News / Africa

Egyptians Protest After Panel Backs Constitution

Elizabeth Arrott
Egyptians protested in Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday for an eighth straight day of demonstrations against President Mohamed Morsi, as an Islamist-dominated panel approved Egypt's new draft constitution that must now be voted on in a nationwide referendum.  

The panel, boycotted by several Christian and liberal members, retained the principles of Islamic law as the main source of legislation. The group rushed through the approval of the 234 articles in a meeting that lasted from Thursday afternoon until early Friday.

The assembly moved up the vote to pass the draft before Sunday, when Egypt's highest judicial power is expected to rule on whether to dissolve the panel.

Egypt's Draft Constitution

  • Limits president to two four-year terms
  • Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
  • Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
  • Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
  • Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights

Over the past few days, about 30 liberal and Christian members pulled out of the panel to protest what they called the hijacking of the process by Islamists loyal to the president.

Morsi went on national television late Thursday to reassure Egyptians that the passage of a new constitution would resolve the current standoff.  He said  the decree granting himself extraordinary powers would end as soon as the constitution was adopted. And he defended the move, saying it necessary to protect the revolution from reactionary forces.

  • Thousands of people gather in Tahrir Square to protest Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's recent consolidation of power, November 30, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A protester on Tahrir Square holds up a poster comparing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to former fascist leaders Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, November 30, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A young girl holds an Egyptian flag in Tahrir Square, November 30, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Protesters chant slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political wing launched Mohamed Morsi to the presidency, November 30, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A protester leads a group of Egyptians in anti-Muslim Brotherhood chants, November 30, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • A protester in Tahrir Square holds up a copy of the Koran and a Christian cross, November 30, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
  • Protesters in Tahrir Square calling for the Muslim Brotherhood to leave government, November 30, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)

But the president's opponents argue the wording on personal rights and freedom of expression and religion opens the possibility for repression.

Realtor Hisham Mahmoud, who came to Tahrir with his teenage daughter and her friend, says the drafters did not represent Egypt. He said that after the revolution, Egypt should have “a more elevated constitution.” He wished a broad section of Egyptian intellectuals had been involved.

Protesters also argue the draft was pushed through to avoid a further showdown with Egypt's judiciary. The constitutional court was set to rule on the legitimacy of the body that wrote the draft Sunday, and appears ready to go ahead.  What that could mean for the legitimacy of the constitution remains unclear.

Growing anger

While many protesters chanted peaceful slogans, the anger of others was palpable. Law student Eid, wearing a mask of the Egyptian flag, called for continued protests.

“We will stay here, not go anywhere," he said. "And tell Mohamed Morsi, you are not the Egyptian president.  You are Ikhwan.  You are a liar.”

The Ikhwan, or Muslim Brotherhood, is planning a counter-rally Saturday in support of President Morsi, who officially broke with the group and its political wing on becoming president.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Tom Mariner from: NY, USA
November 30, 2012 1:11 PM
Egypt had a choice whether to be a country that had elected officials, or a religion that had clerics deciding actions. They decided religion.

Morsi can pretend to grab all the power he wants -- if the Islamic mullahs decide what is and is not a law, he's a figurehead -- like Ahmadinejad.

by: mtatom from: Hesperia, Ca
November 30, 2012 12:13 PM
Although there has been some headway toward bringing democracy to the Middle East, it is in no way close to being "free". The people of this area of the world a predominately tribal, ignorant and fanatical--all of which keep them from evolving into the 21st century.

by: JRB from: Calcutta
November 30, 2012 11:53 AM
Fundamentalism is eating away very fibre of all society & human civilisation.If it is not brushed away,but Neoliberalism & transnational capitalism are swipping younger generation for the lure of glamour,greed. glitz in the name of LPG culture- result in short 10 yrs will be while these religious biggots will hijack our society whereas other group will enjoy - winning,dinning,womanising,gambling,drugs.Egypt had the chance to in the path of culture & humanism. JRB

by: ali baba from: new york
November 30, 2012 11:16 AM
moresy want to divert the egyptian from the main concern. egyptian concern is to improve the ecnomic condition . by adpoted shria law,god will not open the heaven and send fry chicken and french fries. god will not send his angle to build houses for the egyptian who live in the grave yard. moresy is not fit to be the president of hair club. shria law and salfi will put the last nail in egypt coffin
islam is not the is a prescription for disaster

by: Capn Craig Again from: Chesapeake, VA
November 30, 2012 11:02 AM
So they traded one tyrant for a thousand tyrants. God save their sad souls from their own folly.

This is one step from Sharia Law. Precisely what the Muslim Brotherhood is in it for.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs