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Representatives of the Egyptian churches on the Constituent Assembly on Monday rejected the Nour Party’s threats to withdraw members from the assembly if the constitution’s second article is redrafted to state that Egypt is a “civil state,” or if the text states that the nation would be ruled by the “principles” of Sharia, as opposed to simply stating that Sharia will be applied outright.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, on the other hand, has agreed to describe the state as “civil” and that the main legislative source of the government would be “the principles of Sharia.”
Edward Ghaleb, Constituent Assembly member and the secretary of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Church, said that the assembly has so far only discussed the assembly’s agenda and proper procedures, and has not yet begun to discuss any articles of the constitution. However, he insisted that when the rewriting does begin, the second article should include an amendment stating “non-Muslims shall resort to legislation derived from their own religions.”
Ghaleb stressed that the church would rely on the Al-Azhar Document in the rewriting of the Constitution. He called on all parties not to begin arguing before the assembly even sets to work on redrafting the articles.
Safwat al-Bayadi, the head of the Evangelical Church in Egypt, called on prevailing political and religious forces not to marginalize others, pointing out that in the end the draft constitution would be submitted to the people for approval or rejection. He affirmed that the church insists on using the word “principles” in reference to Sharia law, and demanded that these principles be specified in the constitutional article.
The Coptic Youth Front asked the representatives of the Egyptian churches to withdraw from the Constituent Assembly if these demands are not met.
“We do not want the church to be involved in the religious mainstream’s hijacking of the constitution. We demand their withdrawal in order to maintain [Egypt] as a civil state, as the president emphasized in his speech,” the front’s general coordinator Ramy Kamel said.
Meanwhile, the 38 Copts League has delivered a letter to President Mohamed Morsy asking him to upholds the principles of equal citizenship and to abolish all forms of discrimination.
The spokesperson of the league, Nader al-Sirfy, said: “We have asked to meet with the president to talk about the second article of the constitution and its dimensions and consequences, as well as the personal affairs laws of non-Muslims and the personal affairs laws for Muslims, which are applied to all Egyptians, regardless of their religion.”
“We also wish to discuss the participation of Copts in the drafting of the constitution, as well as the selection of a Coptic vice president for the republic and rules for selecting the patriarch,” he added.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm