News you can use from the 'Islamist Spring'
I don't know why we even bother calling it the "Arab Spring" any more. The single, unifying factor in every single revolution so far in the Middle East has been the emergence of a powerful bloc of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims to challenge for power, influence constitution writing, and outmaneuver the pathetically unprepared liberals and secularists who were the driving force behind the revolutions in the first place.
Today, we receive news that the new constitution being written in Tunisia will be influenced heavily by Sharia law:
As Tunisian lawmakers wrestle over the drafting of a new constitution, the place of Islamic law is causing contention, but with Islamists dominating the process the new constitution looks set to describe shari'a as "the principal source of legislation."
Tunisia, the country that launched last year's political upheavals in many parts of the Arab world, is being closely watched, as observers across the region and in the West ponder the future of the so-called "Arab spring" amid the rise of Islamist parties.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been optimistic about Tunisia, saying during a visit to North Africa last week that she was encouraged by what she saw and heard. Testifying in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, she described Tunisia as "a country that I think deserves a lot of attention and support from the United States."
Last October, the Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) party won a plurality of the seats when Tunisians elected an assembly mandated to draft a new national constitution.
Article One of Tunisia's current constitution, promulgated in 1959, declares that "Tunisia is a free, independent and sovereign state. Its religion is Islam, its language is Arabic and its type of government is the Republic."
Ennahda, which holds 89 of the assembly's 217 seats, wants the new document to go further, and explicitly assert the importance of shari'a.
Not to be outdone, the Muslim Brotherhood is rising in the chaos and violence in the aftermath of revolution in Libya:
Libya's Muslim Brotherhood teamed up with other Islamists on Friday to establish a new political party that is set to be a leading player in the country's first elections since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.
Islamist and secular parties will vie in June elections for seats in a national assembly that will draft a new constitution for the North African country.
Political analysts say Libya's Muslim Brotherhood is likely to emerge as the most organized political force and a leading player in the oil-exporting country where Islamists, like all dissidents, were harshly suppressed for 42 years.
Post-uprising elections have already brought Islamists into government in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco since October and they are likely to perform well in Libya, a socially conservative country where alcohol was already banned before the revolution.
Lamine Belhadj, who heads the committee that is working to set up the new party, told Reuters at a conference on Friday it would bring together Islamists of different stripes.
"This is the founding conference of a national, civil party with an Islamic frame of reference. It is being established by the Muslim Brotherhood and many independents who are not affiliated with any Islamic organizations," he said.
There is very little the US can do to stem the tide. Our choices are to engage or withdraw with precious little in between. The way the Obama administration figures it, we have a better chance of influencing future events that would moderate the Islamist strain in these countries if we act nice and make encouraging noises. This is probably a forlorn hope. And in the meantime, our only real friend in the region - Israel - becomes even more threatened with each new Arab government that emerges.
It's hard to see how things could have turned out any worse.