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Egyptian Muslims rally for nation to retain Shariah law in new constitution

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year, Egypt has grappled with forging ahead with a new government and new constitution that will serve all Egyptians, regardless of creed or religion. There are fears that the nation's Muslim majority will insist on a new constitution based on Shariah law, a super-strict interpretation of Islam that metes out harsh justice for the simplest infractions.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Under Mubarak, Egypt enjoyed a relatively lenient life due to that government's open interpretation of Muslim law. Controversy now surrounds the new constitution on account of the wording of the second amendment. In the former constitution, the wording stated that the "principles of Islamic Shariah" are the basis of legislation. Liberals favor this interpretation as it refers to the broad ideas of Islam.

However, Egyptian ultraconservatives, such as the Muslim Bortherhood are supporting a more strict application of the law. They want the wording changed to state that the basis of law will be "the rulings of Shariah." This implies that Egypt's laws could be left to the interpretation of religious scholars.
   
In response, over 10,000 ultraconservative Muslims demonstrated last week in downtown Cairo to demand that Egypt's new constitution be based on the rulings of Islamic law.

While the departure of Mubarak has ushered in the rise of formerly repressed Islamists to power, many Islamists are not in agreement over the interpretation of Shariah and its place in the constitution.

Conservatives want the panel tasked with writing the constitution override liberal and secular objections and include language that could see religious scholars influencing legislation. The panel is led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the powerful Islamist group from which the country's new President Mohammed Morsi hails.

Protestors have chanted "Shariah is our constitution," and, "The people demand the application of God's law."

In the meantime, the current 100-member Egyptian assembly has just a handful of women, some of them from the Brotherhood, and eight Christians. It is the second constitutional assembly to be formed. The first body was dissolved earlier this year by court order after liberals and seculars walked out over complaints that Islamists were trying to dominate the process.

The liberals on the panel are once again threatening to walk out. Egypt's new Coptic pope, Tawadros II, said this week that the constitution will not be acceptable if it is overtly religious. Courts are also currently reviewing lawsuits calling for the assembly to be disbanded for a second time.

Panel members say they plan to put the charter to a nationwide referendum before the end of the year.

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