Egypt: Constitution panel on track despite boycott (AP) Associated Press) CAIRO, EGYPT 04/04/12 5:10 pm ET)
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CAIRO – The head of Egypt´s constitutional assembly said Wednesday
the committee will forge ahead with its work despite appeals from
liberals, Christians and others who walked out in protest against the
Islamist domination of the panel.
The walkouts are angry that the Islamist majority parliament
appointed a panel that they say is not representative of minorities
and other political factions. More than 20 panel members who
withdrew, including a representative of Al-Azhar, the prestigious
Sunni learning institute, and Christian representatives of the Coptic
Church, demand the panel be totally redrawn.
The makeup of the 100-member panel, which currently boasts 60 people
affiliated with Islamist groups, is a highly contentious issue in the
country. The new constitution will determine whether Egypt leans
toward more conservative Islam and whether the decades-old system
that concentrated power in the hands of the president will be
maintained or replaced by an empowered parliament under an Islamist
Liberals and secular-minded Egyptians, who fear an Islamist-dominated
committee will write an Islam-inflected constitution, say a new
charter should be written by a broad swath of Egyptian society and
not by a parliamentary majority.
Saad el-Katatni, the head of the panel and a leading member of the
fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood that dominates parliament, said the
walkouts have until Tuesday to consider a proposal to replace members
of the panel from a list of reserves already selected by lawmakers.
"This is a committee that was formed and elected to work," he told
the meeting in comments broadcast live on television. "We won´t hold
up its work, and we will continue our path."
Islamist panel member Nader Bakkar said the proposal is to replace 10
members from a reserve list of 40 people. If the walkouts don´t
return, reserves will be used to fill all the walkouts´ seats.
Ahmed el-Naggar, a committee member who pulled out, rejected the
proposal, saying reserve members are predominantly Islamists, and
that the suggestion doesn´t address the walkouts´ fundamental
complaint — the panel´s lopsided composition. He also said religious
institutions, such as Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, were
"Islam has become what it means to the Brotherhood and the Salafis
only," he said.
Egypt´s Islamist groups, including both the Brotherhood and the
ultraconservative Salafis, make up nearly three-quarters of
parliament after sweeping the vote in the first elections since the
uprising that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak last year.
Some Islamists on the panel say the number of walkouts is
insufficient to call for its dissolution and the creation of a new
panel from scratch, while others contend that an elected Islamist
majority is entitled to dominate the process.
Critics counter by saying that the new constitution´s legitimacy
could be threatened if the views of those who are boycotting the
process — representatives of minorities, women, religious
institutions and political factions — are left out.
With so much at stake, some liberals and secular-minded Egyptians who
have at times been critical of the generals who took power after
Mubarak´s ouster have urged the military to simply dissolve the
constitutional assembly and name a new panel.
That idea was put to rest Wednesday by Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, a
member of both the ruling military council and the committee, who
said the military won´t intervene or meddle in the constitution-
"The panel doesn´t need interference from the ruling military council
or anybody. We reaffirm this and we will protect it," Shaheen told
Some members of the panel who attended Wednesday´s session called for
the committee to be redrawn to prevent the crisis from spiraling out
"The Egyptian people must be convinced," said Sherif Abdel-Azim, a
member of the panel. "This is dangerous for the future of Egypt." (©
2012 The Associated Press 04/04/12)
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