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Egypt draft constitution sparks mass protest
As in past constitutions, the new draft said the “principles of Islamic law” will be the basis of law.
Previously, the term “principles” allowed wide leeway in interpreting Shariah. But in the draft, a separate new article is added that seeks to define “principles” by pointing to particular theological doctrines and their rules. That could give Islamists the tool for insisting on stricter implementation of rulings of Shariah.
Another new article states that Egypt’s most respected Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, must be consulted on any matters related to Shariah, a measure critics fear will lead to oversight of legislation by clerics.
The draft also includes bans on “insulting or defaming all prophets and messengers” or even “insulting humans” — broad language that analysts warned could be used to crack down on many forms of speech.
The draft says citizens are equal under the law but an article specifically establishing women’s equality was dropped because of disputes over the phrasing.
One article underlines that the state will protect “the true nature of the Egyptian family … and promote its morals and values.” The phrasing suggests the state could prevent anything deemed to undermine the family.
“Women, who were barely represented in the assembly, have the most to lose from a constitution which ignores their aspirations, and blocks the path to equality between men and women. It is appalling that virtually the only references to women relate to the home and family,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s deputy director for the region.
The draft also preserves much of military’s immunity from parliamentary scrutiny, putting its budget in the hands of the National Defense Council, which includes the president, the heads of the two houses of parliament and top generals.
The committee has been plagued by controversy from the start. It was created by the first parliament elected after Mubarak’s ouster. But a first permutation of the assembly, also Islamist-dominated, was disbanded by the courts. A new one was created just before the lower house of parliament, also Brotherhood-led, was dissolved by the judiciary in June.
Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Lee Keath contributed to this report.
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