I wrote last week that the challenge ahead of us, now that the Draft Constitution awaits our vote, is to fully grasp the historical juncture at which Egypt stands, and the responsibility of Egyptians to never give up on the 30 June Revolution
. This demands serious willingness to accept the new Constitution and to rally an unambiguous, reassuring majority to endorse it.
For that reason I made a point of confirming my full contentment with the core make-up of the Draft Constitution. I warned against the trend to dissect every minor detail and find fault with it, or spy hidden conspiracies between the lines instead of looking at the wider picture. Such an exercise might bring on nothing but confusion and frustration, and would fragment Egyptians between a yes, no, or boycott vote. This would practically put Egypt back into the hands of the Islamist forces which hijacked the people’s revolution in 2011 and which the second revolution of 30 June managed to overthrow.
I had put off writing about the Constitution until I could warn my readers against apathy and against judging the charter on the details instead of its merits as a whole. Today I take a good look at the document to highlight a view different from that presented by many in the media who persist in shedding harsh light on the faults, amplifying them, and focusing on the disillusion of some groups with the new charter. I will focus on the positive aspects and guarantees offered by the Constitution, lest these get lost amid the hubbub of objection. I also intend to point out what should oblige us to endorse the new Constitution in a ‘yes’ vote.
I am aware that the charter is there for all of us to read, but I fear that some might not have read it in full or seen it only to scrutinise some highly controversial article. I will here highlight the inalienable articles that secure a modern, civil Egypt of tomorrow.
• Article 1: The Arab Republic of Egypt is an independent sovereign State, united and indivisible, and no part of it may be given away. It is a democratic republic founded on citizenship concepts and the rule of the law.
• Article 3: The canon principles of Egyptian Christians and Jews are the main source of legislation for their personal status laws, religious affairs, and the selection of their spiritual leaders.
• Article 9: The State is committed to achieve equal opportunities for all citizens without discrimination.
• Article 11: The State guarantees equality between women and men in all civic, political, economic and social rights, according to the provisions of the Constitution. The State strives to take the measures to ensure the appropriate representation of women in parliamentary councils as specified by the law. It also guarantees to women their right to hold public posts, high administration State posts and appointment in judicial authorities and associations without any discrimination against them.
• Article 19: Education is the right of every citizen, with the aim of building the Egyptian character, preserving national identity, rooting critical thinking, developing talents, promoting innovation and entrenching civilisational and spiritual values and establishing the notions of citizenship, tolerance and non-discrimination. The State commits to uphold its aims in education curricula and methods, and to provide education in accordance with global quality criteria.
• Article 47: The State is committed to protecting the Egyptian cultural identity with its diverse civilisational tributaries.
• Article 50: The civilisational and cultural heritage of Egypt, material and moral, in all its diversity and great phases of Ancient Egyptian, Coptic, and Islamic, is a national and human heritage which the State commits to protect and preserve. This applies to contemporary cultural heritage: architectural, literary and artistic in all its diversity. Any attack against it is a crime punishable by law. The State gives special attention to preserving the components of cultural diversity in Egypt.
• Article 53: Citizens are equal before the law. They enjoy equal rights, freedoms and public duties, and may not be discriminated against on basis of religion, creed, gender, origin, race, colour, language, disability, social class, political or geographical affiliation, or for any other reason. Discrimination and incitement for hatred are crimes punishable by law. The state is committed to take the necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination. The law regulates the establishment of an independent commission for this purpose.
• Article 63: All forms of arbitrary forced migration of citizens are forbidden. Violations of such are a crime that has no statute of limitations.
• Article 64: Freedom of belief is absolute. The freedom of practicing religious rituals and establishing places of worship for the followers of the heavenly religions is a right regulated by law.
• Article 73: Citizens have the right to organise public meetings, marches, demonstrations and all forms of peaceful protest, while not carrying weapons of any type, upon providing notification as regulated by law.
• Article 74: Citizens have the right to form political parties by notification as regulated by the law. No political activity may be exercised or political parties formed on the basis of religion, or on the basis of discrimination according to gender, origin, sect or geographic location, nor may any activity be practiced that is hostile to democracy, secretive, or which possesses a military or quasi-military nature. Parties may only be dissolved by judicial ruling.
• Article 93: The State is committed to the agreements, covenants and international conventions of human rights that were ratified by Egypt. They have the force of law after they are published in accordance to the specified conditions.
Many more articles in the Draft Constitution warrant mention for preserving rights and democracy. This, however, will have to wait for the next issue of Watani.
15 December 2013
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