Egypt’s Coptics to boycott panel

Egypt’s Coptics to boycott panel

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox church has decided to boycott a Islamist-dominated panel charged with drafting the future constitution, the official MENA news agency reported yesterday. The decision on late April 1 followed calls by Egyptian liberals to boycott the panel, which is seen as failing to adequately represent the nation’s diversity.

The panel comprises of 100 members selected by the parliament, but is mainly made up of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis who also are the majority among lawmakers. The official MENA news agency reported that the decision was taken unanimously by the 20 members of the Holy Synod to remove the two church officials who sit on the panel.

The church “considers it inappropriate to continue to be represented given the reservations of various political forces on how the constitutional commission was composed,” the report said.

Al-Azhar, the key reference institution in Sunni Islam, also announced its withdrawal, distancing its ideology of moderate Islam from that of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis. The current constitution was suspended by the country’s army rulers in February of last year shortly after they took power from Egypt’s long-serving president, Hosni Mubarak.

The Copts or Egyptian Christians constitute six to 10 percent of the country’s population of about 82 million. Their patriarch, Shenouda III, an ardent defender of his community, died March 17 at age 88 and has not yet been replaced. The church’s decision to boycott the panel comes after the Brotherhood said March 31 it was nominating a candidate for the presidential election on May 23, breaking its earlier promise of not contesting.

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