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Morsi’s actions spark protesters’ fury

07 December 2012


Symbolic: a protester opposed to President Morsi holds up a Qur'an and a crucifix in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Saturday

Symbolic: a protester opposed to President Morsi holds up a Qur'an and a crucifix in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Saturday

LARGE numbers of Copts have joined hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in a protest against President Mohammed Morsi's recent political moves.

Fury at the decree granting him extensive powers that could not be challenged by the judiciary ( News, 30 November) was compounded by the rushing through of a vote on the country's new draft constitution. On Tuesday, thousands of people denouncing the President besieged the presidential palace.

When President Morsi announced the decree, he said that the body drafting the new constitution would be granted an extra two months to complete its work. Then, possibly in reaction to the criticism of his actions, the assembly hastily voted on a text. The draft was accepted by President Morsi just before a scheduled session last Sunday of the Supreme Court, which was due to decide on the legality of the constituent assembly.

The President said that the court's decision would be irrelevant, and he set 15 December as the date for a referendum. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood prevented the judges from reaching the Supreme Court, prompting the first ever protest-strikes within the judiciary. Opposition to the draft constitution is based on the domination of Islamists in the constituent assembly, and some of the content of the new document.

The constituent assembly did not change Article 2, which states that the principles of sharia are the main source of legislation. But the President-Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, is unhappy at the way Article 219 "defines the basis of Islamic sharia. . . Different interpretations of the sharia will definitely affect the position of Christians."

He expressed concern at the way that the proposed constitution states that all changes to the law should be referred to the al-Azhar University, and the Assembly of Islamic Scholars, for approval. The final document has ignored calls from Christians and secularists for the inclusion of a clause banning discrimination on the basis of sex or religion in political or workplace appointments.

The proposed constitution also ignores one of the key demands of the protesters: to make the military accountable to parliament, and force it to disclose its annual budget. Instead, the army remains an unmonitored force, leading to suggestions of a tacit pact between the Brotherhood and the military.

The outcome is that Egypt is dangerously polarised.


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