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Egypt: Salafist Nour Party seeks Al-Azhar help on constitution - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ahmed al-Khouly (L), a member of the Anti-Coup Alliance speaks during a press conference along with the Islamist coalition on September 4, 2013 in the Egyptian capital, Cairo (AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

Ahmed al-Khouly (L), a member of the Anti-Coup Alliance speaks during a press conference along with the Islamist coalition on September 4, 2013 in the Egyptian capital, Cairo (AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The National Coalition for Legitimacy, the umbrella organization for groups opposed to the army-backed ousting of former president Mursi, said on Wednesday that it was willing to take part in a national reconciliation process.

Representatives of the movement said that it welcomed any initiative which did not exclude any party in Egypt. Leading Labor Party figure Ahmed Al-Khouly said in a news conference by the coalition parties on Wednesday that “we extend our hand for a true national reconciliation which does not exclude any political faction.”

The statement was the first sign of the willingness of Islamist parties within the coalition to accept the decision to oust President Mursi. It is still unclear, however, whether the Muslim Brotherhood, which faces legal proceedings against its general guide and other members, will also accept the decision.

In another development, a leading figure in the Nour Party, the most prominent Salafist party in Egyptian politics, said that the party favored continued membership of the 50-member constitutional drafting committee, despite disagreements over the size of its delegation.

He said: “The majority in the party lean towards staying in the 50-member committee and prefer not to withdraw.” He added that popular bases of the party in all Egyptian governorates are behind the party in the decision to participate.

The leading figure, speaking on a condition of anonymity, said “an agreement was reached within the party to commission the Al-Azhar institution, as the main religious authority in Egypt, with regards to Sharia-related articles and Article 219, while keeping Article 2 without amendment.”

Article 2 of current Egyptian constitution states: “The state’s religion is Islam, its language is Arabic, and Islamic Shari’a is the source of its legislation.”

A representative of the Al-Azhar on the constitution committee, also speaking on a condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is an inclination towards amending Article 219 of the constitution which was solely drawn by the Brotherhood.”

Article 219 states: “The principles of Islamic Shari’a include its commonly accepted interpretations, its fundamental and jurisprudential rules, and its widely considered sources, as stated by the schools of Sunna and Gamaa.”

An Al-Azhar representative said “this article is contradictory, unscientific and unfair.” Observers said that Article 2 of the constitution caused great debate between political parties after jurists agreed on the necessity of removing it because it gave Al-Azhar scholars the authority to issue laws, which contradicted the principle of a civil state.

Observers expect the Salafist Nour Party to face opposition in the 50-member committee because it wants to keep the article in the constitution in its current form, especially following announcements by the Muslim Brotherhood that Article 219 was put in the constitution to placate the Nour Party.

The Al-Azhar representative added that “it was agreed to keep Article 2 in its current form, but the article concerning Al-Azhar needs reviewing and amendment, especially the part which says Al-Azhar’s sheikh must be independent and the Al-Azhar institution must be independent too, because this would mean the sheikh would be independent from his institution.”