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article imageOp-Ed: Is Egypt heading for Sharia law?

By Raluca Besliu     Oct 21, 2012 in Politics
On Friday, October 19, thousands of Egyptians took once more to the streets of Cairo to protest the Muslim Brotherhoods' (MB) dominance in the Constitutional Assembly, a body responsible for drafting Egypt’s new, first post-revolution Constitution.
This is the second consecutive Friday during which Egyptians have manifested their disapproval of the Assembly’s members. Last week’s protest turned violent, as pro-MB protesters demanding the retrial of senior officials from President Mubarak’s government clashed with the Brotherhood’s liberal and secularist opponents calling for the abolition of the current Constitutional Assembly. The street fights left around 150 people injured.
Last Wednesday, the Constitutional Assembly made public a first draft of the new Constitution. Many of the liberal protesters fear that, as a result of the Islamist-dominated Assembly, the Constitution could be unfair, by predominantly reflecting Islamist values. Instead, as one of the leaders of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition stressed in an interview with Xinhua, the Constitution must represent “all sectors of the Egyptian society.” Moreover, some protesters have indicated their disapproval of several articles contained in the first draft presented last week as rolling back women and minority rights and increasing the role of religion in the state. On Tuesday, October 23, Egypt’s Administrative Court, which has already postponed reaching a final decision three times before, is expected to rule whether the Islamist-dominated Assembly should be dissolved and replaced with one that would better reflect the Egyptian’s society diversity of groups and opinions.
While the protesters may have liberal claims, it is worth reflecting on the extent to which their demands to dissolve the MB-dominated Constitutional Assembly and create a more liberal Constitution capture the wider Egyptian public’s opinion. Looking back at post-revolutionary political events, the MB-created Freedom and Justice Party won one third of the votes in the 2011 Parliamentary elections, thus occupying 47 percent of the Parliamentary seats. Moreover, the 2012 Presidential elections led to the appointment as President of Mohamed Morsi, the MB’s Candidate. Although he only won by a small margin, winning only 51 percent of the votes, he still has the support of over half of the voters. On a slightly different note, with a population of around 82,5 million people, a few thousand protesters in Cairo certainly does not seem as an accurate representation of the majority of the Egyptian public’s opinion on the matter at hand.
It will be interesting to see the Administrative Court’s decision on Tuesday. If the Assembly is allowed to continue its activity, this will undoubtedly move Egypt further from the democratic values that seemed to have been the driving force of its 2011 Revolution and Mubarak’s deposition. Nevertheless, the Islamist-influenced Constitution seems to be what the majority of the Egyptian population wishes, as suggested by the aforementioned post-revolutionary electoral results. Ironically, allowing the majority to democratically decide on this particular issue might bring Egypt closer to a less democratic regime, possibly centered around Sharia law. This certainly seems to be one of the main targets of the current government, as Saad al-Katatny, the newly elected chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party, recently declared.
While to a Western democracy-loving audience this might seem an intolerable outcome, one of democracy’s fundamental principles is the majority rule. So, if most Egyptians currently want an Islamist Constitution and possibly, in the near future, the establishment of Sharia law, can one even make the case for the deposition of the current Constitutional Assembly called out by a handful of liberal-minded individuals without discrediting the judgment and rights of millions more?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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