By Andrew C McCarthy
As Egypt under the heel of Mohamed Morsi unravels, here’s the late-breaking news: The Muslim Brotherhood is the enemy of democracy.
This has always been obvious to anyone who took the time to look into it. Nevertheless, it has not been an easy point to make lo these many years. Even as the Justice Department proved beyond any doubt in court that the Brotherhood’s major goal in America and Europe — its self-professed “grand jihad” — is “eliminating and destroying Western civilization,” to have the temerity to point this out is to be smeared as an “Islamophobe.” That’s the Islamophilic Left’s code for “racist.”
Nor is it just the Left. Like the transnational progressives who hold sway in Democratic circles, many of the neoconservative thinkers who have captured Republican foreign-policy making encourage “outreach” to “moderate Islamists” — a ludicrously self-contradictory term. The idea is to collaborate in the construction of “Islamic democracies.” That’s another nonsensical term — to borrow Michael Rubin’s quote of a moderate Muslim academic piqued by the encroachments of Turkey’s ruling Islamists, “We are a democracy. Islam has nothing to do with it.” That is clearly right. Yet, to argue the chimerical folly of the sharia-democracy experiment is to be demagogued as an “isolationist.” It is as if the Right can no longer fathom an engaged foreign policy that concentrates solely on vital U.S. interests and treats America’s enemies as, well, enemies.
Of course, it is neither Islamophobic nor isolationist to observe that Islamic supremacism is derived from literal Muslim scripture; that it is a mainstream interpretation of Islam whose adherents, far from being limited to a “violent extremist” fringe, number in the hundreds of millions and include many of Islam’s most influential thinkers and institutions. These are simply facts. Nor is it Islamophobic or isolationist to contend that any sensible engagement with Islamic supremacists — very much including the Muslim Brotherhood — ought to be aimed at their marginalization and defeat, not their cultivation and empowerment. This is not a popular view; opinions amply supported by unpleasant facts are rarely popular. But following it would strengthen pro-Western Muslims while promoting an American global engagement that is essential, effective, and affordable. That is the very antithesis of Islamophobia and isolationism.
The central contention here has been that the Muslim Brotherhood is an innately, incorrigibly Islamic-supremacist outfit. Wherever it establishes a presence, it seeks — as gradually as indigenous conditions require, and as rapidly as they allow — to implement its repressive construction of sharia. Wherever it gets the opportunity to rule, it uses its power to impose this sharia, despite resistance from the society’s non-Islamist factions.
This is not a mere theory. Egypt, the world’s most important Arab country, is violently convulsing before our eyes in direct reaction to the suffocation that is Islamist rule. So, will we finally take the lesson? Will we finally come to understand why democracy and Islamic supremacism cannot coexist?
Western democracy has Judeo-Christian underpinnings. At its core is the equal dignity of every person. This sacred commitment, ironically, enables our bedrock secular guarantee: freedom of conscience. It is anathema to the Brotherhood. As their guiding jurist, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, teaches: “Secularism can never enjoy general acceptance in an Islamic society.” This is because “the acceptance of secularism means abandonment of sharia.”
Now, maybe you doubt this. Maybe you think “Islamic democracy” enthusiasts like Hillary Clinton, edified by her trusty aide Huma Abedin, know more about sharia than Sheikh Qaradawi does. But let’s just say I doubt it — and I am quite certain that the ummah would laugh, and then probably riot, at such a suggestion.
The Brothers really do believe what they say. They especially believe what Qaradawi says.
Obama officials tirelessly portray the Brotherhood as a normal, “largely secular” organization. Other Western progressives nod their heads in unison. Even with Egypt aflame over Morsi’s aggressive constitution gambit — the fulfillment of his campaign promise of a constitution that would reflect “the sharia, then the sharia, and finally the sharia” — New York Times Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick assures Hugh Hewitt’s listeners that the Brotherhood is a “moderate, regular old political force” that “just want[s] to win elections.” The Brothers, you are to conclude, are just an Islamic analogue to Europe’s Christian Democrats.
This is worse than lunacy. It is the most irresponsible brand of willful blindness. Mr. Kirkpatrick, in fact, amplifies his see-no-sharia analysis with a whopper: You oughtn’t render harsh judgments about the Brothers’ intentions because, “you know, you don’t know what their ultimate vision of . . . the good life looks like.”
Actually, they could not have made themselves clearer on that subject. Perhaps you’ve heard: “Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Islam, in this ultimate vision, cannot tolerate secular democracy because sharia — the “Koran is our law” part of the equation — will not abide it.
Sharia, Qaradawi elaborates, is a “comprehensive system” of “legislation” derived directly from “Allah’s injunctions.” Our notion of secularism, in which sovereignty belongs to the people, is for Qaradawi a “denial of the divine guidance.”
Imposition of the divine guidance is the Brotherhood’s raison d’être. As explained after Mubarak’s fall by Khairat al-Shater, the Brothers’ strategic leader and Morsi’s patron, “to subjugate people to God on earth” — “to organize our life and the lives of the people on the basis of Islam” — is “our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers.”
The draft constitution the Brothers are currently trying to force on Egyptians elucidates their idea of the “basis of Islam” to which people must be subjugated. The Hudson Institute’s Samuel Tadros expertly analyzed it this week on the Corner. The Brothers make the “principles of sharia” the cornerstone of law; squelch authentic moderate reformers by stipulating that “principles” are limited to the four established Sunni jurisprudential schools (which consider all questions to have been settled by the tenth century); and vest in the fundamentalist scholars of ancient al-Azhar University a dispositive role in interpreting sharia — similar to the mullahs of Shiite Iran.
There is more. The new constitution tellingly strikes the old constitution’s reference to “citizenship” — a term that implied equality between Muslims and non-Muslims — as the basis for Egypt’s political order. It empowers the Islamist state to “entrench . . . moral values” in society by enforcing the Islamist ideal of “family values.” It denies freedom of conscience by refusing many religious minorities the right to worship. Although Christianity is not outlawed, the finances of Christian churches are placed under government control — enabling the creation of a Communist-style national church, subject to Islamist domination. It denies freedom of expression by adopting sharia’s repressive blasphemy laws, under which any criticism of Islam is brutally punished. It deletes the former constitution’s express guarantee of equality for women “in the fields of political, social, cultural, and economic life.”
Phony “teachable moments” abound in the era of Obama moralizing, but this one is worth our attention: Egypt is the Brotherhood unleashed. This week’s despotic bloodletting is the natural, logical, entirely predictable end of the Brotherhood’s machinations — not just in Egypt but everyplace the Brothers operate. That includes the United States, where our government takes their counsel, invites them to shape our national-security policy, and gives them a veto over the content of materials used to train our law-enforcement, military, and intelligence agents.
It is long past time to realize that this is not a game. The Brothers are playing for keeps.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which was published by Encounter Books.