Tens of thousands of protesters crowded Cairo's Tahrir square on 'Sharia Friday' to demand Islamic law to be the primary source of legislation in the coming constitution.
"We demand that Islamic law becomes the source of legislation and warn against any foreign intervention in the writing of the constitution," Tarek El-Zomor, Al-Gamaa Islamiya Leader and founder of its Building and Development Party, told Ahram Online.
He stressed that the constitutional draft currently being written by Egypt's Constituent Assembly must be completed soon.
A strong antagonism against pro-democracy forces or "the Liberals and secularists," as commonly called by Islamists, was evident in the protest.
Pro-democracy political forces are accused by Islamists of hindering the stipulation of Sharia as the governing legislative source in the constitution and hampering the entire drafting process.
Leading the Friday prayer sermon at the square, Mohamed El-Soghyr of Al-Gamaa Islamiya said, "Anything used in legislation that was not divinely revealed will lead to the rule of injustice."
"Our Prophet [Mohamed] fought the infidels of Mecca, who are now represented by the liberals," he said.
Liberals claim to be Muslims, but back down when it comes to implementing Sharia law in Egypt, he asserted.
Liberal and leftist groups accuse the Constituent Assembly of being dominated by Islamist forces who want to unilaterally write a constitution unrepresentative of Egyptians at-large.
The Constituent Assembly was elected by Egypt's disbanded lower house of parliament, which was later dissolved by a Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), ruling its electoral laws as unconstitutional.
The Constituent Assembly may face a similar fate as the lower house due to a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
Islamists have recently opened fire on the judicial system condemning the courts' decision to dissolve the People's Assembly and warn against a similar action towards the Constituent Assembly.
The Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud and the Head of Egypt's Judges' Club, Ahmed El-Zend – known for his anti-Islamist stance and who stood firmly behind the parliament dissolution decision- bore the blunt of the protesters anger.
"Down with the prosecutor-general; down with Ahmed El-Zend," El-Soghyr chanted with the cheering crowd.
By Friday afternoon, tens of thousands had filled the square. The main demands – as announced by a large banner hung in the square – were topped by the inclusion of Sharia as the "main" source of legislation, but also included the dismissal of Mahmoud and purging state institutions of corruption.
Some banners even called for Islamic law to be the "only" source of legislation.
Conservative Azhar scholar and member of the institution's Fatwa Committee, Hashem Islam, read out a religious edict which stated that Article 2 of the constitution should state that “Islamic Sharia alone is the source of all legislation, that sovereignty is for God alone, and "all articles that conflict with Sharia are invalid.”
The usage of the term “principles” of Islamic Sharia law in the draft is seen by many conservative and ultra-Orthodox Islamists as being too vague, which could simply translate into universal values of justice and equality, thus ignoring Islamic rules specific to social life in Islamic countries.
The current draft and the 1971 constitution state the “principles of Islamic Sharia” are the source of legislation.
The same demand was made by leading Gamaa Islamiya member Assem Abdel-Maged.
"Sharia should be the only – not the primary – source of legislation" he said, addressing the crowd from the main stage in the square.
Abdel-Maged reminded the crowd that Hassan El-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Mohamed Morsi hails, said that the Muslim holy book, the Quran, should be the constitution.
The Muslim Brotherhood as well as their Freedom and Justice Party announced this week that they would not attend the protest.
El-Zomor told Ahram Online that those absent have their own political calculations and are in the process of negotiations within the constituent assembly.
"We don't want to put them on the spot," he added.
The Salafist Al-Nour Party, Egypt's second largest Islamist group, also announced on Wednesday that they would not join the Tahrir demonstration.
Vice-chairman of the Al-Nour Party Yosri Hammad stated, "More effort in educating Muslims about the principles of Sharia needs to be exerted before it can be a public demand," according to Al-Ahram Arabic news website.
However, some from the Salafist Call movement, from which the Al-Nour Party partly hailed, strongly participated in the demonstration, according to one of its members, Kamel Abdel El-Gawad.
Meanwhile, Adel Abdel-Maqsoud, the Head of the Salafist Al-Asala Party, which co-organized the demonstration, claimed there is no dispute with the Muslim Brotherhood or the Al-Nour Party.
"Today's demonstration is an example of how it would be if Sharia does not rule in the upcoming constitution," he told Ahram Online.
However, the absence of both heavyweights was not complete.
In the afternoon, as the numbers steadily increased, one of the organisers on the main stage announced that the Muslim Brotherhood youth were present in the square. Subsequently, the crowd cheered loudly.
Speakers at the rally – including Abdel-Maqsoud and Abdel-Maged – stressed that Friday is only a the beginning of activities that will continue until their demands are met.
"There will be no stability until the constitution follows Sharia," said Ahmed Yousef, one of the Islamic preachers on stage.
"There will be another revolution otherwise," he claimed.
Other groups present in the demonstration, included the Salafist Front and its People Party, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development Party, Sharia Students group, and Islamist Labour Party.