Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Constitution Making in the Arab Spring: Have Islamists Stolen the Revolution?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Chibli Mallat
Visiting Professor of Law and Oscar M. Ruebhausen Distinguished Senior Fellow (Yale Law School)

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director (Human Rights Watch)

Mass movements make good revolutions but do they also make ‘good’ constitutions? In our modern rule-of-law world, constitution-making has become a battleground for the unfolding of the revolution. As the euphoria of revolution in the Middle East and North Africa transitions into the painstaking work of constitution drafting, the political debate is rife with disagreements among people with varying views about the role of Islam in government.

As the most well organized oppositional group in the region, Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Ennahda party in Tunisia have been most able to step into the vacuum left by the old authoritarian regimes. Their political rise causes anxiety for non-Islamists as to whether the revolutionary space will be seized by Islamists to create governments with new injustices to replace the abusive rule of the old regimes. The disagreements about the role of Islam, and the derivative areas of disputes concerning gender equality, religious freedom, and minority rights, risk undermining the vision of many who launched the revolutionary movements. Have the Islamists stolen the revolution?