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Fierce debates over preamble of Egypt's new constitution

Consititution committee to hold a seperate meeting Wednesday to solve differences between secularists and Islamists over the preamble of Egypt's new constitution

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 26 Nov 2013
File photo: Egypt's 50-member constitution-amendment committee (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Views: 1573
Views: 1573
Mohamed Salmawy, media spokesman of the 50-member committee responsible for writing Egypt's new constitution, told a press conference that the committee has decided to hold a closed meeting on Wednesday to discuss three thorny issues. 
"We have almost reached consensus on the new constitution's articles, but some differences still plague the debate over the preamble of the new charter and whether there should be a quota of seats reserved for certain marginalised sectors of society in parliament, not to mention devising a new electoral system," said Salmawy.
Salmawy mentioned that the chairman of the committee, Amr Moussa, had to adjourn Tuesday's session for ten minutes to ask the Interior Minister to release a number of young political activists who were arrested for staging a demonstration against a new protest law in front of the Shura Council in the afternoon.
"The preamble of the new constitution was highly welcomed by members of the committee, but some asked that it should be the subject of a separate discussion," Salmawy said, hence the need for Wednesday's meeting. 
"Although most members believe that the new constitution asserts Egypt is a civilian state, some want the word "civilian" mentioned in the preamble." Other members, he added, want "the preamble to give a definition of Islamic sharia."
According to Salmawy, the committee was asked to reach agreement on whether there should be positive discrimination in favour of some marginalised sectors of society in the form of a quota of seats in parliament.

"If this quota is agreed to by members, we will be forced to find a favourable electoral system, because the two issues are closely related," added Salmawy.
The spokesman said he cannot give an exact date for when the draft constitution will be put to a final vote among members of the 50-committee. "We are allowed until 3 December," he said.
"Some members think that if all articles have gained consensus during the first and second reading, there shouldn't be a final vote. If this happens, there will not be a televised meeting and the draft will be released to the media so citizens can read it," said Salmawy.
"If the final draft is passed to the president on 3 December, it must be put to a national referendum within 30 days in accordance with article 30 of the constitutional declaration, issued by interim president Adly Mansour on 8 July," he added, suggesting that this means a national referendum will be held before the end of the year.
Salmawy refuted reports there would be another vote on whether the upper house of the Shura Council is maintained or not. "Some proposed that at the end of its five-year legislative term, the coming parliament discusses whether Egypt needs another house," said Salmawy, arguing that, "it would be a big burden for the coming parliament to vet old legislations and pass new ones as required by the constitution."
Salmawy also indicated that the subcommittee in charge of reviewing the language of the articles has made some changes, but "the final word on these will be left to the committee in its plenary meetings." 
Article 195, regulating the construction of churches, for example, was re-amended to read, "the state ensures that all citizens exercise religious rites and facilitates the construction of worship places for all followers of Arab and Islamic religions." This replaces previous phrasing that, "the house of representatives - in its first session after this constitution is passed - should issue a new law aimed at regulating the construction and restoration of churches to ensure that Christians exercise their rights freely."
The committee changed another law regulating the resettlement of Nubians.
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muslim Pharaoh
26-11-2013 09:20pm
Egypt, Secularism, Integrationism and Shariah. Egypt needs a purely secular structured democratic government but the government is not the nation. Differentiate between the country and the nation. The country plays a social organizing role, while the nation plays a more structural role. Politicians need to strengthen the military role in protecting the national unity and the Egyptian race which defines Egypt as a nation. The military gives us our beloved Pharaoh back. The Islamic identity needs to be given more symbolic power. This means the judicial authorities need to be bounded by the islamic shariah interpreted by specialized azhar scholars. Al azhar needs to create a corporate body with organizational by-laws and include the muslim constituents. This is how it is done in America, when it comes to religious bodies with power. The religious corporation will then implement the shariah by-laws on muslims only. However, it is bounded by the judicial authority and the rules of the law of the land. This means that certain norms can be implemented by the organization however no ruling or verdict can be enforced except by the rule of law. This gives the freedom for individuals to decide to be part of the muslim community or not, instead of being forced. It is time to rationally design a secular country with all the freedoms but an Egyptian nation with powerful Islamic symbolic values. All the country laws need to go through judicial review to ensure it is in accord with the Egyptian nation. This nation will not intrude on other values because the nation should not require assimilation. One of the tenants of Islam (classical one from al azhar) is it desires for everyone to keep their heritage and does not compel anyone to be a muslim. The model I present forth should construct a multicultural unassimilated country. This model preserves the Egyptian nation which can learn and grow from the multiple integrated heritages and religions into it. On a side note, I suggest we completely forgo the arab identity, since in reality we are more accurately linguistically arabic. I hope for an arabophone economic union similar to the European Union.
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26-11-2013 09:03pm
shariah and secularism, be nice.
I believe the civilian rule should remain and the Supreme Court defines sharia law but to appease Islamists and minorities, it is important to change the court system. I will suggest a framework to operate the court system with the government. My framework is based on the American court system, which is predominantly Anglo-Saxon. I believe that we should have a body of juries added to the Egyptian court system. Those juries are going to impart judgment on the defendant. Those juries are from the peers of the defendant. They should be juries of good character from the same socio-economic status. This will help the jury relate to the defendant and impart good judgments. In order to please Islamists, a council of Azhar clerics should be created to oversee decisions made by the judge. This translates into the judge having to consult the clerics before imparting a decision. More, to ensure that the decision is Islamic, the power of veto through unanimous agreement should be given to the clerics. The last component of this system is the most difficult one. It is important for the government to promote and recognize certain public organizational bodies. Religious bodies, tribal bodies and ethnic bodies should organize themselves into public organizations or corporations. Those are then recognized by the state, where their privacy, property and power structure is protected. This protection comes at the price that those organizations must give back in the form of culture, economic wealth and social order. With this assumption then an advisory board can be created to advise the jury. This advisory board will consist of high ranking members of the prosecution and defendant’s affiliated public organizations. It would be a requirement that the jury deliberates with this board about the possible verdicts given by the judge. The details of the system can be worked out from that framework.
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