Egypt's Copts latest to boycott constitution panel

Published Monday, April 2, 2012

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church has decided to boycott an Islamist-dominated panel charged with drafting the future constitution, the official MENA news agency reported on Monday.

The agency reported that the decision was taken unanimously by the 20 members of the Holy Synod to remove the two church officials who sit on the committee.

The church "considers it inappropriate to continue to be represented given the reservations of various political forces on how the constitutional commission was composed," the report said.

The commission comprises of 100 members selected by the parliament, but is mainly made up of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi fundamentalists who are also the majority among lawmakers.

Several parties and secular figures in recent days have withdrawn from the panel, saying their presence was used only as collateral for the Islamists to draft a basic law that reflects their political-religious ideologies.

Al-Azhar, the key reference institution in Sunni Islam, also announced its withdrawal, distancing its ideology of moderate Islam from that of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi fundamentalists.

Azhar said in a statement it was pulling its two members out as it would “not participate in the assembly to draft the constitution [as it had] reservations over not being appropriately represented.”

The Copts or Egyptian Christians constitute around 10 percent of the country's population of about 82 million.

The string of withdrawals has added pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood to abolish its ill-designed constitutional assembly, and recreate another panel more inclusive of Egyptian society.

The church's decision to boycott the panel comes after the Brotherhood said on Saturday it was nominating a candidate for the presidential election on May 23, breaking its earlier promise of not contesting.

The decision to nominate the group's deputy leader Khairat al-Shater – a business tycoon and the group's main financier – has sent shock waves through political circles.

The Brotherhood had originally said it would not field a candidate but has clashed with the ruling military council in recent weeks, leading it to renege on its earlier promise.

An interview emerged on Monday in which al-Shater denied that he would run for the post. The video is dated 8 February 2012, only seven weeks before he announced his candidacy.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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