He is desperate to put his illiberal, liberty-strangling, anti-democratic sharia constitution to a popular vote because he believes that he will win.

... such darlings of the Left as Mohammed ElBaradei ... also know the West’s democracy fetish is such that a constitution that wins a popular election will be hailed as a triumph of democracy, no matter how much it undermines human rights.

... in a bifurcated election, the strong Brotherhood network — unmatched by anything the opposition can muster — will concentrate its full get-out-the-vote effort in smaller areas on each election day. When the parliamentary elections were similarly staggered, the Islamists won by an overwhelming 4-to-1 margin.

The Russia-based isn't shy in characterizing what's going on:

Egyptians vote on hotly contested sharia-based constitution

Egyptians are voting on a disputed new constitution that has split the country in two and sparked deadly protests. Liberal opposition condemns the document as too Islamist, curtailing the rights of Egyptian minority groups.

Polls opened at 8:00 pm local time (6:00 GMT) in Cairo, Alexandria and eight other regions in the first round of voting. Egypt’s remaining regions will get their chance to vote on December 22.

Furthermore, expat voting has been extended until Monday by the Egyptian government.

... The new constitution has been the source of escalating tensions at an already delicate time for Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi. The document was hurriedly approved two weeks ago by Egypt’s Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly, who said that the charter was based around the principles of Sharia law.

One finds similar bluntness at the the Irish Times:

Egyptians clash on eve of referendum on constitution reflecting Sharia law

... The constitution, drafted by an assembly dominated by the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-orthodox Salafi allies, and scheduled to be voted upon today and next Saturday, has deeply divided the country. Aggressive fundamentalists are pitted against disparate and disputatious secularists.

... The fundamentalist camp has a religious orientation and outlook, which opponents, such as leftist activist Mamdouh Habashi, a German-trained civil engineer, regard as “medieval”. The constitution, drafted by fundamentalists and reflecting their mindset, leaves key issues vague and subject to interpretation.

It reflects Islamic canon law, Sharia, and traditional norms of the society. The text says principles of Sharia are the chief source of legislation and allows for rulings by clerics associated with al-Azhar. Freedoms are respected as long as they do not contradict Sharia.

Meanwhile, a lengthy story at CNN this morning does not contiain the word "sharia," or even "Islamic law."

David D. Kirkpatrick's coverage at the New York Times focuses on how U.S. President Barack Obama "Walks a Fine Line" with Morsi, while the paper's home page sub-head fantasizes about how "President Mohamed Morsi has a unique chance to build a credible democratic process."

Meanwhile, at NPR, they're apparently working on an "It's not really so bad" narrative should the referendum pass as expected:

Critics say the draft gives key Islamic scholars too much power on a broad range of legislative issues, but it's still unclear what that would mean in practice.

Islamic law, or Shariah, has long been a central part of the Egyptian legal system. If voters approve the new constitution, that role will be expanded.

The constitution calls for religious scholars at Cairo's Al-Azhar University to weigh in on national legislation. The school is the seat of Sunni Islam, where scholars propagate Islamic religion and culture worldwide. Al-Azhar, an institution more than a thousand years old, is seen as relatively moderate in its read of Shariah.

It would seem that NPR wants us to believe that those dumb Egyptian secularists worried about handing over power to unelected "scholars" have gotten all worked up over almost nothing.

Well, that's nice, except for one thing: There is little which could be considered "relatively moderate" in Sharia law. Indeed, at National Review on Wednesday evening, McCarthy refuted the "relatively moderate" claim:

The sharia jurists of al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni learning since the 10th century and the most influential institution in Egyptian life, have decreed that participating in the upcoming referendum is a religious duty for all Muslims.

Further, a member of the al-Azhar fatwa committee, Sheik Hashem Islam, explains that Islam forbids both (a) objections to Morsi’s declaration that the draft constitution be submitted to a public vote, and (b) the efforts of secularist judges to derail the referendum by refusing to supervise it (Egyptian law mandates judicial supervision of elections). Note that objection to Morsi’s declaration and the threat of a strike by the judges are two of the principal strategies employed by the draft constitution’s non-Islamist opponents.

...So al-Azhar’s sharia masters are greasing the wheels for adoption of the new sharia constitution (which just happens to give them Iranian mullah-style authority over the interpretation of sharia). And as is always the case in the new Egypt, the campaign is proceeding in harsh sectarian terms: opponents of the constitution are portrayed as “against God’s law” and “the enemies of Islam.”

Gee, I wonder how the vote will come out.

Egypt, contrary to what the Times's Kirkpatrick and much of the rest of the U.S. press appears to believe, is moving closer to how Iran works in practice than to the makings of "a credible democratic process."

Cross-posted at