New Egyptian Constitution Betrays Coptic Christians
The Coptic Christians are our brethren and have a right to their homeland
America's children (and many parents) woke up bleary-eyed Christmas morning in excited anticipation of colorfully wrapped presents waiting for them under the Christmas tree. But it was a mixed bag for the Coptic Christians of Egypt. Their new government stuffed an Islamist constitution in their stockings.
It was a mixed bag for the Coptic Christians of Egypt this year. Their new government stuffed an Islamist-based constitution in their stockings. This New Year's Eve, people around the world will celebrate the coming year in hope of a new and better future. But the Copts will pray that they will be able to live in freedom from persecution and celebrate Christmas in peace next year.
The controversy surrounding Egypt's new constitution goes back to April of this year, when the General Council for the Coptic Orthodox Church unanimously decided to withdraw from talks on the constitution. Shortly thereafter committee members from the Coptic Catholic Church and the Protestant Christian community followed. But it was not just Christians who were frustrated by the Islamists. Many members from Egypt's secular parties also pulled out of the talks for the same reason.
The reason for these pullouts was that the drafting committee for writing Egypt's new constitution was dominated by Islamists. Christians and liberal Muslims believed the committee should represent the nation's diversity, but Islamists said it should reflect the composition of parliament. Islamist groups made sweeping victories in the recent parliamentary elections, and they claimed that their victories gave them a mandate to Islamize Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood was the biggest winner. They secured approximately 47 percent of the available seats in the lower house. The Salafis came in second with about 25 percent. Both Islamist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, did almost as well in the upper house. However, a court did not agree that they had a mandate to Islamize the country. Consequently, the court dissolved the committee charged with writing Egypt's new constitution, or at least they attempted to dissolve it.
In November, President Morsi responded to the delays surrounding the drafting of the constitution. In an effort to hold a referendum on a new constitution before the end of the year, he issued a declaration giving himself sweeping, dictatorial-style power. President Morsi thereby banned all challenges to his decrees and decisions. He also declared that no court could dissolve the committee drafting the constitution, and he fired the head of the judiciary.
The President's actions unleashed a firestorm. A group of judges said, "The state of law is at stake." The Vice-President of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Tahani al-Gebali, said that Morsi was now an "illegitimate president." And Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said, "Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt's new pharaoh."
Some protestors trashed the offices of the Freedom and Justice Party and the Muslim Brotherhood. President Morsi was forced to flee for his safety as protestors marched on the presidential palace in Cairo and clashed with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. At one point, an estimated 200,000 protestors flooded into Cairo's famous Tahrir Square, the home of the Egyptian revolution two years ago.
President Morsi initially responded by claiming that he was for all Egyptians. "I will not be biased against any son of Egypt," he said. He tried to present himself as the guardian of national stability and claimed to be in favor of genuine and strong opposition. He said, "I am the guarantor of that and I will protect for my brothers in the opposition all their rights so they can exercise their role."
But the protestors did not fall for the President's rhetoric: Their passion merely burned brighter. In order to quell the protests, Morsi was eventually forced to back down. But it was a short-lived, hollow victory for the protestors. Despite assurances that minorities would be fairly represented on the committee to draft the new Egyptian constitution, it never happened.
The final constitution was drafted by a committee dominated by Islamists, and the Muslim Brotherhood was able to get the new constitution approved just before Christmas. The approval process was based on a two-stage referendum. Voter turnout was unexpectedly low. Only one-third of the people had enough interest in the referendum to cast a vote, but most of the actual voters apparently favored a constitution. The referendum passed by almost a 2 to 1 ratio.
Many people are now worried that "Egypt will witness a new phase of repression." This especially concerns religious minorities such as the Coptic Christian community. One of their main concerns involves religious freedom and Article 2 of the ...
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