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Final discussion of Egypt's new constitution to begin Tuesday
Constitution-drafting committee will hold daily closed-door sessions to resolve contentious articles; final draft to be presented on 3 December
Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 21 Oct 2013
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The 50-member committee
File photo: A session of the 50-member constitution-amending committee (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The 50-member committee tasked with writing the final draft of Egypt's new constitution will begin its final weeks of negotiation on Tuesday, 22 October.

Mohamed Salmawy, the committee's media spokesperson, told parliamentary correspondents on Monday that "the committee completed the first half of its task in 30 work days."

According to Salmawy, the "subcommittees successfully finalised an initial draft of the constitution so that it could be discussed by the 50-member committee as a whole during the second half of its work."

During the next 30 days of committee work, to begin tomorrow, "the main objective will be to prepare the constitution's final draft for a vote. This means settling differences among members over unresolved issues and seeking as wide a consensus as possible," Salmawy explained.

The second phase will end on 3 December, and then the final draft will be referred to Interim President Adly Mansour and put to a national referendum.

During tomorrow's closed-door session, the 50-member committee will review the six chapters of the new constitution drafted by the subcommittees. It will then "open discussion among members over unresolved issues in order to seek consensus," Salmawy said.

According to Salmawy, the session will be closed in order to "prevent the media from publishing conflicting reports that might cause confusion for citizens." Instead, a press conference will be held after each session to deliver formal statements regarding the debates.

The full-committee sessions will begin at 11 am every workday, and there will be three sessions per day in order to reach the 3 December deadline.

A subcommittee headed by Cairo University professor Abdel-Gelil Mostafa has finalised a review of the new constitution's 190 articles. Salmawy expects the final draft will include as many as 250 articles.

The 50-member committee began its work on 8 September. As the committee completed the first half of its task within 30 days, it will not require an extension on the mandated 60-day period to finalise a draft because "the next half [of the task] will be much easier," Salmawy argued.

On Monday, a meeting was held between leading representatives to discuss the so-called "identity articles," which refer to articles one to three of the new constitution concerning the national religion and the basis of Egyptian law.

The meeting – which included committee chairman Amr Moussa, Grand Mufti Shawki Abdel-Alim, Coptic bishop Anpa Paula, committee deputy chair Mona Zulficar, system of governance subcommittee chairman Mohamed Abdel-Sallam, and media spokesman Salmawy – sought to reach consensus between Al-Azhar and the Church regarding the controversial articles.

According to Salmawy, "the Coptic Church and Al-Azhar reached an agreement on articles one, two, and three, and the complete initial draft of the new constitution will be made public next week."

Committee member Mohamed Ghoneim told Ahram Online that when the "identity articles" came for a vote in front of the largely liberal Subcommittee of the State and Foundational Principles, the majority of members voted in favour of amending three of the first four articles in the constitution.

According to Ghoneim, members insisted that the word "civilian" be added to the first article to clearly read that "Egypt is a sovereign civilian state."

"The word civilian stresses that Egypt is not a religious state, but rather a state advocating the principles of citizenship without discrimination on the basis of religion, sex, or race," Ghoneim argued.

Ghoneim said that subcommittee members voted in favor of keeping article two without alternation, so that it still reads "Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language, and the principles of Islamic sharia are the main source of legislation."

Members voted to change article three so that all "non-Muslim Egyptians," rather than the formerly-stated "Egyptian Christians and Jews," are "allowed to exercise their religious rites," Ghoneim reported.

The subcommittee drafted article four to strip Al-Azhar's Council of Grand Clerics of any role in defining Islamic sharia issues, according to Ghoneim.

As for the controversial article 219, which elaborates on the sources of Islamic sharia, Salmawy reports that "the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party does not insist on retaining the article as drafted by the 2012 constitution; however it wishes to incorporate the article's content in some form in the new constitution."

"I think there can be a new article that achieves this purpose," Salmawy added.

Salmawy indicated that the most contentious articles within the committee – those related to military courts, regulating the performance of judicial authorities, and the selection of a defence minister – are still under debate.

However, Salmawy believes "the gap in differences over these issues is closing all the time, and it will not be difficult to reach a consensus soon."

The 2012 constitution was suspended pending amendments as part of a roadmap for Egypt’s future, which saw former president Mohamed Morsi ousted on 3 July following mass protests across the nation against him.

Egypt's non-Islamist political forces have repeatedly argued the suspended constitution was not representative of all layers of society and limited many freedoms, blaming the majority Islamist members of the outgoing constituent assembly for ignoring their recommendations.





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John
22-10-2013 09:28am
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Warning
This is a big jok every where . ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Egyptian 50members has been rejected by public and constitution is nonsense. Sisi army court making fools public
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mina zoher
22-10-2013 01:04am
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free democracy
a free democracy should never be influenced by a religious or political dogma, all articles that imply a favorable status to any religion should be eliminated, plain and simple.
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Noha
22-10-2013 10:58am
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Charity starts at home.
Then why is Judaism accorded a special place in your country, Mss Zoher? Charity starts at home!
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Edgar Hamed
21-10-2013 09:49pm
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Scandalous paradoxical constitution
This is a scandalously paradoxical constitution. On the one hand it says that Islam, is the state religion, on the other hand it says that Egypt is a civil non-religious state. How can Egypt be an Islamic state and secular at the same time? We know that while secularism is part of Christianity, it is not part of Islam. Besides why is it that political parties on the basis of religion are barred while they are allowed if based on atheism or anyother Godless ideology. This must be a confused constitution par excellance.
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Jane Morqus
21-10-2013 09:33pm
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Secularism is part of Christianity, not Islam
Islam is the religion of 95% of the Egyptian people. The Copts have no right to impose secularism on the vast majority of Egyptians. Secularism is part of Christinaity, it is not part of Islam. This constitution must be trashed into the dust bin of history.
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Janer Morgus
22-10-2013 11:02am
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Yes, a minority can control the majority
Ervin: The Alawites in Syria areless than 8% of the population. They have been tightly in control of Syria for over 50 years. Yes, a minority can control the majority by terror and repression. This is what the Copts are trying to do
Ervin
21-10-2013 10:39pm
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paradox
In your statement you are falling in one big logical nonsense. First, how can a minority impose something over the majority? Please enlighten us with your philosophical statement. Second, who are you to speak for all the Muslim Egyptians? Third, please do not hide under false name. ForthStop of speaking out religious hatred, one for all. .
Adly Stevenson, Norman, Oklahoma
21-10-2013 10:35pm
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non-representative constitution
90% of those tasked with writing the constitution draft are either anti-Islam or atheists. Secularism in the Arab world implies hostility to religion and even to democracy.These people don't even represent their own families.
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Tammy
21-10-2013 08:19pm
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Article 2 is still not right!!
If they are going to keep Article 2 then it needs to be changed. Islam is the religion & Arabic the official language is fine but "the principles of Islamic sharia are the main source of legislation." should be removed...NOT ALL EGYPTIANS ARE MUSLIM SO WHY SHOULD THEY HAVE TO LIVE BY SHARIA!!! In leaving that in they are opening up a whole can of worms & depending on someone elses views to define the laws & it is STILL GOING TO BE BIASED TOWARD ONE RELIGIOUS SECTS LAWS!! The Muslims would not like to live by Coptic, Jewish or any other non-muslim religions laws so WHY SHOULD ALL OF EGYPT HAVE TO LIVE BY THEIRS!!
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Sam Enslow
22-10-2013 01:03pm
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Sources of US Constitution
The values represented in the US Consitution predate both Islam and Christianity. The authors were Diests and men of The Englightenment. Our Supreme Court's only job is to view cases and to determine if a law is constitutional. Quite often Christian based laws are overturned by the court.
Sam Enslow
22-10-2013 07:53am
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Worship as you will (or not)
Mary, If you wish to follow Shiria that is your choice. No one will stop you. However, the people of other faiths have an equal right to live their lives and practice their faiths. A constitution prevents the tyranny of the majority. For example, if there is a bar and you do not believe in drinking, do not go into the bar (or if you do have a coffee), but do not prevent others from doing so.
Ed
22-10-2013 01:32am
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An important point
Actually a rule IN SHARIA is that SHARIA CANNOT BE IMPOSED ON NON-MUSLIMS. In other words having the sharia requirement actually PROTECTS Copts from ever having Muslim rules imposed on them. Without the whole sharia then bits and pieces of Sharia can then be imposed on the copts by another name. Democracy is the "tyranny of the majority" Sharia law protects against that by mandating that it CANNOT be imposed on non-Muslims. So any law that imposes shariah on the whole country the Copts can "opt out" on a religous bases automatically without having to appeal for articles to be put in etc. That is why many copts actually support having sharia law in there. (Now having sharia law does not address ALL of the details of civil law such as traffic control etc. all people would be held to such laws. Also there's really no "BOOK OF SHARIA LAW". So it's simply a princple of legality. If you look for example at US laws it follows Christian moral principles it's just not in so many words, it's hid
Mary
21-10-2013 09:58pm
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Islam has a Sharia, Christianity has no Sharia
by the same token, the vast majority of Egyptians are Muslim, so why should they live by secularism which is not part of their religion?

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