Reaching out to Islamists
I. Guess who is reaching out:
"The Obama administration is reaching out to Islamist movements whose political power is on the rise in the wake of Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.
The tentative outreach effort to key religious political groups—the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahdha in Tunisia—reflects the administration's realization that the spread of democracy in the region requires it to deal more directly with Islamist movements the U.S. had long kept at arm's length."On his well-followed Twitter feed, the Coptic Christian Sawiris posted an image of a bearded, kaffiyeh-clad Mickey Mouse and a face-covered Minnie Mouse, alongside the comment, "Micky [sic] and Minnie after . . . " - in other words, "after" the Islamists gain power. It was a fairly pedestrian, if pointed, piece of political humor, but the anti-ironic Islamists didn't see it that way.
On Monday, 15 Islamic lawyers associated with the puritanical Salafists submitted a complaint to Egypt's general prosecutor, alleging that Sawiris "ridiculed the Islamic faith" and violated a penal code that criminalizes speech attacking "heavenly religions." If convicted, Sawiris would face six months to five years in prison, plus a fine.
Whether or not Sawiris is ultimately indicted, this episode should serve as the latest reminder that Islamism and democracy are mutually exclusive. Democracy, after all, requires a broad array of civil rights, including the right to criticize the state and its legal foundations.
Yet by virtue of their political beliefs, Islamists are practically incapable of accepting such extensive liberties. While Islamists vary considerably in how they interpret Islamic legal texts, they broadly agree that Sharia - a set of religious legal principles - should form the basis of their countries' legal systems. And because they view Sharia as divinely created, they view criticisms of Islamic law or theology as inherently wrong. Thus Islamists demand that Islam be protected from political speech - even as they push for Islam to assume a political role.
There is a word for legislating on the basis of unassailable legal principles: tyranny."