In a shocking video posted on Youtube for all to see, the Islamist Sheikh Yasser al-Burhami, deputy to the chief of the Salafi Call and a former member of the Constituent Assembly which wrote Egypt’s new constitution
In a shocking video posted on Youtube for all to see, the Islamist Sheikh Yasser al-Burhami, deputy to the chief of the Salafi Call and a former member of the Constituent Assembly which wrote Egypt’s new constitution, boasted of the Islamists’s success in drafting a constitution unlike any Egypt had before: a constitution restrictive to rights and freedoms. Sheikh Burhami had been addressing a convention of conservative Muslim leaders that included the influential Salafi Sheikh Mohamed Hassaan, held late last November before the constitution was put to referendum—and passed—in December. Burhami was attempting to persuade the Islamists—many of whom found the recently-written constitution not sufficiently restrictive, to vote ‘yes’ to pass the draft.
Sources of sharia
“This draft constitution includes restrictions [on rights and freedoms] unprecedented in any Egyptian constitution,” Sheikh Burhami said, adding that the Christian and liberal members of the Constituent Assembly had been persuaded to sign them. That was, of course, before these members walked out of the assembly en masse to protest the restrictive draft which was finally signed by an all-Islamist panel.
Sheikh Burhami explained how the Islamists on the Constituent Assembly had succeeded in inserting the new Article 219 to define the “principles of sharia” which, in Article 2, are the main source of legislation. He showed how this definition guarantees that sharia would be interpreted in its most elastic, fundamental, extreme version. “For the first time in history,” he said, “Egypt’s constitution cites the ‘sources’ of Islamic sharia, which the Christian, liberal and Azhari members of the Constituent assembly were tricked into signing.” [The Christians and liberals later walked out and their signatures were null and void.] He said a deal had been worked with al-Azhar whereby the Grand Imam of that topmost Islamic institution would be immune from dismissal in exchange for approving Article 219.
Sheikh Burhami harshly criticised the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II for voicing his opposition to the constitutional drafting panel. Burhami called upon Muslim scholars to attack the Coptic Pope on TV satellite channels, under the pretext that he rejects sharia.
Restricting rights and freedoms
The constitution, according to Sheikh Burhami, restricts rights and freedoms. “Rights and freedoms,” he insisted, “shall be practised ‘so that they do not conflict with the principles of the State and the community included in Part One of this constitution’. These principles include Islamic sharia, the Qur’an and Sunna.” As soon as the constitution is passed, Burhami said, converts from Islam and Bahai’s will have no place in Egypt.
He further explained that, even though the new Constitution stipulates freedom of thought, expression and creativity; it also stipulates that the State is responsible to ‘preserve virtue’. “If Parliament passes the hisbah law,” he said,—hisbah is an Islamic doctrine that allows the supervision of all secular activities to check they conform to the laws of Allah—“we would achieve our objective of an Islamic country.” He pointed out that no restrictions have been explicitly imposed on the press, but that there are prison sentences for publication offences. “These will be implemented gradually,” he explained, “in order not to antagonise the international community.”
No package deal
Al-Azhar reacted swiftly to Burhami’s declaration and issued a statement denying any deal with the Salafis. The statement highlighted that al-Azhar is part and parcel of the Egyptian State and community, and is the reference all rely upon for interpretations of Islam and sharia. The statement reminded that al-Azhar has no political or party affiliation, and that Article 4 of the Constitution stipulates that al-Azhar is an independent Islamic authority.
Sheikh Ahmed Kreima, Professor of Islamic sharia at al-Azhar University, said the Salafis were attempting to obliterate the traditionally moderate views if Islam defended over the years by al-Azhar, in order to start spreading their own radical, violent, thought that calls for armed conflict. He blamed the liberals too for contracting the role of al-Azhar in the new constitution, because they imagined they were combatting the [false] idea that al-Azhar wished to impose its ‘hegemony’ over other streams.
“We utterly reject Sheikh Burhami’s declarations,” Nasr Farid Wassel, a Shura Council appointed member and former Egypt’s Grand Mufti, indignantly said. “Both al-Azhar and its Grand Imam are independent, and represent national symbols”.
For their part, the liberals in Egypt were barely surprised. Most of them commented that Sheikh Burhami had merely exposed the true face of the Islamists; the only startling fact may have been that he spelt it out so openly. The liberal political activist Mohamed Abu-Hamed said that Burhami’s declarations served to expose Islamist thought and intolerance, something we already know. “More of their ugly face will be bared as we go along,” he said, expecting that they will attack the Egyptian Church more harshly.
“Egypt is living through a phase that is worse than when it was occupied by foreigners,” Abu-Hamed said. He warned of the repercussions of curtailed rights and freedoms on banking activities, investment, tourism, and the economy in its entirety. “We have to work hard to prepare for the upcoming legislative elections, in order to battle the hegemony of the Islamists and their dominion over the judiciary and army,” he said.
According to Kamal Abbas of the National Salvation Front, Sheikh Burhami’s declaration for the first time ingenuously expressed the systematic deception the Islamists use with the aim of monopolising power. Not only that, he said, but they have tailored a constitution guaranteed to keep them in power indefinitely.
More to come
Salah Hassaballah, Deputy to the Secretary-General of the liberal Mu’tamar Party, warned that where the Islamists are concerned, the worst is yet to come. Establishments such as Enforcing Virtue and Combatting Vice are sure to crop up in response to the hisbah principles; they will wreak havoc with Egypt’s traditionally moderate values, and the President himself will be unable to do anything to stop them, Dr Hassaballah said.
For his part, the Coptic activist Andrawus Eweida who is coordinator-general of the Maspero Youth Union described Sheikh Burhami’s declarations as “threatening to the very identity of Egypt, especially that he directs an obvious message of instigation against non-Islamists”. Sheikh Burhami’s words, Eweida said, reveal the Islamists’ intentions to hijack Egypt through a distorted, rigged constitution. He said Egyptians should work to bring down this Constitution “that is guaranteed to take Egypt back to the dark ages”.
1 January 2013
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