Egypt in downward spiral after referendum on Islamic constitution

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

The situation in post-revolution Egypt appeared to be deteriorating faster than most expected in the wake of last week's referendum on a new and overtly Islamic constitution. In fact, Egypt appears to be headed towards another revolution less than two years after ousting its former dictator.

The new constitution was a topic of violent debate even before it came to a vote. Drafted exclusively by the Muslim Brotherhood and other parties affiliated with a Sharia-based outlook, critics said it would turn Egypt into a new Islamic Republic and do tremendous harm to minority groups, such as Christians.

But that's precisely what the Muslim Brotherhood likely had in mind, and so the group took great pains to make sure the referendum was a success.

According to reports out of Egypt, women not wearing veils (thereby marking them as not being pious Muslims) were denied the right to vote on the referendum. Egyptian opposition groups said that Christians were also turned away at polling stations.

At the end of the day, a mere one-third of Egyptians voted on the new constitution, but that didn't stop the Muslim Brotherhood from celebrating a 57 percent victory. Opposition groups charged that there had been widespread ballot fraud, and demanded a fresh referendum. They were unlikely to get their wish.

To drive home the point of their victory, Islamic groups allied with the Muslim Brotherhood firebombed the main opposition headquarters in Cairo immediately following the referendum, and a leading Brotherhood official stated on Egyptian television that the group might start arming its members.

Essam al-Erian, deputy chief of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in the Egyptian Parliament, told Mehwar TV that for the first time the group is considering setting up armed "youth brigades" to quell any anti-government demonstrations.

Is anyone seeing the resemblance to Nazi Germany and its "brown shirt" youth groups?

Many in Israel and abroad predicted that while the Muslim Brotherhood was by no means good for Egypt or the region, it would take at least a decade for it to impose Sharia Law and do anything too unpredictable. It would seem those assessments are a bit off, and the situation is spiraling out of control faster than most people imagined.

In the meantime, average Egyptians are in need of prayer as they live through what for many is likely a frightening reality.

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