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Christians Fear Enactment of Sharia Law
Washington, D.C. (February 29, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that an Islamist was elected speaker of Egypt’s upper house of parliament on Tuesday, consolidating the Muslim Brotherhood’s control of the country’s legislature and raising fears among Christians and secularists that new laws heavily influenced by Sharia may soon be enacted.
Ahmed Fahmy, of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), was appointed speaker of the Shura Council during the chamber’s inaugural session on February 28. The appointment follows the selection of FJP Secretary General Mohamed Saad al-Katatni as the speaker of the lower house of parliament, or the People’s Assembly, on January 23, solidifying the Muslim Brotherhood’s control over both legislative bodies.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful Islamic organization, holds 47 percent of the 508-seat People’s Assembly and 59 percent of the Shura Council’s 180 elected seats. The Salafist al-Nour Party, which follows the strict Wahhabi doctrine of Islam, also made strong showings in elections for both chambers, holding 23 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly and 25 percent of the elected seats in the Shura Council. An additional 90 lawmakers are expected to be appointed to the Shura Council by either the ruling generals or the next president.
Many Coptic Christians and liberals accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of participating in fraudulent elections and using social programs and religion to secure votes. “The Brotherhood had booths in front of polling stations telling people, many who are illiterate, how to vote and who to vote for,” said activist Mary Ibrahim Daniel, whose brother Mina Daniel was killed by the military during protests on October 9. “They are also very well funded and have lots of money to help the poor. If someone is hungry and you give them a loaf of bread, they could care less about politics. What they care about is feeding their children. I don’t think the elections [adequately] represented the voice of the Egyptian people.”
The political debate focused largely on religion and not on the issues of social justice that we wanted to get across to the electorate,” Khaled El-Sayed, of the Socialist Popular Alliance, told Ahram Online. “And neither the liberals nor the Islamists will be concerned with social justice when sitting in parliament or when drawing up a new constitution.”
The two houses are due to hold a joint session later this week to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before the presidential election scheduled for June. Many Christians and secularists fear that an Islamist majority parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, which will greatly restrict the rights of non-Muslims.
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “There is grave concern that Egypt’s Islamist-led chambers of parliament will center the new constitution on Islamic law that will prove detrimental to the country’s minorities and liberals. Since Egypt’s uprising a year ago, Salafis – who hold about one-fourth of the seats in each house of parliament – called the appointment of a Christian governor in Upper Egypt ‘anti-Islamic’, protested the killing of Osama bin Laden, and attacked churches, Sufi shrines and mosques, liquor stores, and other institutions or businesses they deem contrary to Islam. Will the Muslim Brotherhood, who has the largest voice in parliament, continue to appear moderate or join Salafis by voting in favor of Sharia? Egypt’s Christians hope and pray for freedom and equality, but fear the worst is yet to come.”