By Aya Batrawy Associated Press Fri Nov 9, 2012 9:03 PM
CAIRO -- More than 10,000 ultraconservative Muslims demonstrated Friday in downtown Cairo to demand that Egypt’s new constitution be based on the rulings of Islamic religious law, or Shariah.
The writing of the constitution has been fraught with controversy since last year’s uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak and ushered the formerly repressed Islamists to power. But Islamists themselves are not in agreement over the interpretation of Shariah and its place in the document.
Demonstrators in Tahrir Square, many bused in from outside Cairo, demanded the panel tasked with writing the constitution override liberal and secular objections. The panel is led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the powerful Islamist group from which President Mohammed Morsi hails.
The controversy is centered on the wording of the second amendment.
The former constitution stated that the “principles of Islamic Shariah” are the basis of legislation. This wording is favored by liberals because they say it meets the broad ideas of Islam.
Ultraconservatives, though, want the wording changed to state that the basis of law will be “the rulings of Shariah,” implying Egypt’s laws may be left to the interpretation of religious scholars.
Seeking to mollify ultraconservatives who accuse the Brotherhood of not advocating strongly enough for Islamic rule, the constitutional panel is discussing adding a new article that would explain what the principles of Islamic Shariah are.
Still a draft
Ongoing controversy over the wording has thrown into question when the draft will be complete. Panel members say they plan to put the charter to a nationwide referendum before the end of the year.
Egypt’s two most powerful political parties, the Brotherhood and more conservative Salafi Nour Party, said they were not participating in Friday’s protest, although many of their supporters did.
The two groups, which hold an influential number of seats in the assembly, have said protests are premature because the constitution is still being written.