Critical Commentary: Islamist’s Takeover of Egypt’s Constitution

Posted on November 30, 2012 by


In Egypt recently there has been a great amount of controversy surrounding Egypt’s constitution. In a move coming after the reign of president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in February of 2011, Egypt’s government has decided it is time to change the constitution. This constitutional process has been magnified in the media not only because of the issues surrounding the constitutional process itself, but also because of statements current president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, made last week. Firstly, Morsi limited the amount of time left for the constitutional assembly to write a draft of the constitution to two months. In addition, Morsi made a decree that his decisions now cannot be reviewed judicially and he banned the courts of Egypt from dissolving the constitutional assembly and the upper house of parliament.

These decrees were very shocking and controversial to the people of Egypt.  The statement that basically turned Morsi into a dictator was met with much opposition from many Egyptians. This whole situation has pretty much pitted Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters that are pro-Islamist against those in Egypt who do not agree with Islamist views. These non-supporters are mostly led by Egypt’s judges. This newly intensified divide strengthens tensions that were already being felt by these parties because of what has been happening within the constitutional assembly ever since the constitution revision started. Non-Islamists were aware that the Islamists in the group were aiming towards writing a constitution supporting their Islamic views. Those against these goals, mostly secular Egyptians, liberals and Christians, left the group. This extreme conflict between the two sides was not helped at all by Morsi’s attempt at making himself and his supporters “untouchable”. Now, the non-Islamists feel as though this decree is unjust, while the Islamists still support Morsi’s actions.

This divide has also led to a lack of inclusion in the committee. Last Thursday, the constitution assembly met, eighty-five of them, and none of these people were Christian. This shows the lack of diversity within the people making this new constitution. If Egypt is not utilizing people of all backgrounds, they are going to end up with a very biased constitution. In addition, women were not prevalent in this assembly. The only women there were Islamists, and even then there were only four of them. The media pointed this out frequently to showcase the complete absence of fairness in making this constitution that many across the world see. In articles across the web, in continues to be pointed out that the constitutional assembly is made up of almost entirely Islamists at this point. Also, it is frequently pointed out that these members of the committee embody the idea of conservative Muslims, often telling about their beards and form of dress.

Overall, the media makes it clear that liberals, Christians, and basically anyone who is not Islamic feel unwelcome and greatly opposed in the constitutional assembly, many referring to the process as being hijacked by Islamists. This supposed “hijacking” was stressed through a quote from Bishop Paula, who was on the constitutional assembly, but did not vote on the new articles in the constitution this past Thursday. On why she chose not to attend the vote on Thursday, Paula said, “We know already the result of the vote because of the unbalanced [Islamist] formation of the assembly. The result is settled whether we go or not.” These types of points made by the media give a sense of admitting defeat from the non-Islamists in the constitutional assembly, and make the Islamists appear to be very controlling and non-negotiable.

In addition to the issues within the constitutional assembly, the issue of the amount of time to create this constitution is growing.  A two-month limit seems completely unacceptable. Now, though, because of the growing tensions in Egypt, Morsi pushed the assembly to create the constitutions even quicker. This quickening came from a desire to pass the draft of the constitution before Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court can dissolve this assembly. Media sources continuously say that this rush is in order to make sure the constitution will go through before the Islamists can be removed from their extreme position of power. Islamists on the other hand, defend their quickening of the process with a quote from Hussein Ibrahim from the Muslim Brotherhood saying, “People want the constitution because they want stability. Go to villages, to poorer areas, people want stability.” To me, though, it is completely understandable that a limited amount of time to form a constitution would be opposed by many people. If this process is rushed, the committee might not be able to make the constitution exactly as they want to because they will not have time to double and triple check everything. Because of this sudden order, the Islamists appear to be succeeding in instilling their views onto this constitution, which intensifies yet again the religious issues between these two groups of Islamists and non-Islamists.Image

Islamists talking to the media claim this constitutional draft contains views from both Islamists and non-Islamists, and also showcases all of the months of work spent on the constitution thus far. When looking at the newly released translation of the articles just passed by the assembly, though, it becomes clear that this is probably not the case. Islamic views are prevalent throughout the proposed constitution, and this implies that the non-Islamists really did not have much of a say at all. One article in particular that was passed says that the state will protect “the true nature of the Egyptian family… and promote its morals and values.” Various critics interpret this as suggesting the state has control over the content in books and films, meaning they can control what religious values are allowed in their media. This clearly shows that the Islamists have succeeded in their quest to put the values of Islam into their proposed constitution.

This story continues to be an issue as the world looks on as decisions are made by all of the Egyptian government in the near future. Especially since the draft was just approved this Thursday, November 29th, it is impossible to determine what the future of Egypt’s constitution is at this point. If the constitution holds, or if it does not, either way one set of religious groups is going to be outraged. Right now, Christians, liberals and others are very angry at the situation and hope that things will turn around in their favor soon. If this happens, though, the Islamists will in turn be angered that their Muslim views are not being incorporated into the constitution the way they want them to be. Either way, this is a sticky situation, and in my opinion, both sides need to hash things out and come to some sort of agreement. Otherwise, the riots that are currently happening, as well as all of the political tensions, will continue to exceed.



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