Archive for October, 2012

By Abdel Latif El-menawy

The draft of the Egyptian constitution, labeled the constitution of the future, has finally been disclosed for public opinion.

The document, that was leaked by some of its architects, came as expected; disappointing and deceiving to those who still had some hope for the future of Egypt.

But to be fair, it did not come out as disastrous as many had expected. That may be due to the civilians who played a role in the drafting of the document.

Hereunder, I will outline the main details of the new constitution.

The initial constitution draft seemed as if the authors were writing an essay with a lot of undefined adjectives. Such a constitution would not suit future generations with their progress in technical legal drafting.

The imprecise text of the constitution could be interpreted differently by different individuals, and the document is full of unclear wording.

Article 4 of the constitution states that Egypt’s al-Azhar council of senior scholars is the sole body authorized to interpret Shariah (Islamic law) in the country. This is a reproduction of the Guardianship of the Jurist (Wilayat al-Fakih) system in Iran.

Article 6 indicates regression in important issues concerning the Egyptian state. It ignored the previous texts over banning the establishment of any political parties based on religious bases. This text was replaced by a proposed text stating that political parties shouldn’t divide citizens according to religion. This is an easily manipulative text. This was clear when one of the most Muslim fundamentalist parties in the country succeeded in attracting non-Muslims, who expressed their readiness to play any role whatsoever. This is a kind of apparent and legal cover for those parties. This particle article, with its current context, was mainly designed to facilitate the process of twisting of the meaning, and thus passing the completely opposite context.

Article 10 uses imprecise and multi-faceted expressions. It states: “The government and the community are committed to observe and protect moral ethics, to empower the Egyptian customs, and ensure a high level of education, religious and national values, scientific facts, Arab culture, historic heritage and the civilization of the people; all this, according to the law.”

This text is inundated with vague language; expressions like “authentic Egyptian traditions” and a “high level of religious education and values,” such terms are subject to different interpretation.

These imprecise expressions are also a tool to control and terrorize all those who have different opinions; a tool that allows the country’s leaders to victimize certain people. What is strange is that these texts were ratified by some well-balanced and rational members in the deciding committee.

Another trap in the new article links men and women’s equity to Shariah, not to common principles. The difference between law and principles is that the first is adjustable according to the place and time but the second is eternal.

The absence of economists in the constituent assembly that drafts the new constitution has been acutely reflected in the lack of economic texts in the articles.

This draft includes many observations; some of them are in dire need of real debate. The most significant remark is the importance of rescuing Egypt and its future generations from an uncertain future.

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By ABDEl LATIF EL-MENAWY

Egypt is experiencing a historical perilous phase. The initial indicators do not seem positive so far, but we should hold on to any possible hope to preserve the country from being dragged back into the dark ages.

While the developed world is turning around in an orbit, in Egypt, the current is pushing us to turn around into another orbit that is not related in any way to the present or the future. The country is struggling not to slide back into archaic customs and laws we read in history books.

To preserve Egypt, a battle must be fought to keep the constitution modern.
I think that one of the most important battles in which we should stand for, is what I call the battle of the constitution. It is crystal clear that what is going on now is an attempt to force the country to accept a constitution that is being produced by a committee whose legitimacy is contested.

Chaos and intimidations are created to enable the committee to pass a constitution that will form a gap between us and the advanced world; a constitution that will promote the domination of this movement.

To those who support the claim that the committee responsible for drafting the constitution represents many Egyptians, one should respond by saying that some of these committee members were misled and went astray. However, one should note not dismiss some of the respectable, highly-esteemed committee members.

To be more specific, I am referring here to what was mentioned in court by those who contested the legitimacy of the assembly, saying that the constituent assembly includes 24 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, 18 of the leaders and members of al-Nour Party and other Salafist parties and groups, three members of the Islamic Centrist Party and six individuals well-known for their support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The indications so far are not reassuring, and according to Hafez Abu Saada, one of the plaintiffs and head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, that this committee is working within the constituent assembly in favor of the president, and this shows in the constitution draft of what makes an eligible presidential candidate. In the new draft, there is no mention that the president’s children should not have dual nationality, although it is well known that the sons of the current president have obtained the American nationality.

Moreover, the constitution did not specify the end of the presidential term, so that the president can complete a full term. One of the lawyers declared that ten of the constituent assembly members were appointed as advisers paid by the president.

The real danger lies in the information leaked about the nature of some articles of the constitution that can be considered as tampering with the structure of the state including the judiciary, army, police, al-Azhar, the church and other important components of what makes Egypt.

Here, we return to all the controversy that took place earlier on the status of al-Azhar. It is not a surprise for those who follow the news, who are well-informed and skeptical about what is happening within the committee, to see the members of the constitutional court reject all the articles of the draft constitution that are related to the court. I will not discuss in this article what has been leaked regarding the stances towards women, their freedom and criminalization of trafficking women and children, or what has been leaked regarding the disastrous lowering of the legal age of marriage for girls, whether it will be nine or eleven years old; I will dedicate another article for this issue.

Apparently, the desire to have power and control is more powerful than all the voices of reason. What is important for them is to pass the constitution as they see it, as soon as possible. Indeed, they have been releasing information for weeks, that the draft constitution is ready and they will vote on it very soon. This resembles a race against time in order to pass the constitution before the judiciary judges the legitimacy of their committee.

The danger began at an early time, when the group was able to mislead the military government and then mislead 18 million Egyptians who voted in the referendum in favor of postponing the constitution until after the elections. This has enabled them to take advantage of the country’s situation to be in their favor.

In addition to their ‘legitimacy’, they independently formed the committee to their and to the ruling party’s benefit and under the pretext of useless cover of movements and qualifications.

Egypt has witnessed a great change, and countries that undergo great transformations usually develop temporary rules for an interim period to build step by step bases for democracy and good governance…democracy-building after all can take years and not weeks.

What is done is done, and here we are now, facing the reality of our lives. Our hope is to see the judicial rulings revoke the constituent assembly in order to put an end to this rash distorted committee.

We should not stop from pursuing our struggle in the battle of the constitution in any possible way even if the committee continues to work. Indeed this is what keeps us hopeful.

By Abdel Latif El-Menawy

There is a stark contrast between the official rhetoric and what is actually happening on the ground. This contrast seems in many cases to be intentional and the message is clear. I should recall an old Egyptian proverb that says: “I believe you when I hear you talk, but I am taken by surprise when I see you act.” Looks like surprise has become commonplace for us!

The contrast I am talking about is the one that causes this general state of fear from the future.

According to the official version, Egyptians are equal and the government serves them all indiscriminately, but when we look at facts on the ground we see that discrimination has not only stopped at religious and political ideologies, but has also extended to the degree of loyalty to the “group.” I don’t think many Egyptians see that what is said on the official level is implemented on the realistic level.

The official discourse condemns all sorts of infringement upon the rights of Egyptians, while we see several infringements go unpunished. The official discourse vows to protect personal freedoms while those freedoms are constantly violated.

Extremist groups like the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice are given free rein in several cities and the regime is turning a blind eye. We did not see any firm stance on the part of the government that would discourage youths who join those groups that take the law into their hands under the name of religion.

Leaders of the “group” say that the president is for all Egyptians, but exclusionist policies prove that only members of this group or those loyal to it or sympathetic with its line of thought are the ones who can claim this country as their own.

Among the several aspects of this contradiction between talk and action are statements stressing the state’s commitment to protecting all its citizens accompanied by an extremely mild reaction towards extremist practices that target specific groups. A flagrant example was the forced immigration of Christian families in Sinai, which was seen by the government as “freedom of movement” since, according to the official response, those families “willingly chose to leave.”

Statements condemning the injustice that had befallen the families were only issued after that earlier reaction was harshly criticized all over the media. Only then did officials assert the families’ right to go back to their homes.

In the past few days, I took part in several meetings in New York about the concepts of the civil state and the religious state. I am not going to go into the details of the discussions that took place during these meetings, but I would like to stop at one sentence said by the organizer of those meetings, lawyer Maged Riad. This sentence sums up the ideal way of dealing with this contradiction between officials’ words and actual actions. It was said in response to the words of a sheikh who attended the meetings, saying that in a Muslim state, Muslims will protect Copts.

“We do not want a state in which we are protected by Muslims,” Riad told him. “We want a state in which we are protected by the constitution and the law.”

I guess that this sentence might offer a relative solution to the problem of this contradiction between the verbal and the real. We want a state that abides by the law and the constitution and not one owned by a specific group and its supporters. We want rules that apply to all Egyptians, not tribal ideologies that give preference to one group over another. This is a country that dates back to thousands of years ago. I hope those who rule it now realize that and act accordingly and work towards eliminating this contradiction.

By |Abdal Latif El-menawy

Neither anyone forced Egyptian President Mohamad Mursi to set 100 days as a deadline to execute his program, nor did anyone set this 100 days agenda to the Muslim Brotherhoods candidate upon his elections, but he bound himself to it, all by himself.

After declaring victory at the presidential elections, he was the one who insisted on these topics and the time frame to solve them.

When he set his priorities, I felt at that time that this is happening at the wrong moment, this isn’t what Egypt needed at this stage, as we were waiting for a president to rule Egypt, the republic, not for a district manager. The post-revolution Egypt was divided and fragmented, and the first priority should have been to unite the country and heal the wounds of the fragmentation and disparity, but what happened then, and is happening now is just the opposite, and it might be fair to remind that I was referring to the president’s own people and close allies at the beginning of this editorial.

In spite of this, what he committed himself and his administration to does grant us the right to discuss these promises and gauge what was achieved, especially that the new officials he appointed cloned their predecessors in praising the wisdom of Mr. President, and they competed in issuing statements, starting mostly with the same key message, praising the wisdom and greatness of the 100-day presidential program, and that all their care and their plans will converge in making the president’s dreams come true. And I may add that these officials outperformed their predecessors in seeking the wisdom of Mr. president, to an extent that they might have composed a song or written a book about the 100-day program, if they had enough time to do it.

I would leave it to every Egyptian who suffers there nowadays to determine, by himself, what was achieved of the presidential candidate’s promises, he who insisted on both the program and the timeline. I will leave the appraisal to all those who lived these 100 days and witnessed how their lives were affected, and if their daily life has improved during the past 99 days, and I will ask them to put their hopes in the remaining day, as a miracle might happen, or maybe the ruling party has prepared a mega surprise to the Egyptians by fulfilling all the promises of their candidate who became president, before the sunset of the 100th day, which is tomorrow.

I will look into what we would have liked to see happening and what really happened. And as I stated earlier, the main goal which should have been set, taking into consideration the importance of preserving the best interests of the country, its unity and its strength, would have been that the new president commits himself, especially that he arrived in doubtful, ambiguous and mysterious circumstances in a divided country, it was expected that he plays a major role in reuniting Egyptians, to attempt to get closer to the other half of Egyptians who didn’t choose him and refused him and his group. National reconciliation and getting closer to the refusing half should have been the top priority, reassuring and creating serenity and satisfying those who opposed him should have been the program of the first days in office, but this wasn’t looked at, not even for a single hour in single day. On the contrary, they were all busy with gathering profits; they had the feeling of power and were seeking revenge from those who refused them and their candidate, to an extent that there was a public feeling at that time that they wouldn’t have doubted for a second if they could empty the country from their opponents and gather them in camps in the desert.

Instead of filling the key positions with the right candidates who have the adequate skills, it was clear that they were seeking to divide the pie among their allies, supporters and followers, and this was accompanied with steady steps towards fulfilling their historic sleeping plan for decades, which is to establish themselves firmly. I hope that nobody will make fun of this statement and deny it, as the proof is in all what we’re seeing in all fields, and as I know, or what was said, that they are preparing now their own list of village chiefs to complete their deep-rooting plan.

At the economic front, all what we witnessed till now is an attempt to bypass the main problems rather than taking the bull by the horns, as instead of solving the biggest issue facing Egypt nowadays, they act like the lazy student who does everything except admitting the fact that he has to study and work hard in order to succeed. And we may ask, what happened so far? The great success of convincing the World Bank officials to visit Egypt, then the Big Guy confirms that the visit is a sign of confidence in Egypt (!!) but we didn’t see yet the loan that was the subject of a gigantic debate about its religious legitimacy, nor did we hear about the means of spending it and paying it back if it happens. The second achievement is a loan or a bank deposit from the State of Qatar, the prime supporter to the Muslim Brotherhood and the supporter of unrest in the region, but we didn’t know how and when, and most importantly at what interest rate, which is higher than the applicable rates. The other big achievement is the loan from turkey announced by the prime minister, because it is at a normal rate. This is the achievement, loans and borrowing attempts with no news about the real economy, as we didn’t hear till now about any attempt to find a solution to the problems of Egyptian, Arab and foreign investors who suffer from the repelling public mood, as many projects are halted or are almost stopped because of the inability to take a decision or waiting for new instructions (!!), and the price will surely be paid by the people because of the halted projects and investments in addition to the huge compensations in international arbitration.

What we witnessed to date is the emergence of a new class of Brotherhood businessmen of all ages standing behind them or in their shadows. We started witnessing monopolist practices in the market of consumer products, and all we heard about are attempts to buy existing and productive projects by the brotherhood businessmen or their partners or their allies from allied countries, but we didn’t hear about the establishment of any productive investment project, except if we consider that the new supermarket chain is one of them!

I will not give a lot of space today for the foreign policy but I will just mention that all what was done to date is mere movement, without any strategic purpose, except making some noise and giving the new president the image of a leader, which will strengthen his position locally and internationally without any commitment or any price, and it seems that somebody is working on this front, somewhere, to make enough noise to generate a leader. But let’s talk about the end result, frankly, and I will share some headlines: Egypt, in the actual situation, isn’t able to have any impact on what’s happening in Syria, and it lost any opportunity to play any role by the grandiose statements which can never bear any fruits. And Egypt lost a lot of its role in managing the Palestinian crisis after losing its central role and non-biased position towards all Palestinian parties, as the new Egyptian leaders don’t hide their alliance with Hamas in Ghaza, which creates some kind of adversity with the other side.

As for the numerous so-called Historic visits, any observer and expert in foreign relations can describe them as the old Arabic proverb says: much ado about nothing, but we still have to take the burden without any fruits.

By Abdel Latif El-menawy

One of the main factors that hinder societies from achieving progress is “denial,” which means refusing to admit to the presence of a certain problem or downplaying its gravity. Unfortunately, this has for a long time been the case with our officials, but it is now even more blatant with the Muslim Brotherhood in power. I can write a lot about this chronic illness and the officials most inflicted with it, but I would rather focus on one single horrid incident: the forced immigration of Coptic families.

Not only did officials take no firm action against this disaster, but they also denied that there was a problem in the first place. The prime minister actually said that no Coptic families were forced to leave their homes in the town of Rafah. “One or two families chose to move to another place and they are totally free to do so like all Egyptian citizens,” he said.

So, this is the concept of “freedom” according to the new regime: citizens have the right to escape wherever they choose if their lives are in danger, especially if the source of danger is allied with this regime. I don’t know what can be said about this case of denial.

The truth is that nine Coptic families left the town after anti-Christian leaflets started circulating and after several of them received death threats. “Leave, Copts, or you will regret it,” they were told. I don’t think we need to say who issued those warnings, but according to the new definition of freedom, those families decided to practice their right to escape. Similar incidents took place in other parts of Egypt and the response was the same: the families chose to move and did not leave by force. I am not sure what the new definition of “by force” is according to the new regime. So terrorizing people does not make them leave by force? Do death threats leave anybody a choice? How could officials manipulate the truth and deny something as indisputable as this or choose to label it with milder terms?

“The justifications offered by the state about the families who allegedly choose to leave are unacceptable,” said a statement issued by the National Human Rights Council. “It is the state’s duty to protect its citizens and fend off any threats to which they are subjected. Abandoning this duty sets a very dangerous precedent.”

This reaction on the part of the government, the statement added, takes the country back to the dark ages and turns it in a lawless state.

This is indeed what is bound to happen in a country in which the regime overlooks sectarian or ethnic violence and allies itself with the extremists and terrorists that perpetrate it.

One of the serious problems we are now facing is this flagrant violation of the principles of citizenship and the way this concept is being intentionally and constantly tarnished. During the past few months, we have been witnessing campaigns that aim at obliterating the value of citizenship and altering the ethics of belonging. What makes the problem even more serious is that those attempts are being supported, or at least not condemned, by the current regime which keeps talking about democracy. One of the most important requirements of a democracy is equality between all citizens regardless of gender, color, or religion. Here I am talking about the citizens of this country and not those who want to usurp it.