News / Middle East

Islamist Says Egypt on Precipice as Constitution Takes Shape

FILE - Leading member of the Islamic Jama'a Assem Abdel Maged (L) gestures with other leaders during a protest around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in the suburb of Nasr City, Cairo, June 28, 2013.
FILE - Leading member of the Islamic Jama'a Assem Abdel Maged (L) gestures with other leaders during a protest around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in the suburb of Nasr City, Cairo, June 28, 2013.
Reuters
A hardline Islamist leader said the army had driven Egypt to the “edge of a precipice,” as a new constitution likely to ban Islamic political parties was set to be approved on Sunday by the panel that drafted it.
 
The 50-member constituent assembly was due to finish voting on a draft that reflects how the balance of power has shifted in Egypt since secular-minded generals deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July after mass protests against him.
 
A major milestone in Egypt's political roadmap, the constitution must be approved in a referendum before new elections which Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, driven underground by aggressive security measures, is unlikely to contest.
 
One of Morsi's hardline allies, Gamaa Islamiya leader Assem Abdel Maged, who is wanted on charges of inciting the killing of protesters, predicted things would get worse in Egypt.
 
“The army must review its position quickly because the country is on the edge of a precipice,” Abdel Maged told Al Jazeera television in Qatar late on Saturday.
 
He fled to Doha after Morsi fell on July 3 and is the first-high profile Islamist in exile to speak publicly since then.
 
Abdel Maged, who once shared a prison cell with al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, was jailed for 25 years until 2006 for his role in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat and other crimes. After his Al Jazeera interview, Egypt's public prosecutor formally asked Interpol to arrest Abdel Maged.
 
Egyptian security officials said Abdel Maged had fled to Qatar by sea or via the border with Libya. Qatar is one of the few Arab states that was sympathetic to the Islamists during Morsi's year in power, supplying Egypt with billions of dollars in aid. Now relations between Qatar and Egypt are strained.
 
“Constitution of minorities”
 

Speaking at a rally before Morsi was ousted, Abdel Maged said that, if this were to happen, Islamists would push for a pure Islamic state in Egypt. Abdel Maged, whose group fought an insurgency that was crushed by former President Hosni Mubarak in the 1990s, is still reviled as a terrorist by his opponents.
 
Abdel Maged accused the army of siding with “minorities” - a reference to Christians and secular-minded Egyptians. He said protests would “break this coup,” adding: “This constitution is the constitution of minorities.”
 
Egypt has been torn by the worst internal strife in its modern history in the last five months. Security forces killed hundreds of Morsi supporters in the weeks after his ouster, while attacks on the security forces have become commonplace.
 
Some 200 policemen and soldiers have been killed in what the military-backed government casts as a war on terrorism. The Brotherhood says it is peacefully resisting the army takeover.
 
In a reminder of the tension, protesters set ablaze a police vehicle during a demonstration by Brotherhood sympathizers at Cairo University on Sunday.
 
Several hundred protesters then marched to Tahrir Square, epicenter of the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising. Some waved flags against “the coup” and demanding the release of detainees. One scaled a lamp post and hung a picture of Morsi.
 
“With our blood and souls we sacrifice for you, Islam,” the protesters chanted. “The people want to topple the regime.”
 
Arwa Tarek, an 18-year-old student who said she opposed Morsi and those now in power, said: “I started protesting as I felt people are no longer free or able to express their views or protest peacefully. Now I feel Mubarak's days were better.”
 
Some passersby shouted abuse at the protesters, others waved in support. Police fired teargas to disperse the crowd.
 
Criticism of the army-installed government has spread since it passed a law severely restricting the right to protest last week, drawing criticism from the United States, which has withheld some military aid pending progress towards democracy.
 
Concern for political freedoms

On Sunday, the prosecutor's office extended for 15 days the detention of a prominent online dissident, Alaa Abdel Fattah, who is being held for calling a protest without permission.
 
Another prominent activist held on the same charge was released on Sunday a day after he turned himself in. Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 movement, is still being investigated for breaking the new law, judicial sources said.
 
The protest law has reinforced activists' concerns about the future of political freedoms in Egypt, where the anti-Mubarak fostered hopes that democracy could take root on the Nile.
 
But the turbulent three years since have made many Egyptians yearn for stability that will give the battered economy a chance to recover.
 
The new political roadmap sees parliamentary and presidential elections after the constitution is approved. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the overthrow of Morsi, is widely seen as the frontrunner for the job of president.
 
The draft constitution widens the already broad privileges enjoyed by the army by requiring the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for the choice of a defense minister to serve for eight years from when the document is ratified.
 
It does not indicate how the minister of defense could be sacked or who has the authority to fire him.
 
It also bans political parties formed on a religious basis - language that could result in an outright ban on Islamist parties including the Salafi Nour Party, which has one representative in the constituent assembly.
 
The Brotherhood has already been driven underground.
 
The new constitution will replace one drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly and signed into law by Morsi last year after it was approved in a referendum. The new text strips out Islamist-inspired additions introduced last year.

You May Like

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Audio Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid