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.

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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.

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