Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Stand at attention

Showing disrespect to the Egyptian flag and the national anthem will be an offence punishable by law, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

Late last week, Hazem Al-Beblawi’s cabinet referred to interim President Adli Mansour a new draft law that criminalises acts of showing disrespect to the national symbols, namely Egypt’s flag and the national anthem.

The draft law, scheduled to be endorsed soon, states that “ridiculing the Egyptian flag and not standing when the national anthem is played in public is a crime, punishable by a maximum of a six-month jail sentence and/or a LE5,000 fine.”

The draft law was proposed after it was reported that an ultraconservative Islamist, who is a member of the committee assigned with amending the constitution, refused to stand for a minute of silence honouring policemen killed on duty during a security campaign that targeted a militant stronghold last month.

The Salafist Nour Party’s representative in the constitutional committee, Mohamed Mansour was quoted as saying that it is better to pray for those killed instead of standing for a moment of silence.

The Nour Party, which came second to the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2011 parliamentary elections, was Egypt’s only Islamist party to support the roadmap drawn up by the army on 3 July after former president Mohamed Morsi was toppled.

The draft brought to mind earlier controversy when members of the Salafi MPs refused to stand for the national anthem for religious reasons in the 2011 parliament and also in the previous constituent committee during Morsi’s one-year rule.

Hence, the party’s reaction towards the proposed law was hardly surprising. “The current government is interim and unelected and should pass only necessary legislation,” Nour Party member Salah Abdel-Maaboud said in a statement late Thursday.

The Nour Party which once was a major force in drafting Egypt’s 2012 constitution, has meanwhile only one representative among the tiny Islamist minority of the new 50-member panel appointed to amend the constitution.

“We have reservations about such draft laws and the government should pay attention to urgent issues,” Abdel-Maaboud said. Moreover, Shaaban Abdel-Alim, a Nour Party leader, said he believed the new draft law should have been presented to a public dialogue before being approved especially since there is no elected parliament in the meantime responsible for legislation.

On the other hand, secular political forces expressed satisfaction after the law was passed. Karima Al-Hefnawi, a National Salvation Front leader, said that she was delighted with the law “which is going to protect the national anthem from fanatics and traders of religion”. “This law protects Egyptians from individuals who do not respect the nation and its symbols,” Al-Hefnawi said.

Essam Al-Islambouli, a lawyer and member of the board of trustees of the Popular Current, said the law was vital and “will be a deterrent to all those who do not stand up out of respect for the national anthem and the Egyptian flag”. Al-Islambouli stressed that disrespecting the national anthem had become a phenomena and must be confronted.

One Egyptian youth mocked the law, tweeting, “I’ll play the national anthem in the crowded public transportation busses so as to make them all stand up for me to sit down.”

Disputes over the national anthem not only occurred at official committees but also at schools and universities. Tension has spread at schools and universities between pro and anti-army forces since the beginning of the academic year because of, among other things, the national anthem and pro-army songs.

Earlier last week, the Ministry of Education banned all songs at public schools, except for the national anthem after Muslim Brotherhood supporters clashed with opponents over which songs to start the school day with.

Supporters of the Egyptian military have played the newly popular pro-army song Teslam Al-Ayadi (Bless the Hands) in a number of schools instead of the national anthem, angering Brotherhood students. Pro-army supporters accused the Brotherhood administrators in some schools of often skipping playing the national anthem.

“The ministry has been observing the various recent problems in the educational establishments related to not standing up when the national anthem is played and not saluting the Egyptian flag,” Minister of Transitional Justice Amin Al-Mahdi said in a statement.

Al-Mahdi added in his statement that the Egyptian state “will not compromise on respecting any of these symbols of the Egyptian state, and to have it instilled in the culture of Egyptian society and spread among its sons”.


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