President Morsi refused to make concessions to the Egyptian liberals opposing the Constitution drafted by Islamists. Next Saturday will see its ratification in a national referendum. Then the troubles will really begin. The Islamist Egypt that will follow will be a catastrophe.
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Next Saturday will see a national referendum on the draft of a new Constitution for Egypt. The opposition, which conducted daily protests at the presidential palace and Tahrir Square, has found itself powerless to force changes in the document or to postpone the referendum. The result on Saturday will likely be a handy win for the proposed new political order spearheaded by President Morsi.
The results beyond Saturday will be catastrophic. Egypt is heading for an Islamic state.
Article 44 of the new document warns that “Insult or abuse of all religious messengers and prophets shall be prohibited.” Article 60 makes clear that “Religious education and national history are core subjects of pre-university education in all its forms.” Most powerfully, “The State shall safeguard ethics, public morality and public order, and foster a high level of education and of religious and patriotic values, scientific thinking, Arab culture, and the historical and cultural heritage of the people; all as shall be regulated by law. Article 219 makes clear that “The principles of Islamic Sharia include general evidence, foundational rules, rules of jurisprudence, and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community.”
Nowhere is there a formal declaration that Egypt will be an Islamic state. But the new basic rules will give future governments, likely to be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, plenty of cover for the transformation of the country into such a state.
The casualties will be many, starting with Egypt’s Copts, the largest minority religion in any Middle East state and numbering between 15 to 20 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million. The Constitution promises that “The canon principles of Egyptian Christians and Jews are the main source of legislation for their personal status laws, religious affairs, and the selection of their spiritual leaders.” That may well be the case but their ability to flourish in an Islamic state will be limited. The Copts are likely to head for other countries outside the Middle East.
Another casualty will be Egypt’s women. The Preamble to the Constitution asserts that “The dignity of the nation is synonymous with the dignity of the individual. No dignity is there for a nation if women are not appreciated.” It is difficult to understand just what ‘appreciation’ entails. But, I suggest, nothing good. Any country that ‘appreciates’ women while allowing the state to “safeguard ethics and public morality” is likely to result in women being ‘appreciated’ as subordinates.
Egypt will be the first Islamic state without significant oil and gas revenues. It is unlikely that such a state can flourish. Just look at the proposed Constitution.
Article 18 flat out declares, “State property is not to be disposed of,” meaning the end of the privatization efforts in the last decades of the Mubarak era. The Constitution also proposes pay offs to just about everyone in the country. Article 63 guarantees work. Article 27 specifies that “Workers shall have a share of the management and profits of enterprises.” Article 64 promises support for war veterans and those injured in wars. Article 65 promises that “All citizens unable to support themselves and their families in cases of incapacity, unemployment and old age have the right to social insurance guaranteeing a minimum sustenance.”
Article 66 guarantees “an adequate pension for small-scale farmers, agricultural workers, casual workers, and all who do not have access to the social insurance system.”
If the state is faithful to the Constitution likely to be approved in Saturday’s referendum, that state will not have a market economy. As a result, absent oil and gas revenues, it will not have the resources to fulfill the promises of the Constitution. It seems like a repeat of the early and disastrous Mubarak decades.