- Associated Press - Monday, December 3, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi faced the prospect of widening civil disobedience on Monday as the media and the tourism industry pondered measures to join a protest by judges against the Islamist leader.

The country’s judges already have gone on strike over Mr. Morsi’s Nov. 22 decrees that placed him above judicial oversight.

Following those decrees, a panel dominated by the president’s Islamist supporters rushed through a new draft constitution without participation of representatives of liberals, the Christian minority or women. Mr. Morsi then called a national referendum on Dec. 15 to approve the new constitution.

An opposition coalition dominated by the liberal and leftist groups that led last year’s uprising already had called for a general strike on Tuesday and a large demonstration against the constitutional process and Mr. Morsi’s decree. They plan to march on the presidential palace in the capital, Cairo.


Newspapers plan to suspend publication on Tuesday while privately owned TV networks will go dark all day. The full front pages of Egypt’s most prominent newspapers on Monday had the headline “No to dictatorship” on a black background with a picture of a man wrapped in newspaper and with his feet cuffed.

Hotels and restaurants are considering switching off their lights for a half-hour on Tuesday to protest against Mr. Morsi, according to the Supporting Tourism Coalition, an independent body representing tourism industry employees.

Mr. Morsi’s moves have plunged an already polarized Egypt into the worst political crisis since the uprising nearly two years ago that ousted authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak.

The crisis left the country divided between Mr. Morsi and his Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood along with another ultraconservative Islamist group, the Salafis, in one camp and their opposition in the other — youth groups, liberal parties and large sectors of the public.

The opposition brought out at least 200,000 protesters to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday and a comparable number Friday to demand that Mr. Morsi’s decrees be rescinded. For 10 days protesters have camped out in the square and planned for a massive rally at the presidential palace on Tuesday.

The Islamists responded Saturday with hundreds of thousands of protesters in Cairo’s twin city of Giza. Thousands took to the streets and imposed a siege on Egypt’s highest court, the Supreme Constitutional Court.

The court had been widely expected to hand down a ruling on Sunday that would declare the constitutional assembly that passed the draft charter illegitimate and disband parliament’s upper house, the Shura Council. But instead, the judges went on strike after they found their building under siege by protesters.

Three of Mr. Morsi’s aides have also resigned over his decree. Two members of the official National Council of Human Rights quit on Monday, describing the decrees as “disastrous.” They expressed “real fears” of Brotherhood hegemony in Egypt.

The new draft constitution has been criticized for not providing protection for women’s and minority rights. Critics say it empowers Islamic religious clerics by giving them a say over legislation, while some articles were seen as tailored to get rid of Islamists’ enemies.

The draft has a new article that seeks to define what the “principles” of Islamic law are by pointing to theological doctrines and their rules. Another new article states that Egypt’s most respected Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, must be consulted on any matters related to Shariah law, a measure critics fear could lead to oversight of legislation by clerics.

Rights groups have pointed out that virtually the only references to women relate to the home and family, that the new charter uses overly broad language with respect to the state protecting “ethics and morals,” and that it fails to outlaw gender discrimination.

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