Egyptian Jihadis Oppose New Constitution, Threaten Secularists

Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 912,  December 14, 2012

By: R. Green*

Recent events in Egypt – the release of the new draft constitution, President Mursi's presidential decrees, and the riots that ensued – have also affected the Salafi-jihadi stream in the country. While mainstream Salafis endorse the draft constitution and are advocating for it, the Salafi-jihadis reject it out of hand as an "infidel" document and attack the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime for drafting it. At the same time, they threaten jihad against liberal elements, which are protesting against the constitution's religious nature.

The Salafi-jihadis presented their criticism of the draft constitution in articles on various websites and social networks. Their main concerns are:

1. Its failure to explicitly designate Egypt as an Islamic country and to instate shari'a law as the law of the land.

2. Its legitimization of man-made legislation, which they see as usurpation of the exclusive authority of God.

3. Its definition of the people as sovereign, which they say undermines God's sovereignty over man.

4. It is founded upon Western principles, constituting an imitation of infidel ways.

5. Its failure to outlaw practices they regard as immoral and socially corrupt – alcohol consumption, prostitution, homosexuality, etc.

Muhammad Al-Zawahiri, the brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri and a leader of the Salafi-jihadis in Egypt, explained this position in an article: "Shaping a constitution or [system] of law... which bans individuals, the people, or members of parliament from instating the laws and ways of Allah, is forbidden according to Islamic law. Sovereignty is for Allah alone, without any partners. An even graver [problem, which constitutes] a violation of a specific ban and undermines [the principle of] submission [to God], is the appointment of the people as sovereign in place of Allah, and granting them the authority to permit or forbid [certain practices], to accept or reject [principles], and to approve matters that combine the laws of Allah with other laws that contradict those of Allah. And the most grievous and astonishing matter of all is that [the referendum] is meant to approve a constitution and laws that completely contradict the laws of Allah."

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