Egypt moved one step closer to the brink of disaster Saturday, after citizens of the divided nation cast their ballots in round one of a two stage vote for the country’s new Constitution. According to officials from the Muslim Brotherhood, who strongly support the strict, Sharia compliant Islamist Constitution, Egyptians voted in favor of the Constitution by an extremely slim majority.
Opponents of the Constitution have divided opinions on the results of the voting. Earlier in the evening, opposition representatives reported that exit polling indicated the Constitution would be defeated, but as the night wore on some opposition leaders expressed their concerns that the Constitution was approved.
Reports indicate voters were ordered to vote in favor of the Constitution as a religious duty. During Friday prayers, clerics told packed Mosques that Muslims would be disobeying the will of Allah and violating Islamic law if they voted against the Constitution.
The Brotherhood stationed members at every polling place across Egypt to make sure the vote went the way they wished. In Alexandria, 1500 women blocked roads in protest over an edict by a local judge who ruled only women wearing the Niqab ( full body covering with only a slit for the eyes) were permitted to vote.
While the actual results of round one will not be known until after the votes are cast in round two, the stage has been set for a continuation of the explosive confrontations that occurred prior to the vote, resulting in the death of eight pro Morsi demonstrators. The dispute rages on between the hardcore Islamists from the all powerful Muslim Brotherhood and those who feel the democratic dreams of the Arab Spring have been stolen from the Egyptian people.
Egypt’s opposition is a loose knit alliance of the leftists, socialists, Christians and liberal-minded Muslims who were at the forefront of the protests in Tahrir Square that ousted Mubarak on February 11, 2011. Since then, the promise of a secular Democracy has been crushed by the Muslim Brotherhood, who broke promise after promise as they imposed their will on the Egyptian people.
First and foremost among the broken promises of the Muslim Brotherhood was their claim that they had no ambition to take over the government or nominate a Brotherhood member to run for President. A few months later, the Muslim Brothers and their ultra religious Salafi allies won the vast majority of the seats in both Houses of Parliament and former Brotherhood leader and dedicated Islamist, Mohamed Morsi, was the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for President.
During the elections for President and Parliament, there were reports of massive voter fraud and corruption, allowing Morsi to win by 900,000 votes. Only 26.5 million Egyptians went to the polls out of 50 million eligible voters, leading to claims that millions of Coptic Christians and women were not permitted to cast their ballots.
Under Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, Egypt aspired to become a secular modern nation, hoping to improve the life of the Egyptian people. Now those days are gone and the battle lines are drawn. The nation of Egypt is about to begin a monumental tug of war for her very soul.
On one side are the Islamists, who want an nation ruled exclusively by Sharia law and all it entails, including caning, amputation, stoning and a religious police force that would patrol the streets in every city and town in Egypt. Non-Muslims will be second class citizens and women will be required to wear a hijab, niqab or a burqa at all times outside their home.
Pro-Democracy advocates want a secular constitutional government that promotes equality, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, women’s rights and total religious equality. Women and non-Muslims, who are currently banned from being elected President of Egypt, will have the same opportunities as Muslims. Female Genital Mutilation, which victimizes 90% of all Egyptian women, may finally disappear in a Democratic Egypt.
We have witnessed the recent violence in Libya, Mali, Sudan and Tunisia after the Islamists took over. Blood literally flowed in the streets when the previous government fell. Armed men rule entire populations with terror and citizens live in fear of draconian punishments imposed under the black flag of Jihad. Non-Muslims are fleeing for their lives in large numbers and courageous journalists are routinely murdered, taken hostage or imprisoned for insulting the “Prophet of Allah.”
The people of Egypt fought long and hard to end the tyranny of Mubarak. They deserve an opportunity to live in freedom without spending their entire lives in fear of an all powerful religious authority that controls every second of their existence from the cradle to the grave.
Obviously, even if Egypt became a Constitutional Republic tomorrow morning, it is only the first step. There is much work to be done and many will resist change every step of the way. It won’t be easy, but the time has come to for the people of Egypt to finally shake off the shackles of slavery and join the free peoples of the human race.