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Egypt’s Islamists push for Sharia-based statute

Powerful Muslim Brotherhood, key Salafist Al Nour Party stay away from rally

Gulf News

Cairo: Hundreds of Islamists, coming from different areas of Egypt, on Friday congregated in Tahrir Square in Cairo, demanding that the new constitution be based on Sharia.

“The people want the application of God’s Sharia,” chanted the demonstrators, mainly from the radical Islamists or Salafists.

They were joined by others who marched from mosques around Cairo, holding placards reading: “Islam is coming”.

“Liberals and secularists are causing a big noise and exercising pressure inside the Constituent Assembly in order to ensure that the final constitution will be tailored to suit their purposes,”Mustafa Halim, an Islamic theology student, told Gulf News.

“Unfortunately, some Muslim powers inside the assembly are helping secularists to achieve what they are after,” added Halim, who said he had come from the southern city of Assiut to attend the rally dubbed “Friday of Sharia Support”.

Some organizers, who included 22 Islamist groups and political parties, also launched a campaign in Tahrir to collect signatures supporting enforcement of a strict of version of Sharia in the Muslim-majority Egypt.

The campaign was titled “Sharia is the origin of the constitution. No article should be allowed to violate it.” The endorsements will be presented to the Constituent Assembly, according to the organizers.

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the key Salafist Al Nour Party boycotted the rally, saying that the assembly should be given the chance to draft the constitution, expected to be put up for a public vote next month before approval.

Islamists have dominated the political scene in Egypt since a revolt forced long-standing president Hosni Mubarak to step down in February last year.

Their rise has triggered fears among the country’s liberals and Christian minority about possible curbs on freedoms.

“The Islamic identity of Egypt is not an issue of dispute,” said Mahmoud Guzlan, the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood.

He called on different political powers to avoid “igniting the situation” in the country and help reach consensus on the constitution.

A 1971 constitution, revoked after Mubarak’s ouster, stipulated that principles of Sharia are the main source of legislation, apparently to accommodate the country’s Christian minority. The stipulation is likely to be kept in the final draft of the new constitution, along with an addition denoting origins of Islamic code, rules and views of the key Sunni Muslim scholars.

Salafists have repeatedly demanded that the word “principles’ be dropped from the new constitution so that it would explicitly state that Sharia is the main source of legislation in Egypt.

Liberal opponents say that the bulk of the Islamic code is already in effect in Egypt and that attention should be focused on improving today-to-day life for the people, including reducing poverty and instituting social justice.