Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1121, 8-14 November
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1121, 8-14 November

Ahram Weekly

Islamists demand Sharia law

A million-man march to press for the application of Sharia law is planned for tomorrow in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, writes Amani Maged

Al-Ahram Weekly

Tomorrow, Friday 9 November, Islamist forces have scheduled a million-man march to demand the application of Sharia law in Egypt. They reject the current wording of Article 2 of the draft constitution and demand that the word “principles” be dropped so that this reads “Sharia is the main source of legislation.” They also insist that this article should not be amendable or subject to popular referendum and that the only authority eligible to interpret it should be Al-Azhar’s board of senior theologians.
They want it clearly stated in the constitution that none of its provisions should violate Islamic law, with the result that this provision would serve as a general check on all constitutional provisions.
The protesters will also be demanding that the Egyptian people’s right to defend their identity should be enshrined in the constitution and that the constitution should also affirm the right to peaceful demonstration and the right to the expression of opinion in a peaceful and civilised way and in a manner that does not disturb public order.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), as well as the Salafist Nour Party, have announced that they will not be taking part in tomorrow’s demonstration. Ahmed Abu Baraka, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official and FJP spokesman, explained that the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting the constitution will resolve differences between the Islamist forces over Article 2.
Nour Party spokesmen said that they preferred to wait until after the draft constitution had been completed in order to ascertain whether or not it reflects the people’s desire for the application of Sharia law.
On the other hand, the Salafist Front has announced that it will be present in Tahrir Square. The front’s press spokesman issued a statement declaring that “the Islamist forces are now the majority and the street is with the Islamists, supports them and demands the application of Sharia law.”
The Islamists’ campaign to impose Sharia law will also include a drive to collect signatures for a petition that will be sent to the Constituent Assembly and the president of the republic. The petition will call for the application of Islamic law with no qualifying attributes that would be open to interpretation.
A group calling itself the Coalition to Defend Sharia has formed a committee of Al-Azhar scholars, university professors and preachers tasked with monitoring the activities of the Constituent Assembly, notifying it of their minimum demands concerning the application of Islamic law. The committee includes Gamal Abdel-Hadi, a professor of Islamic history, Mahmoud Mazrura, head of the Department of Islamic Doctrine at Al-Azhar, Assem Abdel-Meguid, a member of the central committee of the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, Khaled Said, secretary-general of the Salafist Front, Ahmed Hilali, an Al-Azhar scholar, and Osama Kasem, a leader of the Peace and Development Party, the political wing of the Egyptian Jihad Organisation.
It also includes Salah Sultan, secretary-general of the Supreme Committee for Islamic Affairs, Hashim Al-Islam, secretary of the International Federation of Al-Azhar, Mohamed Al-Saghir, head of the Construction and Development Party’s parliamentary bloc, Atiya Adlan, president of the Reform Party, and Alaa Al-Rubi, secretary of the Popular Will Front.
Meanwhile, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and its Construction and Development Party are busy preparing for what is being called “Sharia Friday”. They are contacting all Islamist parties and movements in order to persuade them to take part in tomorrow’s demonstration with a view to making the liberal forces realise that, in their words, “all the Egyptian people stand behind Sharia law” and will not permit any constitution that marginalises the cause of Sharia or reduces it to an inappropriate status.
Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya sent a delegation to the Constituent Assembly last Friday to submit its proposal for a draft constitution. The proposal highlighted what the group regards as the positive and negative points in the current draft and includes revisions of provisions that it feels are necessary. The delegation stressed that Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and its political wing wanted any provisions that violate Sharia to be struck from the draft constitution, which they hope will be completed by 12 December.
In addition to the demands regarding Article 2, the delegation has also drawn attention to Article 68 in the current draft, which calls for equality between men and women. It insists that the formula “without breaching the provisions of Islamic Sharia” should be added at the end of the article, rather than somewhere in the middle of it. It also wants to see the nature and identity of the country’s economic system clarified, wanting to see this stipulated as being an “Islamic economic system”.
Around 30 Islamist movements are expected to take part in tomorrow’s million-man march. Two of these are the “Returners to Sharia” and the “Students of Sharia”, organisations that have already organised a trial run for tomorrow’s event. One of their statements reads, “in view of the dispute over Article 2 and the attempts on the part of some who only represent themselves to sideline the desire of the Egyptian people to abide by their authentic principles and their identity, we, the Returners to Sharia, have decided to stage million-man marches on the Fridays of 2 and 9 November in order to demand the application of Sharia law.”
Contrary to the usual mass demonstrations that have been held in Tahrir Square, no Egyptian flags were on display during last Friday’s demonstration. Instead, participants sported black banners. Some commentators have suggested that this is proof that the movements are connected with Al-Qaeda, whereas others have ventured that this could indicate that they were associated with the Saudi Wahabi movement. In view of the disputes that surrounded last week’s demonstration, an Islamist spokesman described it as a “rehearsal” in order to cover up any possible embarrassment.
Another Islamist movement that plans to take part in tomorrow’s demonstration is the Hazimoun — supporters of Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. Gamal Saber, a leader of the organisation, said that its members planned to post committees outside mosques on Friday in order to convince worshippers coming out of Friday prayers to join the call for the revision of Article 2.
The Hazimoun movement held that the “postponement” of last week’s demonstration was “correct”, as it gave the Islamist movements more time to organise themselves and unify their ranks preparatory to the 9 November march. In addition, it said, the altered timing would give the Constituent Assembly more time to ensure that Sharia was applied.
The movement has vowed to continue to press for the application of Islamic law and has said that it will not compromise on this demand.

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