Hudson Institute: “What is a Constitution Anyway?”
Samuel Tadros published a piece for the Hudson Institute that recounts Egypt’s constitutional struggle and provides a glimpse of intra-Islamist dynamics. Ultimately, he finds that “while the fall of the Mubarak regime and its security apparatus has provided the Brotherhood with unprecedented opportunities to acquire power and begin implementing their vision, it has also unleashed an extraordinary challenge in the form of Salafism.”
Tadros finds that the Muslim Brotherhood sought to “manipulate both the process and the new document to further strengthen their power in Egyptian politics.” To do this the Brotherhood focused on the political system, co-opting the military, and keeping the Salafis on board, while keeping strengthening the role of Sharia and the Islamic nature of the new constitution a top priority. He notes that the Brotherhood’s goal has been to control the state and use its power and the Gama’a, or “Society,” to build an Islamic one.
The author describes the Salafis, conversely, as being hesitant to engage in politics, but ultimately doing so out of necessity to protect Sharia’s past constitutional role. The Salafis desired to “increase good” by enhancing Sharia’s status and increasing “the Islamic identity of the constitution” and to “decrease evil” by removing or blocking constitutional articles deemed “un-Islamic,” and proscribing “unacceptable” freedoms.
Tadros tracks how the Brotherhood and Salafis first colluded to form a pro-Islamist constitutional assembly, then battled over how Islamic to make the constitution. As tensions rose, the Salafists mobilized popular support, criticizing the Brotherhood’s lack of commitment to Sharia and Islam. Ultimately, a compromise was struck, President Morsi made his decree, and the new constitution, “an almost complete Salafi victory,” was ratified. Tadros concludes, “The Salafi monster is thus unlike anything that the Brotherhood has ever dealt with…and there may come a day in the future when the Salafist movement desires to eat the whole meal.”