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