Egypt’s One Chance for Democracy

Only capable armed forces can check the violent proclivities of Islamic supremacism.

As Egypt began to implode, yet again, John Kerry inadvertently stumbled into something a lot closer to the truth than the delusional “Arab Spring” narrative that has guided Obama-administration policy. The secretary of state, tied in knots by congressional foolishness that mandates terminating U.S. aid when a foreign government is ousted by a coup d’état, rationalized that, quite contrary to a coup, the Egyptian military’s ejection of President Mohamed Morsi was an exercise in “restoring democracy.”
None of this was quite right, although that is to be expected. After all, the C-word on Kerry’s mind was not “coherence”; he was struggling to avoid saying “coup.” But let’s face it: Morsi was forcibly removed from power, and he is being detained, along with other major Muslim Brotherhood figures. That is a coup to most sensible people — people who are not paid to fret over the statutory ramifications of admitting reality, and who have no patience for fastidious distinctions like whether the generals have actually taken over the government or are “merely” backing the civilian technocrats they’ve put in place.
More to the point, Egypt has never had a “democracy,” so the military cannot be said to have “restored” one. Yet there was a welcome bit of common sense in Kerry’s declaration, even if it eluded the declarant.
The defining mission of the Muslim Brotherhood is the implementation of sharia, as noted for several years by a hardy few of us Islamophobes. An “Islamophobe,” by the way, is someone who takes seriously the things Muslim Brotherhood operatives say and the scriptures on which they rely; the Muslims who say the things that Islamophobes have the temerity to mention are called “moderates” — see how this works?
Sharia is Islam’s societal framework and legal code. Particularly as construed by Islamic supremacists, whose ideology dominates the Middle East, sharia is authoritarian, anti-liberty, anti-equality, and intolerant of minority rights. Indeed, in 1990, Islamic supremacists felt the need to issue their own “Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,” precisely because they cannot abide the aspirations laid out in the purportedly “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” promulgated by the United Nations in 1948. Human rights, for the Islamist, must bow to the repressive injunctions of sharia.
Consequently, in a couple of books that are largely about the history, ideology, methodology, and goals of the Muslim Brotherhood — The Grand Jihad and, last year, Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy — I tried to establish two premises. The first is that Islamic supremacism is fundamentally anti-democratic. That proposition cannot be too Islamophobic since influential Islamic supremacists themselves freely concede that sharia cannot coexist with a secular civil society or with any system in which people are free to ignore sharia in enacting their own law.
The second is that elections do not equal democracy. To the contrary, democracy is a culture of governance committed to the protection of minority rights and equality of opportunity. Sharia abides neither of those principles.
Taken together, these two premises lead, inexorably, to this conclusion: In a sharia culture, popular elections inevitably empower anti-democrats. I began Spring Fever with a quip by Turkey’s Islamic-supremacist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that ought to be a lot more notorious: “Democracy is just the train we board to reach our destination.” Islamists step off the train at sharia station, which is a civilization’s distance away from liberty and equality. In a sharia society, “democracy” — taken to mean mere voting — is not a culture. It is just another means of imposing totalitarian sharia. To be sure, it is a means less brutal than violent jihad, but a means to the same sorry end.
Western commentators should thus stop mindlessly repeating the Brotherhood mantra that Mohamed Morsi is, or was, the “democratically elected” president. He was the popularly elected president of an overwhelmingly anti-democratic society — the same society whose citizens, only eight months ago, voted to approve a sharia constitution by a two-to-one landslide. The Brothers rhetorically tug at our pro-democracy heartstrings, but the fact remains that installing anti-democrats in positions of power, even if done by a popular vote, is the antithesis of real democracy.
That brings us to the aspect of coups most reviled in the West: military control of the government.
The United States has a democratic culture that long predates our national government. Our constitution, in fact, is a reflection of our core principle that fundamental minority rights must be safeguarded. The protection of minority rights is a far more reliable indicator of democracy than are elections. Even totalitarian states hold elections (Iran, for example, just had one). In a society that has an authentic democratic culture, the understanding that the people, not the government, are sovereign is basic. Therefore, civilian control of the armed forces is the mandatory state of affairs. The Constitution, in fact, limited congressional appropriations for a national army to two years precisely because many of the Framers considered permanent standing armies a threat to liberty.
But to break Spring Fever, we must finally stop projecting our values on other cultures as if they were “universal,” to borrow the U.N.’s supercilious claim. The Muslim Middle East is part of a different civilization and does not share our core beliefs. Adherent to supremacist Islam, it rejects equality under the law (the rights of non-Muslims are inferior to those of Muslims, and those of women to those of men). In Muslim countries, religious minorities are systematically oppressed and persecuted. The sovereign is deemed to be Allah, acting through the Muslim ruler or caliph. There are no “constituents” to “represent”; the people are subjects who owe the caliph obedience and whose only legitimate expectation of the caliph is his fidelity to sharia.

(Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review)

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