Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 29, 2012

Egypt's Islamists rush through new constitution

(Continued)

Islamist members of the panel defended the fast tracking. Hussein Ibrahim of the Brotherhood said the draft reflected thousands of hours of debate over the past six months, including input from liberals before they withdrew.

"People want the constitution because they want stability. Go to villages, to poorer areas, people want stability," he said.

Over the past week, about 30 members have pulled out of the assembly. As Thursday's session began, the assembly held a vote to formally remove 11 of those who withdrew and replace them with reserve members — who largely belong to the Islamist camp.

As the members voted on the draft article by article, each passed overwhelmingly. The draft largely reflects the conservative vision of the Islamists, with articles that rights activists, liberals and others fear will lead to restrictions on the rights of women and minorities and on civil liberties in general.

One article that passed underlined that the state will protect "the true nature of the Egyptian family ... and promote its morals and values," phrasing that suggests state control over the contents of such arts forms as books and films. The draft also contains no article specifically establishing equality between men and women because of disputes over the phrasing.

As in past constitutions, the new draft says that the "principles of Islamic law" will be the basis of law.

But a 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.

Another one seeks to define "principles" of Islamic law by saying it reflects theological doctrines and tenets. The term "principles" had long been intentionally vague, and specifying its bases could vastly expand the reach of Shariah in influencing society.

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