Egypt is currently undergoing a major political stir concerning the formation of the constitution. The referendum in March 2011 assigned parliament the right to elect a 100 member constituent assembly to draft the constitution, which would be put to a popular referendum after fifteen days. Very little instructions were provided on how this should be done, resulting in the current crisis.
Consistent with their powerful parliament majority, Islamist forces have approved an Islamist-dominated assembly. First they apportioned one-half of the membership to be drawn from parliament, which was distributed roughly according to party percentage. As Islamists represent 70% of this body, they immediately commanded a dominating percentage of the assembly as well.
The remaining half of the assembly was to be drawn from civil society, but the Islamist parliamentary majority submitted the final candidate list only one hour prior to voting, and then pushed through their desired candidates. This list includes several prominent non-Islamist figures, but most of these have since resigned in protest over Islamist dominance of the assembly.
The crisis is ongoing, with reformist Islamists seeking to reach out to the disgruntled liberals, while the Muslim Brotherhood engages in an ongoing war of words with the government and military council over the cabinet – which they want dismissed so as to form one themselves (in coalition, they insist, with all political currents) – as well as the presidency. The next few days in Egypt may be very politically telling.
In the meanwhile, this article purposes also to provide brief background on some of them selected members of the constituent assembly I have interacted with or written about in the past.
Only six Coptic members were elected to the body, but one of them is Rafik Habib. He is noteworthy as being a vice-president in the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. A Protestant, he cares deeply for the issues of Copts, but wraps their best future in an Islamic vision.
Rafik Habib: On Sharia, State, and Christianity – April 14, 2011
A more traditional Islamist is Nadia Mostafa, who is one of only six women in the 100 member assembly. She is a professor at Cairo University and discussed with me the relationship between Islam and civil society, especially how the promotion of civil society is often to the exclusion of the Muslim religion.
Islam and Civil Society – April 22, 2010
The final figure I have profiled was former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Nasr Farid Wassel. In a short interview I highlighted his statement honoring Osama bin Laden, but then spoke with an official member of the Azhar to dispute his interpretation.
Refuting bin Laden’s Martyrdom – May 24, 2011
It is certainly a unique body of Egyptians. Will they be able to draft a constitution acceptable to the Egyptian consensus? While already in question, the outcome is still to be decided.