Cairo (AsiaNews) - In record time, the Egyptian Constituent Assembly dominated by Islamists has approved Art. 2 of the draft constitution. Sharia is the main source of law. The session was attended by only 85 members out of 100. Absent most of the delegates of the democratic parties and representatives of the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic Churches. The leadership of the Assembly have replaced only 11 of the 30 seats allocated to secular parties. In recent weeks the latter had boycotted the Assembly, accusing it of failing to represent Egyptian society in a balanced way. In the coming days, the delegates will vote on the remaining 232 articles of the new text.
Begun this morning, the voting took place in an atmosphere of high tension. Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of people took to the main streets of the country to protest against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a surprise move, the Islamist leader has assumed extraordinary powers including the right to dissolve the constituent body, himself replacing the Constitutional Court, which has remained one of the few institutions free from the hegemony of Islamic extremists.
To date, the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood, who emerged victorious from the parliamentary elections which ended last January, have been able to change the first article of the constitution by adding the word "shura" - a term used in the Qur'an to establish advisory bodies - in the part referring to the democratic foundation of the country. The amendment to Art.2 with the explicit juridical reference to Koranic law marks a turning point in the country and threatens the large Coptic Christian minority, which accounts for about 10% of the Egyptian population, and also threatens freedom of expression and of dress. In the previous constitution, Sharia was mentioned, but judges were supposed only to adhere to the principles of Islamic law.
AsiaNews sources explained that in the new Art. 2, the principles have been replaced by the sayings of the Koran. In this way, Egypt is moving away from a more modern view of law and closer to that of many Gulf monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia. "If the Constitution passes the referendum planned for the coming months - sources said - a grown man can marry a girl of 6 years, or have several wives. Women will be forced to wear the veil. Christians are in danger of not being able to practice their faith freely."
Meanwhile, tensions rise for the big event organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis in support of President Morsi that, according to the Islamists, should gather millions of people. The Ministry of Interior has increased security measures to prevent any clashes with protests organized by the secular movements, the protagonists of the demonstrations of these days and of several attacks against the headquarters of the Justice and Freedom Party (Muslim Brotherhood). (SC)