Egypt’s New Constitution Gives Coptic Christians a Bleak and Unstable Future


Egyptians have approved a controversial new constitution. According to reports, Egyptians have endorsed the new charter in the two-stage referendum; the approved charter gives Islamists the mandate to decide the future of Egypt which has a considerable Christian population and other minorities.

The new constitution drafted by a predominant Islamist group, which excluded the aspirations of the Christians and liberals, is expected to come into effect this week. The final endorsement of the constitution by Egyptians has crystallized the fears of liberals, religious minorities, and women that “all is not well in the state of Egypt.”

The new constitution after a drawn-out referendum may apparently provide Egypt’s transition period an ostensible closure. However, with violence, lawlessness, and disapproval simmering from a large chunk of Egypt’s minority, there are apprehensions that Arab’s most populous nation is increasingly sliding into a state of civil strife.

Ever since the constitutional draft was passed without any consensus from the secular groups and liberals, the Coptic Christians have taken an unprecedented approach in the constitutional struggle. The Coptic Orthodox Church withdrew six of their members from the Constituent Assembly as a mark of protest and later declined to join the ‘national dialogue’ staged by PresidentMohammed Morsi.

Despite the protests and violence which engulfed the cities of Cairo and Alexandria, the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to sustain its will in influencing the Egyptians, especially the conservative, uneducated, and traditional sections to vote in favor of the new draft.

The manner in which supporters of Muslim Brotherhood swept down on anti-Morsi protesters on December 5 outside the presidential palace trying to dismantle the protests with violence predicts a new Egypt that stretches beyond the politics of the constitution itself.

There’s no doubt that the draft constitution finalized by the Islamists has polarized Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand accuse the liberals of attempting to curtail a right to bring Islamic law which they earned with election victories the past year.

According to a report in the Washington Times, the new constitution now openly seeks to “establish dictatorial arrogance with a blatant disregard for religious freedom” within the Egyptian constitution.

The new legislations can now endorse religious discrimination and there are apprehensions that that once the constitution begins to take effect, Egypt will witness a new phase of repression. Sharia or Islamic religious law will be the basis of legislations and some of the doctrines in the constitution essentially relegate non-Muslims to a position of second class citizenry.

The Coptic Christians are among the major casualties as Morsi’s constitution insists on Egypt’s religious identity and not the nation’s secular identity. The legal framework meant to ensure equality for all Egyptians including the Copts who comprise nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s population has been severely compromised.

The single largest Christian community in Middle East now looks at a future that is uncertain, unstable and filled with perils. The apprehension is; it will be worse with the Islamists who have dominated Egypt’s political landscape since the dismantling of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011.

For the rest of the world, it is crystal clear that the despite the Muslim Brotherhood emerging victorious on the referendum, the new constitution displays sharper dichotomy between democratic groups and Islamists.

The Islamists have definitely gained legitimacy by operating anti-democratic forces during Egypt’s transition and the world has no reasons to endorse the victory just because the Muslim brotherhood gained acceptance through elections.

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