Friday, November 30, 2012

Egypt's Constituent Assembly Hurriedly Adopts New Constitution

Egypt's constituent assembly hurriedly completed its work on a new constitution yesterday. (Reuters). President Morsi has said that his controversial decrees that have sparked over a week of protest will end when the people vote on the constitution. CTV News reports that the new constitution, which contains over 230 articles, was adopted by an Islamist dominated body: "Of the 85 members in attendance, there was not a single Christian and only four women, all Islamists." Reuters describes the new draft as leaving the status of Islam unchanged, in that it keeps a provision making the principles of Islamic law the main source of legislation.  However it adds a new provision that the Sunni center of learning, Al-Azhar, must be consulted on "matters related to the Islamic sharia." Human Rights Watch offers this evaluation of the new document:
Article 43 on freedom of religion limits the right to practice religion and to establish places of worship to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Previous drafts had provided for a general right to practice religion but limited the establishment of places of worship to adherents of these three Abrahamic religions. Article 43 discriminates against and excludes followers of other religions, including Egyptian Bahais. Under former President Hosni Mubarak, security forces would frequently arrest religious minorities including Shia, Ahmadis, Bahais, and Quranists because of their beliefs....
One positive development is that the final draft no longer includes what had been article 68 in earlier drafts on women’s rights, which stipulated that equality for women would be subject to conformity with rulings of Islamic law, a provision strongly promoted by Salafi members of the assembly. However, the draft no longer lists “sex” as one of the grounds for prohibiting discrimination, as no grounds are named. Article 30 now states that, “Citizens are equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination,” without specifying whom this provision covers.