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MIDEAST > Shariah-based Egypt charter rushed to vote

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A general view shows members of Egypt’s Constituent Assembly during a
tense meeting to vote on a final draft of a controversial Constitution in Cairo. EPA photo

A general view shows members of Egypt’s Constituent Assembly during a tense meeting to vote on a final draft of a controversial Constitution in Cairo. EPA photo

An assembly drafting Egypt’s new Constitution yesterday maintained the previous Constitution’s principles of Islamic law, Shariah, as the main source of legislation, as it rushed through the approval process in the face of objections from an opposition that argues more time is needed.

It also agreed to a clause stating that the principles of Christian and Jewish legal traditions would guide the personal and religious affairs of people belonging to those faiths.

The panel voted on the Constitution article by article yesterday, and unanimously approved keeping the formulation from the past Constitution, which was suspended after a popular uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.

Article 2 states that “Islam is the state religion and the Arabic language is its official language. The principles of Islamic Shariah are the main source of legislation.” Article 219, which has not yet been agreed upon, seeks to explain the clause on Islamic law in terms of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence.

The issue was the subject of a long dispute between hardliner Salafi Islamists and liberals in the assembly, which will vote on each of 234 articles in the draft Constitution before it is sent to President Mohamed Morsi for approval. After that, Morsi must put it to a popular referendum. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that nominated Morsi for the presidency, hopes that a quick approval of the Constitution will help end a crisis ignited by a decree that expanded his powers.

The final draft makes historic changes to Egypt’s system of government, limiting the number of terms a president may serve to two. Mubarak stayed in power for three decades. It also introduces a degree of civilian oversight on the powerful military establishment, although not enough according to some critics of the document.

Fast tracking the panel process was aimed at pre-empting a possible Dec. 2 ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court to dissolve the constitutional assembly. Only a week ago, Morsi had given the 100-member panel two more months to try to iron out sharp differences over the draft, after his edicts barred the courts from dissolving the body. But when the Constitutional Court defied his decree, saying on Nov. 28 that it would rule on the panel’s legitimacy, the date of the vote was immediately moved up.
The court will additionally rule on the legitimacy of the Parliament’s upper chamber, also dominated by Islamists. The lower chamber, the lawmaking People’s Assembly, was dissolved by the same court in June. Liberals, leftists, and representatives of Egypt’s churches had already withdrawn from the panel, complaining that the assembly is undemocratic and rushing through its work.

Dissolving the panel and replacing it with a more inclusive body is a key demand from the liberal-led opposition. It also calls for rescinding the president’s decrees that placed him above oversight of any kind, including that of the courts, and shielding the panel and upper chamber, known as the Shura Council, from the courts. Opponents of the president are planning a rally in Tahrir Square today and Islamists are set to stage one of their own tomorrow.

Morsi vowed in an interview published Nov. 28 to surrender his new special powers when a new Constitution is in place, pleading for patience as Egypt “learns to be free.”

Morsi also dismissed criticism of his power grab, saying that protests on the streets of Cairo were a positive sign that Egypt was on the path to democracy.

“It’s not easy being on the world stage,” Morsi said to Time magazine. “My chief responsibility is to maintain the national ship during this transitional period. This is not easy. Egyptians are determined to [move] forward within the path of freedom and democracy,” he said.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

November/30/2012

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ebby m

12/1/2012 12:47:37 AM

Deja vue Iran again.

Nikos T.

11/30/2012 8:31:22 PM

An Egypian ''court'' has already sentenced to death the Christians who are accused of taking part to the famous movie about the innocence of Muslims. Imagine what's coming next.

Thessalonian

11/30/2012 5:46:18 PM

"Egyptians are determined to [move] forward within the path of freedom and democracy,” Path of freedom to democracy using islamist sharia law? Now this is the epitomy of the word "oxymoron." Mr. Morsi is indeed very close to losing the US aid as the US senate is watching his pro islamist moves with a keen interest. Regards

Tekion Particle

11/30/2012 4:33:52 PM

This is exactly what is wrong with radical religious, they do not have much in the way of intelligence. While they may have made up the 50% of the population they do not consider what the other 50% think about their backward sharia law. They want to impose their backwardness on the entire world. Unless, Mursi is smart enough to avert it the civil war may be lurking in Egypt.

sfouad sfouad

11/30/2012 12:32:48 PM

all christian members ,civil organisations, all opposition withdraw from this constitution ,it doesnot represent all egyptians .it only represents who wrote it muslimbrotherhood and salafists.

Rimon Tree

11/30/2012 12:24:27 PM

@ Mara exactly! Erdogan on train and Morsi on ship have the same destination Very worrying!

Nikos T.

11/30/2012 8:38:13 AM

Freedom, democracy and shariah? Nice one!

mara mcglothin

11/30/2012 1:01:57 AM

This will cause huge problems. There are many many Egyptians who have lived and been educated in the free World that will not take this lying down. Chaos will follow once again. So Morsi is on a ship and Erdogan is on a train?

Fred Doyle

11/30/2012 1:00:00 AM

What happens if a Muslim takes a Christian or Jew to court?? Whose law applies? Does one set of laws supersede another? I think we all know the answer.

Richard Pekar

11/30/2012 12:32:31 AM

And what about Christians? They must cut their heads because sharia say it?
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