Despite the fact that some in the West portray Islam and democracy as being perfectly compatible, evidence continues to emerge that, for many countries in the Middle East, democracy and elections are various means to one end: the establishment of a decidedly undemocratic form of law—Islamic, or Sharia Law.
Thus, Egyptian cleric Dr. Talat Zahran proclaimed that it is "obligatory to cheat at elections, a beautiful thing," his logic being that voting is a tool, an instrument, the only value of which is to empower Sharia. Likewise, Hazim Shuman, a cleric who has his own TV program, issued a fatwa likening the voting for Islamist candidates as a "jihad," adding that paradise awaits whoever is "martyred" during the electoral campaign.
Most recently, according to Al Wafd, last Friday, May 18, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of if not the most authoritative clerics in the Islamic world, "called on all Egyptians to vote for one of the Islamist candidates," specifically naming the three Islamists, Muhammad Mursi, Abd al-Mun'im Abu al-Futuh, and Muhammad al-Salim al-Awwa. Qaradawi described them as "best for Egypt" because they will "apply the Islamic Sharia and achieve justice." Moreover, during his Friday sermon, Qaradawi said that it is "mandatory for every Egyptian to go and vote at the presidential elections," calling it a form of "obligatory testimony" on behalf of Islam, and quoting Koran 2:283 as proof: "And do not conceal testimony, and whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful; and Allah knows what you do."
Qaradawi's position was restated yesterday, Monday May 21, when, according to Al Ahram, the Sharia Body for Rights and Reforms—one of the most powerful Islamic organizations, with members from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, and Al Azhar—issued a fatwa asserting that it is "impermissible to vote for anyone not intending to apply Islamic Sharia, and it is obligatory to vote for those who do seek to implement it," adding that the "presidential election is a modern way of directing the state, and therefore it behooves Muslims to use it as a way to enforce Sharia."
If Qaradawi and many others are stressing the obligation to vote for those most likely to enforce Sharia, Sheikh Osama Qassim, a member of Egypt's notorious Islamic Jihad, which also seeks to enforce Islamic law, recently attacked the non-Islamist candidates—specifically naming Ahmed Shafiq and Amr Mussa—saying that if they win the presidential elections, it will only be "by cheating," at which point "the Islamist organizations" will resort to "armed action" (code for Jihad), adding that such presidents will suffer the same fate of Anwar Sadat (assassination), but that this time, the struggle will see "the Islamists achieve complete domination" in Egypt.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.