Our new Islamist parliament

25-01-2012 02:07 AM

Nader Shukry

So what does Egypt’s first post-revolution parliament look like? For starters, the figures are telling: 233 seats have gone to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-backed Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)

So what does Egypt’s first post-revolution parliament look like? For starters, the figures are telling: 233 seats have gone to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-backed Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), 121 to the Salafi al-Nour party, 43 to the liberal al-Wafd, 39 to the liberal al-Kutla alliance of three liberal parties, and 17 to independents.
Self-tailored oaths
The first parliamentary session was held last Monday and witnessed the new MPs taking the constitutional oath, and electing the speaker of the parliament and two deputies. 
The appearance of the MPs themselves reflected the sweeping Islamic majority. The majority were bearded; the jilbab and Azhari attire were widespread among men and the hijab among women. The Salafi MPs sat together while the female MPs clustered together and were silent throughout the entire session—except for when they took the oath. 
The Salafi MPs insisted on adding a clause to the constitutional oath. Whereas the original phrasing is: “I swear by the great Allah to faithfully defend the safety of the homeland, the republic system and the interest of the people, and to respect the constitution and the law”, the Salafis added: “on condition that it does not violate the sharia of Allah”. The Wafdi MP Mahmoud al-Saqqa who presided over the session in his capacity as the eldest MP directly asked the members to adhere to the original wording, noting that the addition invalidates the original oath, and that the constitution includes a clause which stipulates sharia as the source of legislation, but the other Islamist MPs insisted on their addition. Picking the thread, a number of the liberal MPs added the phrase: “I pledge to defend the principles of the revolution” or “the rights of the martyrs”.  
Adjourned for prayers?
At 12:05 past noon, a number of Salafi MPs left for noon prayers, Salafi MP for Beheira in the West Delta had asked for the session to adjourn for noon prayers but the acting speaker Mr Saqqa rejected the petition.
The liberal MPs Abul-Ezz al-Hariri and Mohamed Abu-Hamed surprised everybody when they announced that they had come upon a FJP briefing that declared the party had already appointed its MP members as heads of 15 of the 19 parliamentary committees, the heads of which should be elected by parliament. Three committees were given to Salafi heads and one to Mohamed al-Sawy of the Misr al-Hadara Party, which was in alliance with the FJP. This announcement gave rise to wrathful reactions by non-Islamist MPs, who sensed that the FJP was behaving as though it was the de facto authority in Egypt. MP Abu-Hamed said the FJP was behaving in the same way the defunct National Democratic Party did under the pre-revolution regime, in the manner in which it handled the opposition. So much for revolutionary change, several comments on Facebook and Twitter said.
Commentators in the Egyptian media drew attention to shots captured by the cameras of several Salafi MPs caught sleeping.
The session ended in the election of FJP’s Saad al-Katatni as speaker of the parliament. 
“The apostate State”
The following day, Tuesday, the session witnessed a lot of wailing and crying as the subject of those who lost their lives in the revolution was brought up by FJP MP Akram al-Shair. It is a fact, however, that the State has already paid their families adequate compensation, and is providing the injured with jobs, and treating them at the State’s expense.
Upon which a Salafi MP stood up to say that it does not befit Egypt to ignore those who were injured in the revolution. “I was among those who were injured in 9/11 and the ‘apostate State’ in America treated me at its own expense,” he said. Speaker of the Parliament, Katatni, ordered the phrase deleted form the minutes of the session.
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