Egypt's Salafist Nour Party to participate in 50-member constitution committee

Ahram Online, Sunday 8 Sep 2013

The Nour Party decides to participate in constitution amending process, despite 'unequal representation' and likelihood that Article 219 on Islamic Sharia will be dropped

Younis Makhioun
Nour party head Younis Makhioun (Photo: Al-Ahram)

El-Nour Party announced Sunday it will participate in the 50-member committee responsible for producing a final draft of Egypt's new constitution.

A statement released on the party's official Facebook page confirmed the majority of its members had agreed to take part in process of amending the 2012 constitution.

Party Media Committee Coordinator Ibrahim Abaza told Al-Ahram Arabic website that the absence of Nour's representative in the opening session was due to indecisiveness on whether the party would take part in the committee.

The Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist party represented in the committee (with one delegate), has expressed its worries about unequal representation favouring non-Islamists in the constitution drafting process. 

Party head Younis Makhioun said in a statement Sunday that the party's decision to participate came "in accordance with the party's conviction that the country is going through sensitive times and for the sake of defending the achievemnts accomplished after the January 25 Revolution, on top of which lies the articles [of the constitution] related to identity."

Nour had earlier considered boycotting the 50-member committee after Article 219 was removed by a technical committee that amended the constitution before passing it to the broader body. The party later retreated, saying the issue could still be debated by the 50-member committee.

Article 219 of the 2012 constitution, added by the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly, broadly defined Sharia (Islamic law), which, according to Article 2, represents the main source of legislation in Egypt.

It states: "The principles of Islamic Sharia include its commonly accepted interpretations, its fundamental and jurisprudential rules and its widely considered sources, as stated by the schools of Sunna and Gamaa."

Non-Islamist critics charge that 219 leaves the door open to discriminating against non-Sunni minorities and others.

The Salafist Nour Party warned that eliminating this article was an attempt to move Egyptians away from their "Islamic identity." 

Nour delegates constituted the second largest bloc in the now-dissolved 2012 People's Assembly, and participated in the controversial Constituent Assembly, which drafted the 2012 constitution.

The 50-member committee will examine amendments drawn up by a separate 10-member committee of legal experts formed in July, and will produce a final draft of the constitution within 60 days.

Interim President Adly Mansour will then put the final draft of the constitution to a national referendum within 30 days of receiving it.

The 2012 constitution was suspended as part of a roadmap put forth by the Egyptian armed forces, together with political groups and religious figures, which saw former president Mohamed Morsi ousted on 3 July following mass protests.

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