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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Apr 7, 2012

The Dilemma of the Proposed New Egyptian Constitution

During the past few weeks, the battle for drafting the new Egyptian constitution has reached its peak. There are three major camps and each one has its own agenda in terms of what the constitution should or should not include.

The first camp is reflected in the Egyptian Higher Military Council with the most political power and influence. Their hidden agenda is to include in the new constitution their right to prevent the parliament and future government from interfering in their military budget and economic investments under the pretext of national security.

It was reported that the military council has issued a public warning that nobody should interfere in their economic projects, and that provisions should be included in the new constitution permitting that. Furthermore, no civil authority should manage any of their economic projects. The military council will not permit any civilian interference in their economic affairs. The members of the military council pointed out that the return from their investment, which is equal to 1.2 billion Egyptian pounds per year, is subject to control by the government accounting department. However, the army does not pay taxes on that income. The military council issued a warning that any pressure from the Egyptian parliament might lead to undesirable consequences. (Aljazeera.net, 3/30/2012). Keep in mind that the military has been in power for more than 60 years and are not going to give it up easily.

The second camp is reflected in the political Islamic parties, which includes the Freedom and Justice Party, the Nour-Salafi Party, and Al-Jamat il-Islamiyah. The three political Islamic groups have won more than 70% of the parliament seats. As a result of that victory, they are demanding to send 50 members from their parliament to join the 100-member committee that is supposed to draft the new constitution. The political Islamic group has already declared its belief that the new constitution should include, among other things, that Islam is the religion of the state and that Sharia is the fundamental source of its judicial law.

It was also reported that the military council has issued hidden threats to dissolve the parliament, which is illegal according to the Islamicists. However, the military council has the power to do so.

The third camp consists of all secular political parties, as well as the younger generation who were the vanguard of the Egyptian revolution. The group’s main objective is to draft a new constitution that will state that Egypt is an Arab Muslim country with a secular government that will be free and democratically elected. All citizens will be treated equally.

Nearly all independent and liberal members who were asked to serve on the committee to draft the new constitution have resigned in protest of the expected domination of the committee by Islamicists. Even the Alazhar University representative has joined the group in protest as well. The parliament has selected 50 members to join the committee, which will consist of 100 people who are expected to draft the constitution. Only 75 members of the committee showed up to the first meeting with the military council. No decision was made yet. (as of 3/24/2012)

So far, there has been no agreement among the three camps in terms of their views about the new constitution. Furthermore, all of the experts in constitutional law and other members of judicial knowledge have resigned from the committee, which is supposed to include 100 people that will be responsible for drafting the new constitution.

The Muslim Brotherhood (the Freedom and Justice Party) should learn from the Tunisian Model. The Tunisian Islamic Party “Al-Nahda” was the biggest winner in the election, but their leader, R. al-Khanoushi, compromised with other secular political parties in drafting their new constitution. The new Tunisian constitution kept the first part of the previous constitution, without any changes. It states that “Tunis is a free and independent state and Islam is its religion and Arabic is its language and its form of government is a republic”. No reference was made to Sharia law, and it should be noted that the literacy rate in Tunisia is around 85%, while the literacy rate in Egypt is nearly 62%. It has been mentioned that most of those who voted for the Islamic parties were illiterate. The Egyptian Freedom and Justice Islamic political party should learn from both the Tunisian and the Turkish Islamic political models.

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