In a Wednesday morning report, the Associated Press’s Sarah El Deeb certainly did her best to continue the ongoing campaign to convince the West that there’s really nothing about which we should be concerned in Egypt’s newly approved Constitution. She characterized it as “a new chapter in Egypt’s two-year transition from authoritarian rule” and quoted a group whose Facebook page doesn’t exist (despite that page being the first item found in a Google Web search on the group’s name) telling us that the country is in “a new phase of legal disputes over legislation and control of state institutions,” and that “the battle won’t be very clear to regular people.” I’m taking that to mean: “Don’t pay any attention to us while the Muslim Brotherhoood and Islamists consolidate their power.”
The AP reporter also mentioned the opposition’s fears that the constitution “enshrines a prominent role for Islamic law, or Shariah, in governing the country’s affairs and reinforces Islamists’ hold on power.” It’s more than an abstract fear, because Sharia(h) is mentioned several times in the document itself (bolds are mine):
… we declare our adherence to the following principles:
… Eleven —
Egypt’s pioneering intellectual and cultural leadership is an embodiment of its soft power, and a model of the free generosity of original creators and thinkers, universities, science centers, linguistic and research centers, the press, the arts, literature and mass media, the national church, and Al-Azhar with its history as a mainstay of national identity, the Arabic language and Islamic Sharia, and as a beacon for moderate enlightened thought.
… PART I: STATE AND SOCIETY
Chapter One: Political principles
… Article 2
Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Principles of Islamic Sharia are the principal source of legislation.
… PART V: FINAL AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS
… Chapter Two: General Provisions
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.
The AP’s El Deeb further noted the following:
Under the new constitution, the Islamist-dominated Shura Council, the traditionally toothless upper house, was granted temporary legislative powers and began its work a day after the official results of the referendum said the charter passed with nearly 64 percent. It will legislate until elections for a new lower house are held within two months.
… But the 270-member council is boycotted by the largely liberal and secular opposition groups -which has also rejected the presidential appointments to the upper house.
Morsi appointed 90 members to the council on the last day of the referendum on the constitution, in a bid to make it more representative. The other two-thirds of the members were elected last year with no more than seven percent of eligible voters.
But the new appointments maintained the hold of Islamists on the house.
Morsi has had legislative powers for months since a court dissolved the law-making lower house of parliament. He will address the nation later Wednesday to formally hand over legislative powers to the Shura Council.
In its first act, the Shura Council convened to swear in the 90 new members appointed by Morsi.
Is it possible to see this as anything other than Morsi stacking the Council with his own people so they will do exactly as he wishes? The answer, per a story at Ahram Online, is a decisive “no.” How is this the “transition from authoritarian rule” Ms. El Deeb “objectively” claimed in her second paragraph?
Oh, and I almost forgot something contained in her opening paragraph, namely that lawmakers will “focus on setting rules for upcoming elections, regulating the media and fighting corruption.”
“Regulating the media”? The government has already shut down some opposition publications and intimidated others — as reported by the AP itself just days ago:
Already, Morsi’s allies have been filing numerous complaints against media celebrities who criticize or mock the president and the Brotherhood, including hosts of satirical shows and newspaper columnists. Several of them are on trial or being investigated on charges of “insulting” the president or undermining national security.
Since Morsi took office nearly six months ago, Brotherhood members or sympathizers have been named editors of most of the roughly 50 state-owned publications. The powerful information minister is a prominent Brotherhood leader.
A recent court ruling also shut down a TV network whose owner is a harsh critic of Morsi. Salafis who support Morsi have been staging a sit-in outside a media complex in Cairo for weeks to protest against what they say is the anti-Islamist policies of private TV networks housed there.
Given what has already been reported by her own employer, why couldn’t Ms. El Deeb call the goverment’s media-related plans what they almost definitely are — “further censorship”?
Cross-posted at Newsbusters.org.