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Coptic leaders say Egypt’s constitution ‘prepares the way for Islamic caliphate’

By on Monday, 7 January 2013

Christian activist Mona Makram Obeid speaks at a session in parliament after the approval of the new constitution (PA photo)

Christian activist Mona Makram Obeid speaks at a session in parliament after the approval of the new constitution (PA photo)

Egypt’s new constitution “prepares the way for an Islamic caliphate”, according to the acting leader of Coptic Catholics, who is among three bishops to condemn the document as a fundamental attack on human rights.

The bishops expressed their profound disappointment with the constitution signed into law on December 26, saying only extremist Muslims’ rights were guaranteed by the new document and that at particular risk were women, young people and religious minorities.

Bishop Kyrillos William, administrator of the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria, said: “We were waiting for a constitution that represents the whole of Egypt but instead we have one that only represents one group of people.

“We can see that the religious orientation of this constitution prepares the way for an Islamic caliphate.”

Bishop William was among three Coptic Catholic bishops, including Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor and Bishop Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza, who told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the constitution was a threat to civil liberties.

Bishop William said: “Everywhere in the constitution there are clauses saying everything should be in accordance with Islamic law.

“The president [Mohammed Morsi] promised to build a civic, modern and democratic state but we do not think that this constitution is in any way in accordance with that.”

Among the bishops, there was concern that the constitution would force non-Muslim women to wear Islamic headscarves and would legitimise the marriage of under-age girls.

The bishops said that, apparently in line with Sharia law, the constitution permits women who are “sexually mature” to marry, which they said strongly implies acceptance of teenage marriages.

Bishop Zakaria said: “The Islamists want to apply Sharia law especially with regard to women. It is very bad for women and very bad for non-Muslims in society.”

Bishop Aziz said the constitution was “not good news” and “does not take into consideration human rights for all”. He said it implicitly sanctions child labour, only warning against forcing youngsters to do work that is too demanding for them.

Citing Article 219, Bishop William said: “The constitution not only outlines the principles of Sharia but describes in detail all of the values and opinions contained in the Sharia. It will be terrible – everything will be interpreted according to Sharia.”

The bishops said this heavy insistence on Sharia undermined the credibility of Article 3 in the constitution which asserts the rights of Christians and Jews as well as Muslims.

Bishop Zakaria said: “It was already hard to get permission to repair a church in [former] President Mubarak’s time, now it will be ever harder.

“But it will be much worse for Shiite Muslims, Baha’is, Buddhists and others who are not even recognised in the constitution.”

Both Bishop William and Bishop Aziz accused the government of severe electoral malpractice in last month’s constitution referendum, saying that with a voter turnout of only 33 per cent the president had no right to pass it into law.

Bishop William referred to reports that ballot slips rejecting the constitution had been found in toilets and that pro-constitution campaigners had bribed voters with oil, rice and other goods.

The referendum followed long-running controversy over the drafting of the constitution.

The Coptic Orthodox Church withdrew from the talks on the constitution in April in protest at the reportedly Islamist content proposed. Coptic Catholic and Protestant representatives quickly followed suit. Secular parties also later pulled out.

The bishops said the parliamentary elections due later this year will be a vote of confidence on the new constitution and the government’s handling of it.

Bishop William said: “The people should fight for their rights. The Church cannot speak in their name but we can make people aware of the issues through our Justice and Peace committees.”

  • Damascene

    Of course the Islamist movements are aiming at a Caliphate. It is only the State Department, Foreign Office, and the like who refuse to admit this. The first victims of this coming arrangement (which will take time since it is not obvious how an agreed Caliph would be selected) will be Westernised and moderate/secularised  Muslims and any non-Muslims left in the Middle Eastern countries.

  • Parasum

    “The Coptic Orthodox Church withdrew from the talks on the constitution
    in April in protest at the reportedly Islamist content proposed. Coptic
    Catholic and Protestant representatives quickly followed suit. Secular
    parties also later pulled out.”

    ## And they are surprised at the result ?

  • Benedict Carter

    One could almost think, couldn’t one, that the West’s involvement in the Middle East these last fifteen years, supporting “democracy” and so on and so forth, was actually planned to extipate Christianity from the region. 

    But surely that couldn’t be true. 

  • Johnnewbery485

     It is called politics. If you sit down at the table with the agenda that fails to recognise your own position there are only two actions possible. If you stay then you legitimise the result (“silence gives consent” principle). If you walk out then the result is essentially the same except your disagreement is clear.

  • Damascene

     Mr Parasum, you must be a graduate of the Neville Chamberlain School of Innocence. Of course they are not surprised. The outcome would have been exactly the same whatever they did, though by standing aloof they may have forced the Islamists to treat more cautiously. In Turkey and Syria, they retain tame Christians to lull Western suspicions of what is going on.

    Wake up to the danger we —and non-fundamentalist Muslims and Christians in the Middle East– are facing.

  • ChezC3

    A Caliphate wouldn’t in and of itself be a bad thing necessarily.  The problem lies where you have “scholars” who have ambitions other than the fulfillment of Sharia.  True scholarship — that espoused  by individuals such as Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakur, along with many others whose names I don’t know(the two mentioned being American Islamic scholars) honestly but know they’re out there are the individuals who must be listened to.   Sharia is nothing more than a catachism which when implemented CORRECTLY protects Religion, Life, Property, Lineage (family) and Individual Dignity.  This is TRUE Sharia as passed down through the Quran and the Sunnah.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    TRUE  followers of Christ the Lord should obey what he said, “love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you…” and then he will act on their behalf  through HIS HOLY SPIRIT and it will bring the best and most happy and blessed result. Was it not what happened in the beginning of the Christian centuries?

    When the Word of God is ritualised or made secondary in practice good things will not and cannot happen.

    THE WORD  OF GOD is the foundational reality of TRUE  Christian life. When it is practically treated that way all Christians will  become APOSTLES. That will be the END OF ALL EVILS, for all the world will be evangelised  and Christ the Lord will be the GOD all Peoples on earth, THE GOD above all gods.

    In the big Christian Churches clever men who are leaders go by their own god-head and do not obey the THE WORD OF GOD in practice. They relativise Christ the Lord by their human thinking, philosophy and theology. They don’t want to lay down their life.They keep the people occupied with secondary things and have a good time in terms of their natural self.

    Jesus the Lord opened up the way to APOSTLESHIP to all who made themselves worthy of himself : Saul who became Paul, the seventy-two disciples, Mary Magdalene (Apostle to the Apostles), the Young man who wanted to bury his father and then come and follow the Lord and many more later on.

    APOSTLESHIP (AND NOT LEADERSHIP) ONLY WILL SAVE THE WORLD. Let us all yearn and pray for this most wonderful gift of the SPIRIT OF JESUS.

  • Parasum

    What is wrong with sharia law ?  The name has become a bogeyman, like Communism – so just what is it about this form of Muslim jurisprudence that is such a Bad Thing ? Besides, Egypt is very largely a Muslim country – why should laws based on the religious tradition of Islam *not* be in force ?

  • Parasum

     Sounds rather self-defeating – a not-so-splendid isolation. Not exactly what Christ founded the Church to be – but, who cares about that ? Shouldn’t His followers behave better than politicians ? One expects them to go off in a huff when they don’t get what they want: Christians are supposed to be better than that.  If bishops are merely politicians in fancy dress with fancy titles, what’s the point of having them ? 

  • Parasum

    The “danger” is too like the Yellow Peril, the Red Menace, & the Catholic Threat to be credible – alarmists and trouble-makers  made no end of a fuss about each of them, but Australia was not over-run by Japs, England & the USA were not turned upside-down by Catholics, & the West was not destroyed by the Communist hordes. Yet the propaganda  against these groups painted them in the most lurid colours. How is Islam any different ? Panicking is a mug’s game – there has been far too much of it; what became of learning from the past ?

  • Damascene

     The goal of a Caliphate would be expansion and if possible conquest of the West.

    As for you Mr Parasum, come and live in a Sharia country. You write like a teenager who knows nothing about life. And you might begin by looking at what has happened to Christian communities in the Middle East. Are you prepared to be a second class sub-citizen?

  • Damascene

      “The name has become a bogeyman, like Communism” You don’t think that Communism was a problem? Again, ask the people who lived under it.

    “Egypt is very largely a Muslim country – why should laws based on the religious tradition of Islam *not* be in force ?” Well you will find democracy and pluralism hard to achieve under the Sheria. Why should Anglican canon law not be enforced in the UK? If it had been applied with the severity of the Sheria, I think the UK would still be very Anglican.

    By the way the Egyptian legal system is already ‘based on the religious tradition of Islam’. It is strict application of sheria which the Islamists are calling for and the elimination of non-Islam practices and people, hence the pressures on the Copts.

  • Benedict Carter

    Sometimes I wonder about you, Parasum …..

  • Damascene

     You are saying that no threat is ever genuine? A childish position,
    Australia would certainly have been invaded by the Japanese if the Americans had not come to their rescue in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Many other places up to Burma were conquered.
    The West won the Cold War because it was strong and vigilant. For many countries however Communist rule was a reality which lasted decades and blighted many lives.

    Reread what this news story was about and google what has happened to the Copts in recent years. And probably wait another half decade or so until you attain your majority.

  • mrsoriordan

     Would it be because it is a barbaric 7th century belief/political system and it’s founder broke every one of the Ten Commandments of God and yet is called “the perfect man” by his followers? – Rene

  • ChezC3

    and Moses didnt get into Canaan why? Second thoughts?  A common misunderstanding about Islam and Sharia is the cultural norms that attached itself to it are mistaken for being it.  For example NOTHING in Sharia demands that the sexes pray seperately.  That was a cultural thing added.  There are many more, too many in fact but I hope this (which is kinda a big thing for those looking inside the fishbowl) provides evidence enough to delve deeper if one is so inclined.  If we’re seeking true dialogue, that is…

  • ChezC3

    like world-wide Christendom?

  • mrsoriordan

    Islam has not changed since the 7th century. It is unchangeable as the Qur’an is the word of God and is eternal, unchanging. Sharia is a legal framework taken from specific Islamic teachings to regulate public and private aspects of life.    “…Under sharia the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, and the television you
    watch would all be censored. Behavior in public is legally restricted
    and controlled….. Sharia is an intolerant system that
    threatens the Western ideals of “liberty and justice for all”. Sharia
    views non-Muslims as second class citizens, sanctions inequality between
    men and women, prescribes cruel and unusual punishments for crimes, and
    promotes a restrictive business environment that strangles the freedoms
    of capitalism…”

  • ChezC3

    I think you’ve confused Sharia with Fiqh and the different madhab’s which interprete it differently. This is a prime example of what i’m talking about. Entire belief structures of opposition built upon misunderstandings, urabn myths, and the misinterpretation of some by which those misunderstandings and myths find justification.

    Don’t be naive, Western ideals of liberty and justice are sentimental notions which have no basis in reality. Western culture is repressed as ever, don’t confuse secular governments allowing you to satisfy every carnal pleasure in the public with liberty and freedom.

    Catholicism like Islam is (was actually) against usury. Islam simply didn’t allow practical relativism to choke the life out of it. Capitalism doesn’t promote freedom. It provides slavery and exploitation, nothing more.

  • mrsoriordan

     Yes please look to the past. Muslim invaders took over much of North Africa and the ME by the sword. They pressed on into Europe taking Spain and were on their way to France but were stopped by Charles Martel. Also re-visit the Battle of Lepanto. To forget the lessons of the past would be a very big mistake!! – Rene