Islamisation of Egypt: Churches talk to al-Azhar on constitution

Monday 24 Sep 2012
Nader Shukry

In a meeting at the premises of al-Azhar in Cairo today, the acting patriarch for the Coptic Orthodox Church Anba Pachomeus and the Coptic Catholic Bishop Anba Yuhanna Qolta talked to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb on Egypt’s new constitution.
Anba Pachomeus began by confirming the Church’s position in renouncing and condemning the US-produced film which Muslims feel insult their Prophet Mohamed. Dr Tayeb expressed entire understanding. The visit was courteous and compassionate.

The talks, according to Judge Edward Ghaleb, the representative of the Coptic Church in the Constituent Assembly which is currently writing Egypt’s draft constitution, were fruitful and in agreement. All the participants agreed that no changes should be made to Article 2 which stipulates Islam as the State religion, Arabic its language, and the principles of Islamic sharia the main source of legislation. It was agreed, however, Mr Ghaleb said, that a new article should be added to maintain the right of non-Muslims to have their own family law according to their own beliefs.

They also discussed, Mr Ghaleb said, the draft articles on zakat (Islamic alms) and religious endowments, to which the Church objects, and to which Al-Azhar expressed its own reservations. Dr Tayeb said al-Azhar refuses to be considered a reference on legislation, since the venerable, topmost Islamic institution in the world which is now a stronghold of moderate Islam may one day change hands and be governed by hardliners. Meaning that al-Azhar is not immune to changes and may be manipulated to certain ends.

Dr Mahmoud Azab, consultant to the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, said that Dr Tayeb intends to hold meetings shortly with representatives of the Egyptian secular movements, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, to discuss the draft constitution, in an effort to iron out the differences.

Participating in today’s meeting were Bishop of Tanta Anba Pola, Judge Ghaleb, and Judge Munsif Soliman from the Coptic Church; and Dr Azab, Dr Mohamed Kamal Imam, and Dr Hassan al-Shafei from al-Azhar.

Watani International

24 September 2012

Al-Azhar, Churches Agree: Islam Remains Source of Egyptian Law

By: Ahmad El-Behery, Mohammad Abdel Kader, Mohammad Gharib, Ahmad Allam & Shayma' al-Qarnashawi, Sep 25, 2012

Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, met on the evening of Sept. 24 with a delegation of leaders and representatives of Egyptian churches headed by acting patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church Bishop Anba Pachomius. The two parties agreed on the need to keep Article II of the constitution as is, without any amendments, so that "the principles of Islamic law are the main source of legislation.”

Participants in the meeting stressed the need to maintain a unified social fabric. The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar stressed the need for consensus in the founding committee, and said that is must be representative of all the Egyptian people. Moreover, participants agreed to continue to work to complete the constitution.

On the other hand, ​​Manal al-Tiby, a member of the Constituent Assembly, which is tasked with drafting a new constitution, submitted her resignation from the assembly yesterday [Sept. 24]. She warned that the new draft constitution will be “the worst constitution among all previous Egyptian constitutions.”

Tiby told Al-Masry Al-Youm that she had reached "a final decision that there is no point in continuing to be a member of the Constituent Assembly because the final product of the new constitution will not meet the expectations of the majority of Egyptians.” She also pointed out that "it has become clear that the constitution is being drafted to enable a specific current to establish a religious state so that it can seize power.”

On the other hand, on Sept. 24 an administrative court rejected a request to disband the assembly submitted by Abdulsalam al-Naggar, an adviser who is responsible for examining all requests to disband and dissolve the Constituent Assembly. The court also decided to impose a fine of 288,000 Egyptian pounds [$47,000] on a number of Muslim Brotherhood lawyers for nine requests they have made to disband the assembly .

The plenary session of the Constituent Assembly will be held today [Sept. 25] to discuss the fate of the Shura Council and whether it should be canceled or retained with increased powers. Moreover, the drafting committee has completed the chapter related to local administration.

The ruling regime’s committee within the assembly has decided to hold a hearing next Wednesday for parties, political forces and the media. This hearing will be broadcast live, so that people can get to know the party’s vision, which will be adopted during the next parliamentary elections. This hearing will also serve as a prelude to the introduction of a transitional electoral article, upon which the President of the Republic will issue a law aimed at dividing constituencies.

Dr. Wahid Abdel Meguid, a spokesman for the Constituent Assembly, submitted a note to the Drafting Committee about the articles related to freedom of expression and press freedom. In the note, he objects to the article that stipulates that newspapers can be shut down through judicial decree, saying that this represents “collective punishment, which when applied, will lead to the displacement of all people working for a newspaper just because one individual made a mistake.” He also asked that they reconsider the decision to delete Article 12, which prohibited the imprisonment of those involved in publication crimes. He pointed out that this article does not just discriminate against journalists, but includes all those who publicly express their opinions through various means.


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