Cairo: Egypt’s radical Islamists or Salafists are increasingly displeased with the country’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood allegedly for breaking a promise to draft a constitution based on a strict version of Islamic Sharia law.
“We just want to see Sharia enforced in this Muslim-majority country,” said Mahmoud Abdul Hamid, a member of the Salafist Call movement. “If the new constitution does not comply with Sharia, we will expose all Islamist and non-Islamist groups, who have stood against us in the battle for drafting an Islamic constitution in the Constituent Assembly,” he added.
A 100-member commission, set up by the now-disbanded parliament, is being tasked with writing the constitution, which will, among other things, define Egypt’s identity. The draft will be put for a public vote likely later this week before it is finally approved.
Liberals accuse Islamists of seeking to “Islamise” the constitution. Islamists have kept a high profile on Egypt’s political scene since a popular revolt toppled long-standing president Hosni Mubarak under whose rule they were violently suppressed.
One-time allies of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists supported the group’s Mohammad Mursi in his successful bid to be Egypt’s first Islamist president in June. However, Salafists say that the Brotherhood has ignored them in key state posts after Mursi’s win.
Last week, Salafists did not join a mass rally called by the Brotherhood in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to show support for Mursi against criticisms of liberals and leftists.
“The first copy of the constitution does not reflect what was agreed on in the Constituent Assembly,” said Yasser Burhami, a leading Salafist and a member of the constitution panel. “For example, the draft does not include an article stating that exercising rights and freedoms should not violate society’s values,” he added, claiming that a lack of such a provision will allow Satanism.
“Those who voted for Mursi [as a president] wanted him to apply Sharia,” said Burhami.
Accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of “dereliction”, the Sunna People Group, another Salafist movement, vowed not to accept any constitution, which “will not explicitly cancel all laws that do not comply with Sharia”.
Several Salafist groups have said they will hold mass protests on November 2 against what they call an un-Islamic constitution.
The Muslim Brotherhood has, meanwhile, played down rifts with Salafists. “There was a misunderstanding among Islamist groups resulting form misreading the first rough copy of the constitution,” said Mahmoud Ghuzlan, the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood.
He added that the controversial draft had been made public without including amendments that were introduced later.
“An article has been added to define the phrase ‘principles of Sharia’, to clearly denote origins of Islamic code, rules and views of the key Sunni [Muslim] scholars, on which there is a consensus among all Islamist groups,” he added.
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.
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.