Salafist Nour Party agrees to join Egypt constitutional committee

Ahram Online , Sunday 25 Aug 2013

Egypt's largest Salafist group says it will join the constitutional review committee in order to defend Islamic 'identity' articles

Salafist Nour Party chairman Younis Makhioun (Photo: Al-Ahram).

Egypt’s Salafist Nour Party has decided to participate in the 50-member committee tasked with proposing amendments to the country's temporarily suspended 2012 constitution, state news agency MENA reported.

The decision follows previous statements by Nour spokesmen stating that the party will not take part in the constitutional committee following the removal of article 219 by a technical committee, which amended the constitution before passing it on to the ‘50 committee’.

Article 219 defined Sharia (Islamic law), which is mentioned in Article 2 as the main source of legislation in Egypt. The article was added by the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly in 2012 under the former President Mohamed Morsi. It states that, "the principles of Islamic Sharia include its commonly-accepted interpretations, its fundamental and jurisprudent rules and its widely considered sources, as stated by the schools of Sunna and Gamaa."

The Nour party has previously warned that eliminating this article translates as an attempt to move Egyptians away from their “Islamic identity.”

The group’s decision to join the committee, which is to have the final word on amendments before the constitution is subjected to a plebiscite, was partly taken in order to promote keeping article 219 in the constitution.

One of the aims of participating in the committee is “to defend the articles of identity which constitute a true representation of the Egyptian people’s identity, rather than that of a particular political current,” a statement issued by Nour on Sunday said.

Nour Party is uneasy about the amending of the constitution by two appointed committees – the first of which has completed its work and is comprised of legal experts, and the second, which is made up of representatives from Egyptian society and institutions – despite its agreeing to a transitional roadmap, which was instated after the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and included constitutional amendments.

Salafist figures from Nour Party were members of the controversial Constituent Assembly, which drafted the 2012 constitution and was passed via referendum.

Nour Party said in its statement that it has reservations about amending a popularly-elected charter and feels that it exceeds a technical committee’s work to make amendments to the formulations of constitutional articles, thus interfering in the content of them.

Concern over this interference, the party said, is not exclusive to Islamist political parties. Other groups, it said, are also disturbed by indications of a constitution that would take Egypt back to before the 25 January revolution, referring to a return to the single candidacy system of the Mubarak-era, which has been proposed by the technical committee.

Nour Party, the second largest Islamist party in Egypt, was the only Islamist group openly condoning the deposition of Morsi after mass protests against him.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the party that nominated Morsi to the presidency, has rejected all steps taken after his overthrow to initiate dialogue, and insists he be reinstated.

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