With Libya now moving to a Sharia-based system that will impose religious values on the population, Egypt is also rapidly moving toward an extreme Sharia based system. Indeed, Hesham al Ashry (the leader of the Salafists) announced this week that “I am the enemy of democracy.”
Businessman Naguib Sawiris now calls Egypt’s future “dim … bad.”
Al Ashry put the reality into perspective: “This is a big opportunity and it’s not going to go back. This was mentioned by the Prophet Mohammed. Peace be upon him. He said this was going to happen.” Thus, the freedom that led to the overthrow of Mubarak regime will now be extinguished to embrace a new form of oppression — just faith-based rather than tyrant-based repression.
One of the objections made to the intervention of the United States in Libya was that, in addition to the absence of any declaration from Congress, President Obama could bring bring about a more radical regime. Even at the time, Libyan rebels were known to have extremist elements, including some linked to Al Qaeda. Some of the same concerns were heard in our Egyptian policies. I am less critical of the Obama policy on Libya. Indeed, I thought the Administration struck the right tone — without military intervention. However, there is a general misconception that the “Arab Spring” necessarily means a triumph of democracy and human rights. Movements in both Libya and Egypt show the powerful pull of theocratic oppression. The denial of the separation of mosque and state (as well as religious freedom) undermines a host of other rights from free speech to free association. The Obama Administration undermined those rights further with its shocking support of a United Nation’s resolution that embraced the concept of blasphemy prosecutions.
With the move to Sharia law, Egypt is showing other signs of extremism. Sectarian violence, particularly against Christians, has increased with little intervention from the military.
The loss of Egypt to religious extremism would be extremely destabilizing for the regime. It will also raise a question of our continued massive support for the country. Even though we have cities and states breaking under economic pressures, we are still pouring billions in aid to both Israel and Egypt.