Nour representative withdraws from constitution-drafting session

Ahram Online , Monday 16 Sep 2013

Salafist rep Al-Zarka withdraws from session in dispute over 'Islamic identity' articles, despite Nour party agreeing to let Azhar have the final say

bassam el zarka
Member of Salafist Al-Nour Party Bassam El-Zarqa (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Egypt's only Islamist party in the constitution-drafting body withdrew on Monday from an assembly session, as a dispute escalated over Islamic-related articles in the suspended 2012 constitution that is currently being revised.

The withdrawal of Nour Party representative Bassam Al-Zarka appears contradictory, as the party stated on Sunday that they would welcome the Sunni Islamic institution of Al-Azhar having the final say on whether "Islamic  identity" articles are included in Egypt's new charter.

Al-Azhar has said it is against any provisions that would turn Egypt into a theocratic state.

Mohamed Salmawy, media spokesman for the 50-member committee entrusted with writing the final draft of Egypt's new constitution, said the withdrawal of Al-Zarka from the session was a mere "objectionable measure," adding that the "action is legal and does not mean the party's total withdrawal from the writing panel," Reuters' Aswat Masriya quoted him as saying.

The ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party has previously expressed concerns over tweaks made to a number of Islamic-related articles in the constitution. These include an article spelling out the principles of Islamic Sharia, which the charter adopts as the main source of legislation.

Al-Zarka proposed adding the word "rules" instead of "principles" to the phrase "Islamic Sharia," or simply removing the word "principles" from the phrasing of the article. Both proposals were dismissed by the head and members of the subsidiary committee running the meeting, prompting the Salafist figure to pull out.

The Nour Party has also voiced concerns that the panel is under-representative of Islamists. They took up one of the modest two seats earmarked for Islamists, along with an ex-brotherhood member, after initially announcing they would not participate in the constitution-writing process.

Pursuant to a presidential decree, issued by Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour on 8 July, the charter is due to be approved within sixty-days of the board's first session. A national referendum on the constitutional amendments is to take place within 30 days, followed by parliamentary elections and a presidential vote.

Work by the 50-member constitutional-drafting board represents the second stage in writing Egypt's new constitution, which is to replace the suspended 2012 version. This follows initial proposals made by a ten-member legal panel, which have already proven contentious.

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