Constitutional referendum splits Egypt's preachers

Preachers who back the draft constitution say the document does not disregard Islamic laws or reduce the role of religion or religious institutions in Egyptian public life...

Constitutional referendum splits Egypt's preachers

Egypt's leading religious preachers are divided over the nation's new draft constitution, which is slated to be put before a national referendum on January 14 and 15.

While some preachers are urging their followers to boycott the vote – citing the draft's alleged disregard for Islamic laws – others are telling would-be voters that the draft charter shows unparalleled respect for these laws.

Prominent Qatar-based Egyptian preacher Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, for his part, recently described the entire referendum process as a "farce."

"Those who drafted the constitution didn't have the interests of the Egyptian people in mind," al-Qaradawi told Qatari daily Al-Watan. "In a free vote in 2012, Egyptians approved a constitution drafted by prominent Egyptian experts."

Al-Qaradawi joins a long list of other Islamic preachers who are lobbying against the new draft charter, which, they say, shows blatant disregard for Islamic laws and the role religious institutions should play in Egypt's decision-making process.

This list includes many of Egypt's leading religious lights, including Abu Ishaq al-Huweini, a prominent preacher who spent decades examining the sayings of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

The draft constitution's opponents also include a large number of Salafist preachers, who recently spoke out against the July 3 ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi at the hands of Egypt's military.

Al-Huweini's son recently declared via Facebook that his father thought voters should boycott the referendum since the new draft constitution had been written by figures selected by the "coup authorities."

Islamic thinker Mohamed Emara, a member of the Islamic Research Academy, the highest intellectual body at Egypt's Al-Azhar religious institution, agreed.

"The most dangerous thing about the new amendments is that they lend legitimacy to the June 30 coup," Emara said in reference to the demonstrations last summer that culminated in Morsi's ouster by the military.

"They [government-appointed members of the constitution-amending committee] abolished the constitutional articles stipulating that Egypt is part of the Arab and Islamic nation," he added.

Constitutional amendment is only one step on Egypt's transitional roadmap, which was imposed by the military following Morsi's ouster. The roadmap also calls for parliamentary and presidential elections sometime this year.

Strong support

Supporters of the new draft are equally vehement. This support is spearheaded by preachers and men of religion who generally see the referendum as a step towards sought-after political stability.

Preachers who back the draft constitution say the document does not disregard Islamic laws or reduce the role of religion or religious institutions in Egyptian public life.

"Egypt's interest is served by voter participation and approval of the constitution," said Sheikh Yasser Borhami, a leading member of the Salafist Call, the parent organization of the Salafist Nour Party.

Joining Borhami in his support for the draft charter is a large number of noted preachers, including two of Egypt's former grand muftis and the current Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar.

All of them say that approving the constitution will help Egypt surmount its current troubles and regain a degree of its lost stability.

"Egypt's future will be in peril if there isn't a high voter turnout and the draft constitution isn't approved," Borhami warned.

Egypt has been hard hit by turmoil since Morsi's ouster and subsequent detention six months ago. Since then, Morsi's supporters have staged daily protests that are usually countered by a firm police response, which has often resulted in casualties.

The nation's universities, too, have recently entered the fray amid loud protests by the ousted president's supporters.

Al-Azhar University in particular has become a flashpoint of opposition to Morsi's ouster and to what some students describe as the "arbitrary" arrest of both their colleagues and pro-Morsi political figures.

Sheikh Ali Gomaa, meanwhile, Egypt's former grand mufti, claims the new draft constitution will allow religious preachers to spread Islamic teachings throughout the country.

"Go to the referendum and vote 'yes' to the constitution and be certain that God supports it," Gomaa asserted, addressing the Egyptian people at a recent conference on the draft charter.

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Last Mod: 07 Ocak 2014, 18:06
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