Egypt’s New Constitution: As Bad as its Old One?

by Michael Armanious:

Amr Moussa, chairman of the committee tasked with amending the Islamist constitution, talked about how the new constitution guarantees that Egypt will have a “civilian government” and promote the creation of a “democratic and modern country.”

But he did not promise that it would be a secular one. Moussa asserts that the new constitution bans the creation of parties based on religion, but it gives Egypt’s theocrats-in-waiting a way to get around the ban on by allowing parties to be established on “Islamic reference”; and Article Two remains.

“In Egypt, a civil state means a modern nationalist state that is compatible with Islamist provisions.” — Ali Gomaa, Egypt’s former Grand Mufti.

Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour has set January 14 and 15, 2014, as the dates for a referendum on the country’s amended constitution.

Amr Moussa – the chairman of the (fifty-member) Committee of Fifty tasked with amending the 2012 Islamist constitution – appeared in multiple televised interviews to tell about the importance of the new amended constitution for the future of Egypt. He talked about how the new constitution guarantees that Egypt will have a “civilian government” and will promote the creation of a “democratic and modern country.” He stressed that Egypt will have no military or theocratic government. He also listed several articles that will guarantee freedom for Egyptians, including freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

A closer look at the constitution itself reveals that it is not the freedom-promoting document Moussa describes it as being.

 

Amr Moussa, pictured here at a 2013 World Economic Forum conference, says that Egypt’s proposed constitution will not allow for a military or theocratic government. (Image source: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell)

The amended constitution still includes Article Two of the previous constitution, which states that Islam is Egypt’s religion and that the “principles” of the Islamic Sharia law are the country’s main source of legislation. This clearly puts Egypt’s religious minorities, most notably the Coptic Christians, in a position of extreme vulnerability. When this was pointed out, Moussa stated that there was nothing to be done because the article had been approved unanimously by the Committee of Fifty, which included Coptic leaders. What Moussa failed to report, however, was that a Copt who served on the Committee of Fifty openly admitted on national television that he had caved into the demands of Islamists who want to turn Egypt into an Islamic theocracy.

Retaining Article Two is not the only problem with the constitution. It also places Egypt’s military beyond civilian oversight, rendering the phrase “civilian government” meaningless. This condition is a huge problem: Egypt’s armed forces have amassed an enormous and independent economic empire which includes gas stations, banquet halls, construction operations, factories, and vast tracts of land. Consequently, Egyptian generals are the feudal lords of modern Egypt; their underlings are their squires and scribes, and those outside the military are turned into defenseless peasants.

This arrangement is solidified by another part of the constitution that allows Egyptian civilians to be tried in a military court. In an effort to allay fear over this, Moussa stressed that civilians can only be tried in a military court in specific kinds of cases – when someone attacks a military buildings or equipment, for example.

But Major General Medhat Radwan Gazi, chief of military justice, contradicted Mr. Moussa. Gazi confirmed that disputes between civilians and the operators of military owned-businesses could be settled by a military court to protect the officers or soldiers who work and manage these businesses.

Gazi also said that there is no difference between an officer defending the country in a tank or pumping gas or managing a gas station. They are all officers of the armed forces, so any dispute with the public will be tried in military court. In sum, the proposed constitution entrenches a modern-day system of feudalism in the land of the Nile.

This plan is a disaster. Egypt has been under military rule for over 61 years, and emergency laws have been used for over 32 years of its recent history. Thousands of civilians have been tried and convicted in military courts for all kinds of charges. Gazi confirmed that the armed forces will continue governing Egypt for the foreseeable future.

One would think that in exchange for cementing the status of Egypt’s generals as modern-day Pharaohs, the new constitution would at least protect Egyptian citizens from an onslaught of theocratic extremism. It does not.

Moussa asserts that the new constitution bans the establishment of political parties based on religion, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but it gives Egypt’s theocrats-in-waiting a way to get around this ban by allowing parties to be established on “Islamic reference.”

What is the difference? So far, 11 parties have already followed this path, including the Hizb El-Benaa Wa El-Tanmia, and the Al Nour Party.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

 

CAIR Targets Morsi/Brotherhood Critics

pic_related_113012_RVB_BIPT News

Pro-Muslim Brotherhood forces attacked protesters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi with rocks and clubs in Cairo Wednesday.

It’s the latest in a series of clashes since Morsi, a longtime Brotherhood official, issued a Nov. 22 decree effectively placing himself above judicial oversight. He has said he will nullify it if voters approve a Dec. 15 referendum ratifying a controversial new draft constitution rammed through an Islamist-dominated assembly early Friday.

Although the document declares a right to freedom of speech, it also includes a prohibition on “insults” to “religious prophets.” Another provision would require government authorization to operate a website.

Wednesday’s clashes targeted several hundred anti-Morsi protesters who had camped out near the presidential palace.

Demonstrators say they will do everything possible to defeat the referendum. “Our marches are against tyranny … and we won’t retract our position,” Hussein Abdel Ghany, a spokesman for the protesters, said Tuesday. Eleven newspapers shut themselves down Tuesday to protest Morsi’s “dictatorship,” and banks said they would close three hours early in solidarity with the protesters.

The New York Times reported that Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party warned three former presidential candidates, among them Amr Moussa and Mohammed ElBaradei, that they would be held accountable for any violence that occurred.

Egyptian riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators near the presidential palace in Cairo on Tuesday. Officials in Morsi’s office said the Islamist leader fled the palace as protesters broke through police lines.

While Egyptians take to the streets to oppose what they claim is a nascent tyranny, Morsi and his Islamist government can count on support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). For example, CAIR-Los Angeles boss Hussam Ayloush praised Morsi for assuming more power in order to prevent “corrupt judges” from the “undermining and undoing of every democratic step.”

In a Facebook post, Ayloush blamed Egypt’s internal strife on the secular opposition: “Much of the Egyptian opposition seem to be more interested in opposing Morsi and the MB than actually helping Egypt become a stable and institutional democracy,”

CAIR-New York’s Cyrus McGoldrick disparaged criticism of Morsi as “a last stand by old pro-West/Mubarak/Israel crowd to keep power in judiciary.”

CAIR-San Francisco chief Zahra Billoo dismissed American concerns that the Islamist-backed draft constitution wouldn’t protect human rights. “Why do we care about what the Egyptian Constitution says about indefinite detention, when it is being practiced by the U.S. government?” she wrote in a Twitter post Monday.

Several oceans away in Tahrir Square, Egyptian women see things very differently. They charge that the Brotherhood is “paying gangs to go out and rape women and beat men” protesting Morsi’s policies.

Female protesters in Tahrir Square provided harrowing accounts of sexual assaults they say were carried out by thugs on the Islamist group’s payroll.

Read more

Why the Secularists Will Win the Egyptian Election

By Tawfik Hamid:

The results of the Egyptian presidential elections are almost final, and it appears that Mohamed Mursy of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, a representative the old guard in the Mubarak regime, will likely face one another in final run-off elections.

The results indicate that Mursy got around 25 percent of the vote, followed by Shafik at 24 percent. Other leading candidates include Hamdeen Sabahy, a left wing liberal and strong supporter of Nasser (22 percent), Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotou, who is presented as a “liberal” Muslim (17 percent), and Amr Moussa, the former Egyptian foreign minister during Mubarak’s regime and former head of the Arab League (12 percent).

These results show that voters could be divided into three main groups:

1. Supporters of implementing strict Sharia Law in the country — i.e. members of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups — voted for Mursy.

2. Those who care more for social justice supported Aboul Fotouh and Sabahi.

3. Those who want to regain the stability of the Mubarak regime supported Shafik and Moussa.

These results raise several important points.

1. There are clear indications that the Muslim Brotherhood’s popularity has taken a big hit over the last few months in which they have controlled Parliament with more than 45 percent of the vote. Given that most Salafi groups — who won more than 25 percent of parliamentary vote — ultimately supported the Brotherhood candidate, it was expected that Mursy, left,  would get around 70 percent of the vote. Many leaders of the Brotherhood were confident that their candidate would win the presidential race from the first round, so the results are considered a big blow to the expectations of the Islamists. Reasons for the party’s decline include bad performance in the parliament, breaking their words and promises on several issues, and a very negative image of some Islamist parliamentarians. And Mursy’s lack of charisma only made things worse.

2. The results also indicate that a significant percentage of Egyptians are turning against the idea of Egypt becoming a religious state. A supporter of Shafik, Sabahy and Moussa is almost certainly a supporter of a secular state. A small percentage of Aboul Fotou supporters could also be included the latter group because they believed he would not adopt strict Sharia Laws and would allow personal freedoms in the country. Many of Aboul Fotou’s supporters will consider the the Brotherhood candidate too radical and will not vote for him.

3. Shafik, right,  has a good chance to win the final presidential race. He will certainly garner support from those who voted for Moussa and another slice of those who voted for Sabahi and Aboul Fotou, mainly because they are against the Brotherhood. Additionally, most Egyptians who did not vote in the first round are likely to be against the Islamists in the final round. If they were supporters of the Islamists, their religious motivation would have inspired them to vote and to support the Brotherhood candidate. In other words, lack of participation in the first round of elections is an indication that a person is not religiously motivated. If Shafik can push non-voters of the secular variety to cast a ballot, he could gain a winning edge over Mursy. Winning the presidency will not be the piece of cake for the Brotherhood that many expected.

Read more at Radical Islam

Dr.Tawfik Hamid, is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who became later on the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Some 25, he recognized the threat of radical Islam and the need for a reformation based upon modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts. In his website, Mr. Hamid says, “I am a Muslim by faith … Christian by spirit … a Jew  by heart and above all I am a human being.” Dr. Hamid is currently a Senior Fellow and Chair of the study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Secular Candidates Take Lead in Egyptian Presidential Race

by RYAN  MAURO, FSM:

Egyptians will go into voting booths on May 23-24 to choose their next  president, a critical moment in the struggle between secularists and Islamists  for the future of Egypt. If no single candidate gets a majority of the vote, as  will probably be the case, the top two vote-getters will compete in a final  contest on June 16-17. The latest polls show secular candidates taking the lead  ahead of the election.

The most recent poll  by the Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies shows that secularists  are in first and second place: Former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa  (31.7%) and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq (22.6%). Moussa’s support fell by  about 8% over the past week, attributable to his gaffe during a debate where he  said that Iran is an Arab country. Shafiq’s support grew by about 2.6%. Some of  Moussa’s support went to Hamdeen Sabahi, a ferociously anti-American secularist,  came in fifth place in the poll. His support grew by about 5%, bringing him to  just below 12%.

However, two polls show Shafiq in the lead. The Information and Decision  Support  Center, which is run by the government, has  him at 12% and Moussa at 11%. The poll is substantiated by another  one done by the Baseera Center of the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.  It has Shafiq at 19.3% and Moussa at 14.6%.

Amr Moussa is the long-time frontrunner. He was a Foreign Minister under  President Mubarak, an ally of the U.S. He believes that Sharia Law should only  provide a loose template for governance. In his debate with Abdel Moneim  Aboul-Fotouh, an Islamist, he emphasized  that his rival wants to enforce Sharia rules, while he only wants to apply  “general principles” of Sharia in accordance with the current Mubarak-era  constitution.

Moussa is hostile to Israel but in his debate with Aboul-Fotouh, he only described  it as an “adversary,” while his opponent called Israel an “enemy.” A cable  released by Wikileaks reveals that  U.S. officials feel that he downplays the threat from Iran, though he has  condemned the Iranian regime’s interference in internal Arab affairs. Iran condemned him  after he predicted that the Arab Spring would spark a revolution against the  regime.

There is less information available about the views of Shafiq. He was Prime  Minister from January until March 2011 and has a long military career. He is  courting the persecuted Coptic Christian minority, even suggesting  that he’d choose a female Christian as his deputy if he wins. He has been endorsed  by the Copts of the U.S.A. and the Coptic Solidarity Organization.

The secularists have benefited from a sharp  fall in Islamist popularity. In February, 43% of Egyptians supported the  Muslim Brotherhood, 40% supported the Salafist Nour Party and 62% felt that it  is positive to have a strong Brotherhood presence in parliament. A Gallup poll  in April found that the statistics fell to 26%, 30% and 47% respectively.

It is unclear if Moussa or Shafiq is the frontrunner but several polls show  them as the top two candidates. If the vote on May 23-24 reflects these polls,  then Egypt will have a run-off on June 16-17 between two secularists, shutting  out the Islamists from the presidency. It will be extremely interesting to see  how Islamists react to that choice if that should happen.

The two major Islamist candidates, former Muslim Brotherhood official  Aboul-Fotouh and the Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, are tied for third  and fourth place in the Al-Ahram poll. His support increased from 9.4% last week  to 14.8%, while Aboul-Fotouh’s collapsed from 24.5% to 14.6%.  Two other  polls contradict these results, though. The Baseera  Center poll has  Aboul-Fotouh at 12.4% and Morsi in fifth place at 9%. In this poll, the Muslim  Brotherhood is even behind Sabahi, who had 9.5%. The Information and Decision  Center also has Aboul-Fotouh ahead.

Aboul-Fotouh argues that he is the consensus candidate that can bridge the  gaps between the secularists and the Islamists. He is the most complicated  candidate. He used to b a member of the al-Gamaat al-Islamiyah terrorist group  but left and rejects the group. He served in the Muslim Brotherhood for a long  time but was kicked out when he announced his candidacy because, at the time,  the Brotherhood said it would not field a candidate.

On the positive side, he advocates  some liberal Islamic viewpoints. He feels that women and Christians should be  allowed to run for president. He is against punishing Muslims who leave the  faith and banning pro-atheism books and alcohol. He states that the Islamic  Caliphate is a stage of history that has passed and need not be revived. He also  pledged to require that the Brotherhood declare its sources of financing and  register as a religious organization and not a political party.

On the other hand, he called Israel an “enemy” in his debate with Moussa. His  platform is based  on “the application of Sharia Law as a comprehensive concept for achieving the  fundamental interests of the people.” He did not leave the Muslim Brotherhood  because of theological differences. “I still belong to the Muslim Brotherhood  school of thought,” he said. He also stated,  “Contrary to fear-mongering reports, the West and the Muslim Brotherhood are not  enemies.”

Read more: Family Security Matters

“Islam is The Solution”Slogan of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

In Egypt Race, Battle Is Joined on Islam’s Role by Mohamed Morsi

 By  at NYT:

CAIRO — He has argued for barring women and non-Muslims from Egypt’s presidency on the basis of Islamic law, or Shariah. He has called for a council of Muslim scholars to advise Parliament. He has a track record of inflammatory statements about Israel, including repeatedly calling its citizens “killers and vampires.”

Mohamed Morsi is also a leading candidate to become the country’s next president.

Mr. Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s dominant Islamist group, declared last week that his party platform amounted to a distillation of Islam itself.

“This is the old ‘Islam is the solution’ platform,” he said, recalling the group’s traditional slogan in his first television interview as a candidate. “It has been developed and crystallized so that God could bless society with it.” At his first rally, he led supporters in a chant: “The Koran is our constitution, and Shariah is our guide!”

One month before Egyptians begin voting for their first president after Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Morsi’s record is escalating a campaign battle here over the place of Islam in the new democracies promised by the Arab Spring revolts.

Mr. Morsi, who claims to be the only true Islamist in the race, faces his fiercest competition from a more liberal Islamist, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a pioneering leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was expelled from the group in June for arguing for a more pluralistic approach to both Islam and Egypt. He is campaigning now as the leading champion of liberal values in the race.

Both face a third front-runner, the former foreign minister Amr Moussa, who argued this week that Egypt cannot afford an “experiment” in Islamic democracy.

The winner could set the course for Egypt’s future, overseeing the drafting of a new constitution, settling the status of its current military rulers, and shaping its relations with the West, Israel and its own Christian minority. But as the Islamists step toward power across the region, the most important debate may be the one occurring within their own ranks over the proper agenda and goals.

Mr. Morsi’s conservative record and early campaign statements have sharpened the contrast between competing Islamist visions. The Brotherhood, the 84-year-old religious revival group known here for its preaching and charity as well as for its moderate Islamist politics, took a much softer approach in the official platform it released last year. It dropped the “Islam is the solution” slogan, omitted controversial proposals about a religious council or a Muslim president and promised to respect the Camp David accords with Israel. Its parliamentary leaders distanced themselves from the Salafis, ultraconservative Islamists who won a quarter of the seats in Parliament.

The Brotherhood’s original nominee was its leading strategist, Khairat el-Shater, a businessman known for his pragmatism. He had close personal ties to Salafi leaders, but he did not leave much of a paper trail besides an opinion column in a Western newspaper stressing the Brotherhood’s commitment to tolerance and democracy. Mr. Shater was disqualified last week because of a past conviction at a Mubarak-era political trial. In his short-lived campaign he stressed the Brotherhood’s plans for economic development and rarely, if ever, brought up Islamic law.

By contrast, Mr. Morsi, 60, is campaigning explicitly both as a more conservative Islamist and as a loyal executor of Mr. Shater’s plans. He campaigns with Mr. Shater under a banner with both their faces, fueling critics’ charges that he would be a mere servant of Mr. Shater and the Brotherhood’s executive board.

But Mr. Morsi is also courting the ultraconservative Salafis, whose popular candidate, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, was also disqualified. Mr. Morsi may be tacking to the right to court the Salafis as a swing vote in the contest with Mr. Aboul Fotouh, or he may merely be expressing more conservative, older impulses within the Brotherhood.

“Some want to stop our march to an Islamic future, where the grace of God’s laws will be implemented and provide an honest life to all,” he proclaimed Saturday night at his first rally, in a Nile delta town. “Our Salafi brothers, the Islamic group, we are united in our aims and Islamic vision. The Islamic front must unite so we can fulfill this vision.”

Although he received a Ph.D. in engineering at the University of Southern California in 1982, Mr. Morsi spent the past decade as a public spokesman for the Brotherhood’s political wing, where he left a far more extensive and controversial record than Mr. Shater did. Last year, for example, Mr. Morsi led a boycott of a major Egyptian cellphone company because its founder, Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic Christian, had circulated on Twitter a cartoon of Mickey Mouse in a long beard with Minnie in a full-face veil — a joke Mr. Morsi said insulted Islam.

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