Christians Fear Sharia will be Foundation of New Constitution
Washington, D.C. (January 17, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Muslim Brotherhood leader will be installed as speaker of Egypt’s new parliament after Islamists swept the popular vote in the country’s elections last week, raising fears among Christians and secularists that new laws heavily influenced by Sharia may soon be instituted.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party nominated its Secretary General Mohamed Saad al-Katatni as the speaker of the newly-elected lower house of parliament on Monday. Following the third and final phase of Egypt’s elections that ended last week, the Brotherhood is projected to secure 232 seats, or 46 percent, of the 498 elected parliament seats. The extremist Salafists’ al-Nour Party, which follows the strict Wahhabi doctrine of Islam and opposes equality with non-Muslims, won 113 seats, or 23 percent of the overall vote. The lower house, known as the People’s Assembly, is the most important body in Egypt’s bicameral system.
Egypt’s elected parliament will be given the authority to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before the presidential election is held in June. Many Christians and moderates fear that an Islamist majority in the parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, which will greatly restrict the rights of non-Muslims.
“The power of the article in the constitution often depends on where it’s placed. Currently, article one is about citizenship and equality, while article two is about the Islamic religion. That will soon change,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told ICC. “The Salafists are talking about banning alcohol and monitoring tourism. They’re going to take the country toward a very dark time. We’re going backwards; we’re not going forward at all… Some Christians will leave the country, some will stand up, and some will leave it as it is, trusting in God.”
Meanwhile, the Brotherhood has pulled away from the popular opinion that Egypt’s new parliament should immediately replace the military-appointed government, raising concerns that the Brotherhood is tacitly allying with the military for political gain. Alliances formed by the Brotherhood will likely set the agenda of the new parliament, including its appointment of an assembly to draft the constitution. The military has made clear its intention to influence the process and has opted for autonomy from parliament oversight. Nonetheless, the military may be the only force in Egypt stalling the country’s complete transition into an Islamic state governed by Sharia law.
“Somewhere between two-thirds and 80 percent of Egyptian Muslims support radical Islamist parties. Only the army, which is eager to suppress moderates but would rather make deals than fight the Islamists, stands in the way of radicalization,” said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel.
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In May 2011, Salafists were responsible for attacking two churches and killing twelve people, mainly Christians, in Cairo. The same group now holds one-fourth of the seats in Egypt’s new parliament and there is no evidence to suggest that violence committed by the Salafists will cease. Instead, Salafists will be eager to push the country toward Islamism and, in doing so, will target Christians, liberals, and women demanding rights. The question remains: will the Muslim Brotherhood be driven by Salafists toward radicalism or will they continue to appease the West and liberals by appearing moderate? In either case, continuing attacks on Christians are inevitable.”