News / Africa

Concern Mounts Over Egypt's Proposed Constitution

An anti-Morsi protester smokes a cigarette and and gestures in front of members of the Republican Guard blocking a road to the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 6, 2012.An anti-Morsi protester smokes a cigarette and and gestures in front of members of the Republican Guard blocking a road to the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 6, 2012.
x
An anti-Morsi protester smokes a cigarette and and gestures in front of members of the Republican Guard blocking a road to the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 6, 2012.
An anti-Morsi protester smokes a cigarette and and gestures in front of members of the Republican Guard blocking a road to the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 6, 2012.
Elizabeth Arrott
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi gave the writers of Egypt's new constitution an extra three months to complete their task.  But with a possible court challenge to their legitimacy looming, the mainly Islamist drafters pushed through the document in an extraordinary all-night session late last month.

With liberal and secular lawmakers boycotting the process, critics called the document a farce and took to the streets in protest.

They fear that in a referendum set for Saturday, a majority in this devoutly Muslim nation might say "Yes."

Mustafa el Labbad is the director of Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies.  He argues a constitution should not be about straight numbers.

“A constitution could be drafted and issued and agreed upon - a compromise from all factions and all parties.  You cannot think you have the majority, slight majority, so you can do what you want,” he said.


Despite the outcry from opponents, some observers believe the draft is not a blueprint for the imposition of strict sharia law.

 "It has some positive elements," said political sociologist Said Sadek of the American University in Cairo.  "It has negative elements.  It has also omissions.  It has also minefields.”

It is unclear which "principles of Sharia," as indicated in the draft, would guide legislation.  Sadek contrasts, as an example, two prominent scholars, one who would grant equality to women, another who would have them stay at home.

“So this is Sharia.  And this is Sharia.  Which one do you want to apply?" he asked. " Progressive Sharia, or reactionary Sharia?"

While some drafters say they seek a modern, moderate Islamic state, Human Rights Watch Egypt Director Heba Morayef says intentions are irrelevant.  She objects to provisions that have the government overseeing morality and family life.

“The text allows that kind of discretion to the government to interfere and to limit rights, to limit very basic rights on the basis of these broad concepts of morality of the 'true nature of the Egyptian family.'  That fundamentally weakens any rights protection in the constitution," she said.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated the drafting assembly, dismisses critics, arguing the draft realizes "dreams of building a democratic regime."

Drafters are also campaigning to persuade Egyptians their rights - including freedom of speech - will be protected.  Curiously, in an animated video they released, many of the cartoon figures have no mouths.

With Egypt so polarized, Sadek advocates reviving the old constitution temporarily, with some of the amendments passed last year, then reaching consensus over time when the atmosphere becomes calmer.

“America took 10 years, so many countries, because they know that the constitution can lead to a big disaster and division in the country, postpone it," he said.

But with the referendum set for Saturday, the chance of achieving calm or consensus appears slim.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Michael from: USA
December 11, 2012 9:52 AM
How does the delay in a monetary fund influence the crisis in Egypt and the words of it's Constitution? By placing the conditions that 'you will do this and this before I give you any money'

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs