Egypt's Islamists approve draft constitution
BY HAMZA HENDAWI & MAGGIE MICHAEL Associated Press
Friday, November 30, 2012
11/30/12 at 5:14 AM
Islamists approved a draft constitution for Egypt early Friday without the participation of liberal and Christian members, seeking to pre-empt a court ruling that could dissolve their panel with a rushed, marathon vote that further inflames the clash between the opposition and President Mohammed Morsi.
The move advanced a charter with an Islamist bent that rights experts say could give Muslim clerics oversight over legislation and bring restrictions on freedom of speech, women's rights and other liberties.
The draft must now be put to a referendum within 30 days. Morsi said Thursday it will be held "soon."
The Islamist-dominated assembly that has been working on the constitution for months raced to pass it, voting article by article on the draft's more than 230 articles for more than 16 hours. The lack of inclusion was on display in the nationally televised gathering: Of the 85 members in attendance, there was not a single Christian and only four women, all Islamists.
For weeks, liberal, secular and Christian members, already a minority on the 100-member panel, have been withdrawing to protest what they call the Islamists' hijacking of the process.
"This constitution represents the diversity of the Egyptian people. All Egyptians, male and female, will find themselves in this constitution," Essam el-Erian, a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, declared to the assembly after the last articles were passed just after sunrise Friday.
The sudden rush to finish came as the latest twist in a week-long crisis pitting Brotherhood veteran Morsi and his Islamist supporters against a mostly secular and liberal opposition and the powerful judiciary. Voting had not been expected for another two months. But the assembly abruptly moved it up in order to pass the draft before Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel.
"I am saddened to see this come out while Egypt is so divided," Egypt's top reform leader, Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei said, speaking on private Al-Nahar TV. But he predicted the document would not last long. "It will be part of political folklore and will go to the garbage bin of history."
A new opposition bloc led by ElBaradei and other liberals said the assembly had lost its legitimacy.
Thursday's vote escalates the already bruising confrontation sparked last week when Morsi gave himself near absolute powers by neutralizing the judiciary, the last branch of the state not in his hands.
Original Print Headline: Islamists draft constitution
Disputed articles in Egypt's draft constitution
Rights activists, liberals and Christians fear Egypt's draft constitution will lead to restrictions on the rights of women and minorities and civil liberties in general. Here are some of the disputed articles:
- From The Associated Press
- As in past constitutions, the new draft says that the "principles of Islamic law" will be the basis of law. But a separate article states that an Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, must be consulted on any matters related to Shariah, a measure critics fear will lead to oversight of legislation by clerics.
- An article underlines that the state will protect "the true nature of the Egyptian family ... and promote its morals and values," phrasing that is vague and suggests state control over the contents of such art forms as books and films.
- An article bans insulting or defaming the prophet and messengers but is vague about what constitutes insult.
- An article preserves the right of the military to try civilians before military tribunals. More than 11,000 civilians were tried before military tribunals during the post-Mubarak transition overseen by the military.