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Towards the Iranization of Egypt-Egypt opposition groups announce Protests

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  • Cort Greene
    Egypt opposition groups announce plans to march on presidential palace Ahram Online, Sunday 2 Dec 2012 Political forces opposed to President Morsi s November
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2012
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      Egypt opposition groups announce plans to march on presidential palace
      Ahram Online, Sunday 2 Dec 2012
      Political forces opposed to President Morsi's November decree and draft
      constitution say they will stage peaceful march to presidential palace on

      Several Egyptian political parties and groups have issued a joint statement
      announcing their intention to peacefully march to the presidential palace
      in Cairo at 5pm on Tuesday to voice opposition to President Mohamed Morsi's
      recent decisions and the date that has been set for a nationwide popular
      referendum on Egypt's draft constitution.

      "The constitution project that Morsi wants to put before a referendum is in
      fact a project for tying down the political, civil, social and economic
      freedoms of Egyptians," read the statement, published on the Egyptian
      Popular Current's official Facebook page.

      The statement went on to question the draft charter's constitutionality,
      stressing its rejection of the date set � 15 December � for the upcoming

      Egypt's High Constitutional Court had been expected to issue a ruling on
      the constitutionality of Egypt's Constituent Assembly (which wrote the
      draft constitution), but the ruling was postponed indefinitely after large
      numbers of pro-Morsi protesters gathered outside the court's downtown
      headquarters on Sunday.

      Groups opposed to Morsi, which have been occupying Cairo's Tahrir Square
      for over two weeks, accuse the president of working in the interests of the
      Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party.

      "This is a final warning to Mohamed Morsi, who was democratically elected
      president: his policies, which favour his party and group, will cause the
      dissolution of his legitimacy," read the statement.

      On Saturday, despite continued protests against Morsi's recent
      constitutional decree, which protects the Constituent Assembly from legal
      challenge, the president announced that the draft constitution would be put
      before a nationwide referendum in two week's time.

      The statement was signed by eighteen political parties and groups,
      including the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the
      Free Egyptians Party, the National Front for Justice and Democracy, the 6
      April youth movement, the Democratic Front and the Kefaya movement.

      Anti-Morsi forces have threatened for several days to march on the
      presidential palace in Heliopolis if constitutional declaration was not

      Veteran journalist Abdel-Halim Qandil, a fierce critic of the president,
      and the Mubarak regime before the revolution, has called in a tweet "on the
      judges, workers, and underground metro drivers to strike and to march on
      the presidential palace" to defeat the president's decrees.

      Many judges, who are on strike against the decree, have already threatened
      not to monitor the referendum if the president did not rescind his

      Meanwhile, shortly after the president finished his speech on Saturday
      night calling for a vote on the draft constitution, Mohamed El-Beltagy, the
      Muslim Brotherhood main operative in the Constituent Assembly, called on
      the opponents of the draft to fight it - if they disagreed with it - by
      mobilising a NO vote not to protest.

      El-Beltagy, a leading member also in the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice
      Party, told Ahram Online that if the opposition defeats the draft at the
      referendum set for 15 December, a new Constituent Assembly will be chosen
      via direct elections.



      The decisions of the president have been so high-handed as to be branded
      dictatorial by many of his critics, and have provoked revolutionary youth
      once again to call for the �fall of the regime.� Caricatures show Morsi�s
      face morphed with that of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak.

      The composition of the Constituent Assembly was controversial. It was
      appointed by a parliament that was itself dissolved by the courts for
      electoral irregularities, and those irregularities contributed to a
      dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood and hard line Salafi fundamentalists.
      The resulting constitution-drafting committee was therefore unbalanced in
      being dominated by Muslim Brothers or their sympathizers. It began with 100
      members, but 22 liberals, leftists, Copts and centrist Muslims gradually
      withdrew because of the Muslim Brotherhood dominance. Seven members of the
      reserve committee also resigned. For the remaining 78 to rush their favored
      text through instead of reconsidering their unrepresentative character is a
      slap in the face of pluralism and democracy.

      The resulting constitution is a strange hybrid of the current French
      constitution and more Islamically-tinged constitutions such as those of
      Iraq and Afghanistan, where the US brought fundamentalist movements to
      power but attempted to moderate the constitutional text.

      The new constitution promises many rights, but also limits them in vague
      could be opening to abuse.

      As a historian, I am fascinated by the parallels of this proposed
      constitution with the 1906 Iranian constitution. In the latter, a committee
      of five ayatollahs was given review power to decide if legislation is in
      accordance with Islam. That provision was never really implemented (in 1979
      it was made moot when the clerics just took over altogether). Likewise, the
      Egyptian constitution gives to the Muslim clerics of Al-Azhar Seminary (the
      closest thing the Sunni world has to a Vatican) the prerogative of
      interpreting Islamic law as it pertains to the constitution. Since the
      constitution puts Muslim Egyptians under Islamic law for personal status
      purposes, and has other provisions that invoke Islamic law, someone had to
      decide what Islamic law is. Having al-Azhar make determinations that then
      feed into constitutional law is a way of ensuring orthodoxy.

      The Iraqi Constituent Assembly in 2005 drafted a similar provision, for the
      Shiite clergy of Najaf to review legislation and interpret Islamic law as
      it touched the constitution. That article was dropped, however, under
      severe pressure from the US ambassador of the time, Zalmay Khalilzad, and
      from other Iraqi groups such as the Kurds.

      Putting Muslim Egyptians under Islamic law for matters of personal status
      is also troubling. Many secularists would not want to have their private
      lives governed in this way. In cases of intestacy, their daughters would
      only inherit half what their sons did. There is also a danger that this
      constitution could normalize the interference of religious groups and
      authorities in private matters such as marriage.

      In the 1990s, academic scholar of the Qur�an, the late Nasr Hamid Abu
      was declared an apostate by fundamentalists. They then brought a
      public-morals case against his marriage, insisting that the authorities
      dissolve it and divorce him from his wife, Professor Ibtihal Younis, who
      taught Romance Languages at Cairo University. (Muslim women under Islamic
      law may not be married to non-Muslims). The two fled to Europe, where he
      found a position in the Netherlands. The Mubarak government allowed all
      this to happen, but said, at least, that it would tweak procedures to keep
      it from occurring again. Now, it could be open season on liberal Muslim
      thinkers like Abu Zayd.

      Article 10 allows the state to intervene in the family, and article 44
      forbids insults to the Prophet Muhammad. If a group decided that a scholar
      had �insulted� the Prophet, and brought a case against his marriage just as
      happened to Abu Zayd, who would adjudicate all that? The al-Azhar Seminary!

      *The constitution is therefore a big step toward the Iranization of Egypt,
      and very possibly a death knell for freedom of speech and freedom of

      In turn, such religious restrictions on what can be said publicly can be
      used to suppress science. Relatively few high-powered scientific articles
      are produced in Egypt that get cited by other scholars, and few patents are
      achieved. Things won�t get better if Salafis can go around accusing
      scientists of disrespecting the Prophet by contradicting some saying of his
      that they interpret literally. (This kind of thing has happened in
      Pakistan, which has a blasphemy law).

      *Part of and taken from:*



      Reading the Draft Constitution of Egypt: Setbacks in substance, process,
      and legitimacy
      Chibli Mallat, Sunday 2 Dec 2012
      Rather than enshrine the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian revolution,
      the draft Constitution to be put to referendum in mid Dec. is faulty in
      execution, lacking in legitimacy and a set-back in terms of rights and

      Thousands of Egyptian citizens have been pouring in the street to ask for
      �a constitution for all Egyptians�. Thousands others are marching for
      �legitimacy and Islamic law�. In the profound political and constitutional
      crisis in which revolutionary Egypt finds itself, one matter is certain:
      the constitutional process was rushed in the week of 22-30 November, and
      the Draft Constitution that emerged on Friday is highly divisive. The
      presidential announcement setting the referendum on December 15 is bound to
      make the crisis worse.

      How does the Draft Constitution compare with the Amended 1971 Constitution
      it is meant to replace?


      The process for the adoption of the Draft Constitution (hereinafter DC) is
      important for the coherence and appeal of the text that the citizen is
      asked to adopt as his main contract with the state.

      A cardinal principle in constitution-making is being ignored in Egypt.
      Passing a law is unlike passing a constitution. While a majority generally
      suffices to pass a law, it does not become effective without a thorough and
      complex process to ensure that is carefully discussed. A constitution is
      far more demanding in terms of legitimacy and comprehensive appeal than a
      simple law.

      When a fundamental text is rushed through the night (literally the night of
      29-30 December) with no particular reason for such urgency, constituents
      being replaced at the last moment, and representatives of the youth who
      made the revolution as well as members of historically victimised groups
      like women and Christians all but absent from the process, the constitution
      becomes intrinsically divisive and fails its calling to speak for all the
      country�s citizens.

      The constitutional draft itself underlines the basic contradiction in the
      process. To be ratified, the 237 articles adopted by the Constituent
      Assembly require a simple majority of voters voting in the referendum on
      the document as a whole (Art. 225 DC). For one article to be amended under
      any constitution, including the current Draft Constitution, the process is
      far more complicated, with votes going through presidential and
      parliamentary deliberations, qualified majorities, and a robust civil
      society involvement. Article 225 is one line-long. In contrast, the
      Amendment procedure adopted by the Draft Constitution is ten lines long,
      with a complex procedure that regulate debates, deadlines, majorities
      before any referendum is considered. (Arts. 217, 218 DC)

      The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) of Egypt invalidated an electoral
      law which distinguished between �representatives of party members that
      number 3 million, and independents representing 50 million� (SCC decision
      of 14 June 2012). A constituent assembly with an ever shrinking number of
      representatives of �the many groups that form Egypt�, which is then rushed
      into a referendum that is passed by a simple majority of the voters under
      Article 225 DC, cannot deliver a constitution for all Egyptians. In light
      of the SCC precedent, Egyptian courts should hardly find it difficult to
      invalidate the unprecedented divisive process in the rush to adopt the
      Draft, and in the rush to ratify it.


      The rush has affected the quality of constitutional language. Some articles
      in the Draft Constitution are awkwardly phrased, such as Article 117 on the
      budget. Art. 131 illustrates the problem: �If these laws are not brought
      [to the houses after they reconvene], or if they are brought to them and
      are not confirmed, they lose retroactively the effectiveness of law that
      they had, except if the house [singular, it is unclear which of the two
      houses] decides it was effective for the previous period, or regulates its
      consequences in another way�. Nor is the need for both a National Security
      Council (Art.193 DC) and a National Defense Council (Art.197 DC)
      fathomable, while the fog persists around the role of the military, which
      President Morsi and the revolution were united to force out of the
      political process once and for all.

      There are a few innovative measures, for instance the request for members
      of the two houses (the lower house, council of deputies or representatives,
      majlis al-nuwwab and the upper house, majlis al-shura) to provide a list of
      their assets at the beginning and end of their term, as well as annually,
      to their respective chambers (Art. 88); this is also required for the
      president and for the ministers, who present their respective financial
      status to the lower house (Art.138 and Art.158) Another useful advance is
      the requirement for associations to simply notify (ikhtar, Art.51) the
      authorities to become legal, as opposed to the state of limbo in which they
      were left because they were previously deemed legal only after the approval
      of the authorities, usually the Ministry of Interior. Otherwise, the basic
      rights list does not improve much on the current Constitution, and even
      includes some unnecessary repetitions, for example both Article 35 and
      Article 77 provide the right of the accused to an attorney.

      More worryingly, one counts at least twenty qualifications of basic rights
      by a deferral clause to �the law�. Since thousands of laws and various
      legislative and executive instruments are bound to be passed in any case,
      such reference is inherently dangerous. The use by Mubarak and SCAF of laws
      to stifle constitutional rights attests to the easy manipulation of the
      Constitution by way of deferral clauses. Overall, there are more than 50
      instances of clauses of the type �this will be later decided by law.� These
      deferral clauses are typical of disagreement and rush, as the constituents
      abdicate their role in important constitutional matters they have not been
      able to frame correctly.

      On balance, it is hard to see a democratic improvement in the Draft
      Constitution of what is presently the Constitution of Egypt.

      There are also serious setbacks which undermine the integrity of
      constitutional substance one expects in a founding document.

      Where the DC fails most the calling of a revolution that united over the
      end of a self-perpetuating dictator and the protection of the citizen�s
      basic rights, is apparent in two central areas of constitution-making. The
      Draft Constitution (1) undermines the Egyptian judiciary, and (2) brings
      back the specter of religious sectarianism against the citizen�s
      fundamental right to equality.

      The judiciary undermined. The judiciary is undermined in several ways. The
      Draft Constitution fragments it into different subaltern roles (Arts
      168-182 DC). While this was true of the Mubarak regime, courts are further
      compartmentalised, with each having its own rules and its own budget (Art.
      169 DC), leading to inevitable conflicts that disorient the citizen and
      weaken the rule of law. The constitution drafters also failed to correct a
      major flaw inherited from French practice. All legislation is supposed to
      be reviewed by the top administrative court (Majlis al-dawla) before it is
      passed, even though the court retains a judicial review power in a dispute
      between the citizen and the administration (Art. 174 DC). The military
      courts remain (Art.198 DC), despite their central role in the repressive
      security apparatus under the former regime and under SCAF -- SCAF had
      reportedly tried over 13,000 people before it folded. President Morsi has
      been actively putting an end to these trials, so retaining military courts
      in the Draft Constitution appears as a step back from revolutionary demands
      to do away with all special courts.

      The main nemesis of the constitution drafters seems to be the Supreme
      Constitutional Court. Art.235 was added in a midnight deliberation on
      November 30 to reduce the number of SCC judges, a court packing in reverse.
      In addition, the SCC is now forced into a meaningless constitutional review
      of voting and electoral laws which it is forbidden to consider subsequently
      if a case is brought by a harmed citizen (Art.177). This is a major setback
      for voting rights.

      In sum, instead of advancing the rule of law by consolidating it in a
      coherent judicial system, the Draft Constitution undermines the state
      institution that has been the most important voice of peaceful, thoughtful,
      and active resistance to Egypt�s authoritarian rulers, from Naser to

      Sectarian discrimination. There is no mention in the Draft Constitution of
      any mechanism for the protection of historically victimised and
      marginalised groups in Egypt, especially women and religious minorities.
      Article 2 of the 1971 Constitution (as amended in 1980) is kept as is (�the
      principles of the shari�a are the main sources for legislation�). This text
      had been enhanced by thirty years of SCC case-law demonstrating that
      Islamic law can live well in a modern constitution, and indeed enrich the
      constitutional life of citizens. With the SCC in jeopardy, this legacy is
      under threat. Despite the welcome inclusion in Article 3 of Jewish
      Egyptians, the article limits the legal traditions of Jewish and Christian
      Egyptians to the organization of �their personal status� and �the choice of
      their community leaders�. Buddhist, Hindu, and non-believers find no place
      in the Draft Constitution. Instead, Article 2 declares that �Islam is the
      official religion� (literally, the religion of the state, din al-dawla).
      Millions of Egyptians are not Muslim, and the Draft Constitution continues
      to discriminate against them openly.

      An addition and an omission raise further concerns of increased

      The drafters added Article 219, which stipulates that �the principles of
      Islamic law comprise its general rules and jurisprudential method as
      understood in the Sunni schools�. Egypt was never so sectarian as to openly
      express Sunnism as the exclusive source of its Islamic tradition. This
      Article is clearly set against Shi�is, despite their constituting an
      insignificant minority in Egypt, but also against Copts and any
      denomination that is not Sunni. Instead of honoring all legal traditions in
      Egypt across the board, sectarianism comes stronger from this unexpected

      The omission is revealed by the disregard for the substance of Islamic and
      other laws in the rich Egyptian legal corpus. Despite the call to for the
      shari�a to be the main source of legislation in the country, the drafters
      can hardly point to any serious trace of Islamic law in the text they
      passed. No legacy of individual rights dear to the Islamic legal tradition
      can be found in the Draft Constitution. An example would have been the
      adoption of the clear Qur�anic injunction prohibiting duress in religion
      (�No compulsion in religion, la ikrah fil-din). Examples can be multiplied,
      including various injunctions on the equality of men and women, the
      protection of life, limb and property, or the privileged role of the
      impartial judge. The drafters made no effort to revive the best and most
      enlightened aspects of the Islamic legal corpus.

      Egyptians deserve better. In the last few months, a free presidential
      election brought hope to all those who supported the Nile Revolution for
      more freedom and equality under a new constitution. In just one week, the
      process was dramatically reversed, augmenting the risks of civil war and
      reviving the prospects of military intervention. The SCC and the courts
      should stand up for the preservation of the Egyptian Constitution, which
      the Draft Constitution sets back. Only the judges remain between Egypt and
      the abyss.

      Chibli Mallat is Chairman of Right to Nonviolence, a Middle East based NGO
      that focuses on nonviolence, constitutionalism and judicial accountability.
      He is a visiting professor at Yale Law School, and a scholar of Islamic


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