October 22, 2012 in World
Washington, D.C. /ICC/ — Violent demonstrations broke out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on October 12 between Egypt’s secularists and Islamist supporters regarding a widening dispute over the country’s constitution. A proposed version of the document is grounded in Islamic jurisprudence, failing to protect the religious freedoms of minorities and the rights of women, while also granting judicial authority to Egypt’s Islamist president.
More than a hundred Egyptians were injured last Friday when street fighting erupted in Cairo between young secularist revolutionaries and the Muslim Brotherhood’s core supporters. The violence signified Egypt’s broadening division over the country’s new constitution-a draft of which was released last week-and the role of Islam in the country’s affairs. While moderates say the constitution favors Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood defend the legality of the assembly that drafted the document, claiming the body was justly appointed by a democratically elected parliament and therefore has authority to write the constitution.
Among the concerns of liberals are provisions in the new charter relating to Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), which are almost identical to the outgoing constitution. In the draft, President Mohammad Morsi-like ousted President Hosni Mubarak before him-has the power to appoint the head of court and its 15 members after receiving nominations from lower courts.
According to Tahani el-Gibaly, a member of the SCC, the provisions are “disastrous” because they place the SCC under the grip of executive, rather than as an independent body. Islamist parties, led by the Brotherhood, have already solidified control of the legislature, winning nearly 75 percent of the seats in parliamentary elections earlier this year. In June, the Brotherhood claimed executive authorities when their candidate, Morsi, won the presidential election. If the provisions remain as they stand now, the SCC will be consolidated under Islamist rule.
The SCC still has time to dissolve the constitutional assembly, however “President Mohamed Morsi would move quickly to appoint a new assembly that would be of a similar makeup,” explained Hani Sabra, a reporter with Foreign Policy.
“Egypt’s Islamists have made it clear that they are willing to move ahead with their version of the constitution without buy-in from secularists or the [Christians],” wrote Sabra. “A new constitution will not settle Egypt’s transitional woes… Young revolutionaries who sparked the movement to oust Mubarak… are increasingly unhappy with Islamist efforts to monopolize politics.”
Liberals and Christians have also denounced provisions of Article 2 of the constitution which states that the “principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source for legislation.” If the articles stand, Islamic law will govern every aspect of Egyptian society.
The constitutional assembly has failed to “preserve constitutional articles [by] allowing Egypt to be turned into a religious state,” said the Maspero Youth Union, a political movement created to defend the rights of Coptic Christians. “It takes Egypt back to the Middle Ages, shatters the basis of a modern state, legalizes theocracy, and opens the door for countless legal problems, let alone blackmail by opportunists who feign religiosity.”
Barry Rubin, the director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, has long warned about the growing threat of Islamist policies in Egypt. Following the charter’s release, Rubin’s analysis on Egypt’s Islamist agenda-ignored by much of the West-rings truer now than ever before.
“The battle… is being waged by Islamists who want their interpretation of the religion to be declared as the only acceptable version,” Rubin wrote in February. “Westerners don’t understand that when that happens anything more moderate or flexibly traditional becomes illegal and punishable. The Islamist counter-Bill of Rights proclaims that the country’s people have no freedom of speech or freedom of religion, no right to free assembly or of the press.”
Source: International Christian Concern