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Dec 8

Written by: Diana West
Saturday, December 08, 2012 8:29 AM 

70 percent of Egyptians favor the new sharia draft constitution -- true or false? Only the ballot box knows for sure. So why are Egypt's "liberals" and "secularists" rioting to prevent a national referendum?

From the Vancouver Sun:

Egypt's vice-president Mahmoud Mekki floated the possibility late Friday that the Islamist government might postpone a referendum on a hugely controversial draft constitution that critics have condemned because they believe it gives some powers to unelected Islamic scholars and ignores the rights of women and the country's Coptic Christian minority. ...

Tens of thousands of protesters continued to mass in the dark outside the presidential palace early Saturday. At one point some of them broke through a hastily erected outer concrete barrier and clambered on tanks near the palace walls. As they did so, other protesters continued to throng Tahrir Square to call for Morsi to quit. Earlier in the day, secularists and Islamists clashed in Mahala, a key industrial centre in the Nile Delta, and in Luxor, Alexandria, Kafr El Sheikh and Morsi's hometown, Zagazig. This followed the overnight ransacking of the Muslim Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters. ...

By "liberals" and "secularists"?

"We are not at a crossroads. We are at the end of the street," said a young woman who works for a television station that backs the secularists. "There will be more bloodshed if neither side backs down."

Why this bloody "crossroads" when a referendum is the next planned step?

As several marches headed toward Tahrir Square at dusk Friday, an elderly newspaper vendor, Mohammed Abu Amara, watched the passing parade with an avuncular smile that seemed to suggest the protesters had no idea what they were doing.

"Their demonstrations make a lot of noise but there aren't that many of them," said Amara, who had the raisin-coloured forehead scar of a devout Muslim who touches his forehead down to the ground five times a day in prayer. "I like Morsi because he does not waver."

Hmm. Has Amara of the Raisin-Colored-Forhead-Scar read the polls on widespread Egyptian Muslim desire for a caliphate (67 percent), "strict" sharia (74 percent), and death sentences for apostates (84 percent)? Of course not. But these poll numbers (most recently summarized by Andrew Bostom here), which mirror sentiment in other Islamic countries, are essential to bear in mind when trying to understand ongoing tumultuous events. 

Bostom writes:

But is this ancient, brutally oppressive totalitarian system still popular amongst Egyptian Muslims?  In a word, yes.  Polling data were released April 24, 2007 from a rigorously conducted face-to-face University of Maryland/WorldPublicOpinion.org interview survey of Muslims conducted between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007.  

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of the 1,000 Egyptians surveyed desired this outcome: "To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate." 

The internal validity of these data about the present longing for a caliphate was strongly suggested by a concordant result: 74% of Egyptian Muslims approved the proposition "To require a strict application of Sharia in every Islamic country" ....

Polling data reported in December 2010 by Pew revealed that 77% of Egyptian Muslims supported mutilating punishments for theft, 82% endorsed stoning for adultery, and 84% favored the death penalty for so-called "apostasy" -- i.e., forsaking Islam for another religion, or becoming an atheist or agnostic.

Back to the Vancouver Sun:

At Cairo's storied Cafe Riche, where intellectuals have discussed politics and hatched conspiracies for more than a century, officials from the opposition parties plotted their next moves and dismissed supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Amara, as ignoramuses.

"Such people only see themselves," said Hamer Jabr, a lawyer and executive committee member of Al Kamara (the Dignity Party). The party is part of the Salvation Front, which co-ordinates the positions of a hodgepodge of leftists, liberals, Christians and supporters of the disgraced government of Mubarak, who was deposed last year.

"Look how many people have come in the streets in the past few days to protest," Jabr said. "We are the majority, but the other side does not see it."

"We" are? This is a question to settle at the ballot box -- the vaunted raison d'etre of "Arab Spring."

Amara, who was hawking newspapers in the street outside the café, was equally confident that the Islamists were a majority and that they would win the snap vote on the proposed constitution that Morsi has called for Dec. 15. That was also the reluctant conclusion of Andre Krouwel, the Dutch founder of Vote Compass - an online survey tool that has been used in Canadian elections.

"About 70 per cent of the population will vote in favour of the constitution, but a majority of the people who are literate and can think for themselves are against it," said Krouwel, whose organization has been working with an Egyptian university to prepare polling data designed to find out which parts of the draft constitution were the most problematic for voters.

If Krouwel predicts 70 percent of the population will vote in favor of the constitution, it would seem that voters don't find much that is "problematic" about it.

Vote Compass has been tracking a huge shift in public opinion away from Morsi since he issued his decree and quickly followed that declaration by calling a referendum on the constitution that would give Islamic scholars a say, Krouwel said.

Kamel Daoud, spokesman for Hizb-el Dostour, (the Constitutional Party) headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, boasted that the opposition was "winning a new round every day. I think more and more people understand why we are against what is happening. We continue to insist that there should not be a vote on the constitution."

So which side are "democrats" on again?

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