Momentous changes are underway in Egypt. Since the election of the man from the Muslim Brotherhood as Egypt’s president, the the regime has taken several steps backward. Morsi is consolidating power in his own hands and distributing it to supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. He is by the same token contracting the sphere of independent institutions. Andy McCarthy usefully summarizes the course of proceedings in his most recent column on the Egyptian military. McCarthy writes:
Things are going very badly in Egypt…Contemporaneous with ousting the pro-American Mubarak remnants [of the Egyptian military leadership], President Morsi assumed dictatorial powers. He indicated that he would unilaterally oversee the drafting of a new constitution. There is not much mystery about what it will say: During the campaign, he vowed that Egyptian law would be “the sharia, then the sharia, and finally, the sharia.”
Meanwhile, dissenters and journalists are already being imprisoned and beaten — if not worse. (There are unconfirmed reports that crucifixion is making a comeback.) Terrorist leaders have been sprung from the prisons. The Sinai has become a jihadist haven. Women are attacked in the street if they fail to don the veil. A fatwa that prohibited eating during Ramadan was issued. Christians are fleeing in droves, their churches torched behind them. And the emirs of Hamas are warmly received as brotherly dignitaries.
No amount of whistling can obscure the graveyard. Things are bad, and they are going to get worse.
In a recent Washington Post column, Dennis Ross observed of Morsi: “He also unilaterally amended the March 2011 constitution declaration and gave his office executive and legislative powers. In short, with no hint of resistance from the military, Morsi has imposed civilian leadership on Egypt.” Denominating this seizure of power as “civilian” overlooks its most important feature, but Ross too usefully summarizes developments in Egypt under Morsi. Later in the column Ross notes somewhat more pointedly that Morsi “has largely surrounded himself with members of the Muslim Brotherhood or sympathizers” and “dominates all of Egypt’s institutions of power.”
We’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t have a happy ending.
Among other things, the fate of Egypt’s Christians hangs in the balance. Some 100,000 Coptic Christians have left the country since (as Ross also notes). The Times of Israel reports that Egypt’s Christians will take part in the first mass demonstration against the country’s Muslim Brotherhood government tomorrow, according to a statement issued by the Coalition of Coptic Egypt.
What does the Obama administration have to say? One has the impression that it is in the grips of an unshakable illusion regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, that it is something of a supporter aiding and abetting the Brotherhood’s consolidation of power. Ross concludes his column with a muted call for the Obama administration — in which he served until this past December –to pipe up and an implicit recognition that the administration’s position is unclear, at best. Coming from someone of Ross’s stature and experience, that’s a blistering critique.