Amid ongoing negotiations over Egypt's new constitution, Maspero Copts United – a Coptic-Christian revolutionary movement – announced its rejection of recent proposals to make Islamic Law "the sole source" of Egyptian legislation.
"We will not approve a constitution that abolishes the civil state and encourages discrimination," the group declared on its official Facebook page on Wednesday.
The movement is calling on all Coptic-Christians to take part in a protest outside Cairo's Coptic Cathedral in Abbasiya on Friday at noon. Protesters will call on Coptic Bishop Bakhomios, who is currently acting as interim pope, to withdraw all church representatives from Egypt's Constituent Assembly – tasked with drafting a new national charter – "after their failure to preserve constitutional articles and allowing Egypt to be turned into a religious state," according to the group's statement.
A final decision has yet to be taken regarding the constitution, yet Salafist parties – members of which adhere to an ultra-conservative brand of Islam – have stepped up efforts to impose strict Islamic tenets on Egypt's new constitution. The two leading Salafist parties, the Nour and Asala parties, both seek to change the first three articles of Egypt's 1971 national charter. While they have been successful in their attempts to change the first article, they failed to change the second or third articles due to pressure from Egypt's Al-Azhar institution and liberal forces.
On Article 1, the Constituent Assembly’s basic components committee approved the Salafist request to add the word 'consultative' (a literal translation of the Arabic shura) to the article. Mohamed Emara, an Islamist thinker and committee chairman, said the revised article now reads: "The Arab Republic of Egypt is democratic, consultative, constitutional and modern, based on the separation of powers and the principle of citizenship." It adds that Egypt "is part of the Arab and Islamic nation, with strong ties to the African continent."
Previously, Article 1 had read: "The Arab Republic of Egypt is a democratic state based on citizenship. The Egyptian people are part of the Arab nation and work for the realisation of its comprehensive unity."
On Article 2, Salafist parties insisted on removing the word 'principles' on the grounds that it provides judges with a means of circumventing implementation of Islamic Law. They also believe that Islamic Law, not merely its principles, should be the main source of legislation to ensure that the hudood, or the ordinances of God – such as amputating the hands of thieves – be applied.