According to the Reuters FaithWorld blog, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for the Egyptian presidency, Khairat al-Shater, declared last week that restoring Sharia would have the highest priority in his administration. “Sharia was and always will be my first and final project and objective,” he told a group called the “Religious Association for Rights and Reform.”
One shouldn’t be surprised. Since its founding, the MB has made restoring Sharia in Muslim societies its main goal. Moreover, the idea that law should be based on Sharia is quite popular in Egypt. Indeed, in a recent, widely-reported survey, a majority of Egyptians said that Sharia should be the only source of law in their country.
Do comments like al-Shater’s mean that non-Muslim minorities should worry? That’s not as clear, frankly. People who say they favor “Sharia” may mean different things. Perhaps, as Noah Feldman argues, “Sharia” in contemporary Muslim politics suggests a more or less democratic, rule of law society informed by religious principles. Non-Muslims would not necessarily have to worry about this version of Sharia. If, however, “Sharia” means something like classical fiqh, which placed severe restrictions on Christians and other non-Muslims, calls for its restoration are quite worrisome.
Which version does the MB endorse? The MB has been presenting a moderate face to the world. Its official English-language website contains a slew of articles attempting to reassure Egyptian Christians (and Western liberals) that minority rights would be protected under the MB’s version of a Sharia society. Like “Sharia,” however, “rights” can mean different things, and the MB will also have to assuage more militant Islamists who are not so interested in moderation. Time will tell.