Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tea and Politics.

   Well we didn't actually drink tea, but we most certainly spoke politics. A few nights ago my brother, a friend and I went to a friend's house to meet with a judge and former UN lawyer to talk politics and the discuss the future of Egypt.
   Conversation ranged from the structure of the country's justice system and the challenges facing those in it and the possible scenarios in Egypt's future. The major focus of the evening though, was the proposed amendments to the constitution. These amendments address several main areas:

  1. The President (who is eligible and time limits of office).
  2. Elections and voting.
  3. The appointment of a Vice-President.
  4. Emergency Law.
  5. Presidential use of military justice.
  6. Amending the constitution. 
For the full details of the amendments please click here Egypt's Constitutional Amendments

   Something that I hadn't realized before this meeting was that the old constitution is technically null and void since when Mubarak stepped down and handed control to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces the constitution fell with him, because he left office due to a revolution. Legally our current constitution is what was issued by the SCAF in their communique which stated their intent to uphold the laws of the land and all international agreements and treaties ( a thinly veiled assurance to Israel regarding the Camp David peace agreement). This means that instead of simply amending the constitution, now is the best possible time to re-draft the entire document. The only possibility of this happening is if the proposed amendments are refused in the referendum to be held on March 19th.                                 

   One article that was not mentioned in the list of proposed amendments is the second article. This states that the official language of Egypt is Arabic, the official religion is Islam and that Islamic sharia is the only source of jurisprudence.  This is the section that a growing number of people have objections too. Egypt has approximately 10 million Coptic Christians and it is felt by them, and many Muslims, that this last section of the second article is unfair to this section of the population.

   What 'our' judge was able to tell us, is that in his professional experience this is only applied in family law and only to Muslims. Our host family was Coptic Christian and to hear the situation discussed rationally, calmly and intellectually from both points of view was refreshing, too often these conversations turn hostile. One of the points raised was that of religious education in school. One argued that from a very young age she felt "different" from her friends when the class was separated for religion classes. Her argument was that if this were removed from the curriculum (leaving religious education to the home and family) it may well go some way to removing the 'us and them' mentality which in cases may be subconscious.

   All in all it was one of the most interesting, stimulating and thought-provoking evenings I've had in a long time. I really hope we get a chance to repeat it.                                    

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