As the world watches and waits for the Egyptian people to vote in a nationwide referendum to be held December 15 on a new constitution drafted largely by the Muslim Brotherhood, it would be well to consider another constitutional referendum from 33 years ago when another people who'd just been through a revolution went to the polls and cast their votes firmly in favor of tyranny.
On October 24, 1979, after a tumultuous year of revolution, the Iranian people turned out by the millions and voted overwhelmingly (over 98%) to approve a new constitution that subjugated the country to the rule of Islamic Law under the leadership of a single man – the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – an Islamic cleric with unlimited power.
The vote was no snap response, as the full text of the new Iranian constitution had been published for the electorate's consideration more than four months earlier (from June, 1979). More than 15 million Iranian voters willingly chose to subordinate themselves, their children and their country to an Islamic theocratic dictatorship, whose provisions were spelled out to them and accepted by them in an explicitly worded constitutional document that described the totalitarian system of Velayat-e Faqih (Rule of the Jurisprudent) and dedicated the nation to jihad.
Further, the preamble to the constitution made clear that the Iranian revolution was not intended to stop at the country's borders but rather would strive for the formation of a "single world community" (ummah) in accordance with the "universal values of Islam," thus committing Iran and its military forces to open-ended aggression and warfare (which followed soon enough).
While the draft Egyptian constitution contains no such institution as a Supreme Leader or Velayat-e Faqih, it does state in Article 2 that "Principles of Islamic Sharia are the principal source of legislation," thus ensuring that genuine liberal democracy (in which the people and their representatives craft laws free of theological constraints) will have no chance in the new Egypt.
Also, as both Andrew McCarthy (here) and Barry Rubin (here) point out, the new constitution makes clear that implementation of sharia will be far stricter under the Muslim Brotherhood than it ever was under Mubarak: Article 219 defines the "principles of Islamic Sharia" to be bound by "sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community," which means the four classical schools of Sunni jurisprudence and the Islamic institution of scholarly consensus (ijma). The Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi'i schools hold that the principles of Islamic Law were fixed many centuries ago and have remained immutable ever since.
So, despite a cursory nod in the direction of individual "rights and freedoms" (Article 81), the very next words of the Egyptian draft document, stipulating that such rights and freedoms "shall be practiced in a manner not conflicting with the principles pertaining to State and society included in Part I of this Constitution," make clear that means Egyptians get whatever "human rights" are allowed under sharia (see below).
Just like the 1990 Cairo Declaration of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which exempted all Muslim countries from compliance with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and declared that under Islam, human rights means sharia and only sharia.
Further, much as Article 96 of the Iranian constitution designated the Guardian Council (comprised of 12 jurist experts in Islamic Law) to determine the "compatibility of the legislation passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly with the laws of Islam," so too does Egypt's new constitution designate al-Azhar's "Senior Scholars … to be consulted in matters pertaining to Islamic law." Thus, a non-elected assembly of Islamic jurists will be granted the authority to approve or disapprove any legislation the Egyptian parliament passes, with judgment to be based solely on Islamic laws set down in the 10th century.
Those laws assign the death penalty for adultery, apostasy from Islam, homosexuality and, in some cases, for blasphemy or slander (criticism) against Islam. They establish legal inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims and between men and women. And lest any think these laws apply only to Egyptians or only to Muslims, sharia also mandates jihad against non-believers for the express purpose of imposing sharia globally.
In addition, as Yousef al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's senior jurist, decades of accumulated Brotherhood ideology, and the campaign speeches of Ikhwan stalwarts like Khairat al-Shater or Mohammed Morsi himself all attest, mainstream Islamic doctrine also mandates virulent hatred of infidels and Jews.
The Muslim Brotherhood may not move immediately to implement all of these principles, but approval of the new constitution would give them the authority and the popular mandate to do so. Morsi himself has left no doubt about how he intends to govern, pledging to an enthusiastic crowd in a May 2012 campaign speech on Egyptian TV that he is dedicated to "The shari'a, then the shari'a, and finally, the shari'a."
And the thing is, the Egyptian people, who are over 70% literate, know all this either from their own reading or through their imams and mosques. Andrew Bostom has been indefatigable in drawing our attention to credible surveys of the Egyptian public which unambiguously and overwhelmingly demonstrate that they want "strict application of Sharia law in every Islamic country (74%)," to "keep Western values out of Islamic countries (91%)" and to "unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate (67%)."
As recently as December 2010, a Pew survey found that 82% of Egyptians favor the stoning to death of people who commit adultery, 77% approved of whipping and hand amputation for theft and 84% said they thought apostates from Islam should be executed.
Despite the last spasms of protest from Egypt's tragically outnumbered liberals and secularists, does anyone still have any serious doubts about how this referendum is going to go? Backed and emboldened by the Obama administration in Washington, D.C., the Muslim Brotherhood has orchestrated its takeover of Egypt masterfully from the beginning: It won the initial constitutional amendments referendum by a landslide, then, together with its Salafist allies, grabbed an overwhelming majority in the January 2012 parliamentary elections, before taking the presidency in June 2012.
As Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, though, "The constitution was always the prize" and now that looks to be soon within their grasp as well. Once the December 15 up or down vote enshrines these sharia principles as law of the land, just as in Iran, there will be no going back for Egypt for a long, long time.