http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/06/20/154130.html

Like a woman who had for years been improvising the meals she cooked with her special sauces, and which usually turned out tasteless yet did the job of providing the required sustenance, then suddenly discovered a cookbook that would make every morsel she makes and eats an unequalled joy, Egyptians found out about the constitution.

For decades, we went about our daily lives almost never thinking of the existence of a document that set the basic rules according to which the country is governed and which in our case practically belonged to the regime.

Even at the time when 34 articles of the constitution were changed—not sure if there is such a precedent anywhere in the world—nobody really bothered to know what the articles were about or why they were being changed or how this change can affect them. They automatically linked any changes to consolidating the power of the president, facilitating the bequest of presidency scenario, and depriving citizens of as many freedoms as possible.It was only when Mohamed ElBaradei, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and now potential presidential candidate, came up with a statement that alerted Egyptians to the fiasco their constitution was and to the role they could play in changing it. Every signature collected meant one more citizen had become aware of the main articles of the constitution that contributed to making Egypt the dictatorship it was and had made one connection or another between personal ailments and this document that seemed to be of interest only to a group of powerful people.

The protests that started on January 25 aimed high since their offset, for they did not demand reform nor called for amending the constitution or even having fair elections; they wanted to topple the regime. Doing this, the revolutionaries knew, will automatically trigger the rest, for they were certain how impossible it was to implement any of the much-needed changes to the political scene without first getting rid of the power that did all what it can to obstruct those same changes. After the revolution achieved its main objective, it was time to start looking at the countless transformations the ouster of Mubarak gave way to and the constitution was on top of this list. However, ElBaradei’s initiative—which was as ambitious as it could get given the circumstances in which it was drafted and the absence of any signs that the regime would really go—was no longer the utmost aspiration of Egyptians for it was no longer a few articles that required amendments. The whole document needed to be thrown away and a new one had to be rewritten from scratch.

That is why the post-revolution referendum held on the amendment of some of the articles drove several political powers to launch a “No” campaign not because they did not approve the amendments themselves, but rather due to their strong objection to the idea of amending instead of rewriting. When the “Yes” camp won and a constitutional declaration based on the proposed amendments was consequently announced, we were left with one question: “What about the rest of the constitution?” Then came the answer that to me was as absurd as assuming that approving the amendments will bring about stability and speed up the democratic process. A new constitution will indeed be written. When? After the parliamentary elections!!! I felt like those confused cartoon characters that start scratching their heads when they are absolutely unable to understand what is going on.

Now, here’s what the situation is like. Parliamentary elections are scheduled in September—yes 2011—and a quick look at the political scene in Egypt can easily tell you what a mess that would be. During the three decades in which the regime suppressed any potential opposition and killed before birth any fetal political initiative that promised taking the country out of Mubarak’s pothole, we ended up with practically no parties fit for contesting in elections. With old parties turning into what several observers called “ornamental plants” that only served to give a fake semblance of a pluralist system and with the astounding hurdles with which emerging ones were faced, the ruling National Democratic Party had no competitors. Well, they actually had one, a rival you would be a fool to underestimate. Many of my foreign friends tell me how intrigued they are by the Muslim Brotherhood’s ability to survive all the regime’s nonstop clampdowns on its members and I tell them that this for two reasons. One, the Muslim Brotherhood has been since its inception not a political party in the proper sense of the word, but rather an underground movement. It was, therefore, like an iceberg and the regime was always dealing with the tip. Two, it was not in the regime’s best interest to eliminate the MB even if they could because they would then lose the Islamist threat card they waved at the West whenever political reform was brought to the table. I guess there is no need to mention the influence of the “Islam is the solution” slogan and the use of religion to manipulate the masses.

Let’s make that the third reason then. Bottom line is the Muslim Brotherhood emerges now as the only solid political power capable of organizing its ranks in the upcoming elections and winning a majority in parliament. Some might ask why this is a problem if the elections are fair and transparent. Isn’t this the democracy we have been fighting for in the past couple of decades? Yes, it is. However, the problem does not lie in the results of the elections, but in the fact that it is this new parliament that is going to draft the constitution. What kind of a constitution can a movement that bans women and Copts from running for presidency and that allies itself with fundamentalist Islamists produce?

One of the basic demands of the revolution was establishing a civil state and for those who try to play with words and say “civil” means non-military, let me tell you it means both: non-military and non-religious. It means a state that is governed by the principles of citizenship and that gives no privilege whatsoever of one religion over another neither of course one sex over another—both ideals not espoused by the Brotherhood. The disastrous media appearances of several of the group’s prominent members exposed the ideology they continue to adopt and which is in stark contradiction with what Egypt is meant to be as it enters a new era of freedom and equality.

This explains why liberal political powers are rallying behind the “Constitution First” campaign, which calls for drafting a new constitution before the elections to guarantee the participation of all factions in determining the future of the country instead of having what is supposed to be a collective procedure monopolized by one single party or movement. The constitution is the base on which other democratic processes build and not the other way round, they argue. Concerns over the possible bias of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces towards the Muslim Brotherhood have started surfacing especially in the light of the choice of two of the group’s members in the committee in charge of the constitutional amendment that were put to referendum. Several powers also warn that the Brotherhood’s “arrogance” as one leading politician put it portends another authoritarian regime that is not very different from the one toppled by the revolution.

This also explains why the Muslim Brotherhood are adamant on having the elections on time and are resisting with all their might efforts to draft the constitution first and boycotting conferences held to set the basic guidelines of the new constitution. Well, I can hardly blame them. With one tiny stone they will be able to hit two gigantic birds: win a parliamentary majority and draft the constitution. Not in a million years would they have imagined wielding such power in a country that never referred to them except with terms like “banned” and “outlawed.” This I don’t blame them for. As for putting their personal interests and political agenda ahead of Egypt’s welfare and the objectives of its revolution and standing against any form of power sharing, I am not sure “blame” will even begin to describe how I feel. Even if we assume that the Muslim Brotherhood will tone down its intolerant rhetoric and work towards the establishment of a civil state—I say this while I know it is impossible—the fact that they want to monopolize power and rob other nascent parties of their right to contest in the election is the utmost proof that they will never be part of a real democracy in which the widest array of political parties should be given equal opportunities.

If we replace one despotic party with another—the fact that they were enemies is absolutely irrelevant here—then we better declare the revolution a storm in a tea cup and go back to being once again the helpless subjects of the immortal pharaoh. And the woman shouldn’t bother looking into that cookbook because it turns out it is much easier for her to put everything she has in the fridge in the frying pan then eat while thinking she might as well be taking her nutritional needs for the day from a glucose tube and spare herself the hassle of the trip from the fridge to the stove.