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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

Border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared their stories More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs