More than 10,000 ultraconservative Muslims staged a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday, demanding that Egypt’s new constitution be based on Sharia law. The protest reflects the debate over the role of Islam in the nation’s future.
Many were bussed from outside Cairo to take part in the rally, where demonstrators waved the Islamist and Egyptian flags and held traditional Friday prayers.
Protesters chanted, “Sharia is our constitution” and “The people demand the application of God’s law.”
Many demonstrators collected signatures for a petition, in which they ask for the Sharia to become “the basis of all laws,” meaning that Egypt’s laws would be subject to religious interpretation and clearance.
The drafting of Egypt’s new constitution has been fraught with controversy since ex-president Hosni Mubarak was ousted and replaced by Mohamed Morsi.
Conservative Islamists are stepping up pressure on the ruling Muslim Brotherhood party to override liberal and secular objections to Sharia law. The party has repeatedly been accused of not advocating strongly enough for Islamic rule.
Liberals and other secularists are pushing to keep the wording the way it is, but conservative Islamists maintain that Sharia law will benefit everyone – not just Muslims.
“People are scared of the application of Sharia, but I am telling Muslims and Christians and everyone that Islam is a mercy on all of us because it is based on the Quran’s rules,” protester Gaber Mohammed told AP.
Dissolving the panel – again?
The document is being drafted by a 100-member panel led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
It’s the second constitutional assembly to be formed this year. The first was dissolved after liberals and secularists walked out, accusing Islamists of trying to dominate the process.
And with Christians and liberals on the current panel, many are asking whether the assembly will collapse again. In fact, courts are already reviewing lawsuits claiming Islamists are overrepresented in thepanel. The plaintiffs are calling for it to be disbanded.
Earlier this week, Egypt’s new Coptic pope, Tawadros II, said that the constitution will not be acceptable if it is overtly religious – but conservative Islamists disagree.
“Don’t be afraid of the application of Sharia, because if your daughter is coming home late at night nobody will harass her because he will face Sharia’s punishment and retribution,” protester Abdel-Hamid told AP.
Islamists and liberals on the panel are also arguing over proposed articles relating to women’s rights, freedom of worship, presidential power, immunity for the military from civilian oversight, and undercutting the powers of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Panel members say they plan to put the charter to a nationwide referendum before the end of the year.
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