Update: Church, Al-Azhar and political parties reach agreement on constitution

Political parties, the Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, in a meeting held at the Shura Council on Tuesday managed to resolve disputes over seven out of eight articles in the new constitution, sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The participants in the meeting agreed to keep Article 2 as it was in the 1971 Constitution, without modification.

They also agreed that Egyptian Christians and Jews may resort to their religious law in matters of personal status and religious affairs, and that they may choose their spiritual leaders without interference from the state.

They rejected a proposal that makes the Al-Azhar the final reference for the interpretation of the principles of Sharia and Islamic jurisprudence, replacing it with the Council of Senior Scholars.

They agreed to cancel the articles on alms, restricting freedom of the press, imprisonment of journalists, closing down newspapers, disparaging God (which is to be replaced by a law criminalizing contempt of religions), and rejected the establishment of a joint body for Islamic and Christian Endowments.

Meeting participants postponed the discussion of the status of women in the constitution due to time constraints. Some Salafis had requested to allow the marriage of underage girls, arguing that the Sharia did not specify a certain age for marriage, which was rejected by the rest of the assembly members, including the representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The sources quoted Ayman Nour, founder of the Ghad al-Thawra Party, as saying that Constituent Assembly head Hossam al-Gheriany, who was unable to attend the meeting, told him the adoption of the articles of the constitution would be by general consensus and not vote.

Former presidential candidate Amr Moussa and Al-Sayed al-Badawy, president of the Wafd Party, have invited the political forces represented in the Constituent Assembly to a meeting to declare their final position on the assembly that is drafting the new constitution.

They said in a joint statement on Wednesday that the representation of those forces in the assembly should be contingent on a constitution that represents all the people with their different sects and affiliations, that enjoys a national consensus, and that does not contradict the Al-Azhar document.

The meeting, which is slated for next Wednesday at the Wafd Party headquarters, is to be attended by 32 members of the assembly, 25 alternate members representing various political forces, and representatives of the Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church and the assembly’s judicial bodies.

The statement said Farid Ismail of the Freedom and Justice Party is also invited to the meeting.

A number of assembly members have resigned, and others have threatened to resign, in protest against Islamist domination of the assembly.

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