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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs