Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

George Messiha and the Constitutional Assembly

George Messiha
George Messiha

From my recent article in Arab West Report:

George Messiha is young, an up-and-coming member of the political scene. In an effort to increase the representation of youth and Copts, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces appointed him to serve in the elected parliament. After the dissolution of this body by the Supreme Constitutional Court, Messiha returned to general Wafd Party politics, but also participated in a delegation to the Netherlands arranged by AWR editor-in-chief, Cornelis Hulsman. Members from each political trend participated, including Amr Darrag of the Muslim Brotherhood, who spoke proudly of the good work being done in the Constituent Assembly.

Messiha was already selected as one of fifty alternate members, but listening to Darrag convinced him to play a role once it became clear many non-Islamist figures were resigning in protest over the failure to achieve consensus. On October 16, 2012, he submitted his name for election to the body, and became one of nine replacement members tasked with completing the constitutional draft.

Unfortunately, his own experiences as a non-Islamist liberal did not match the impressions he obtained from the presentations of Darrag in The Netherlands.

The article is somewhat lengthy, but provides a very good overview of each member in the Constituent Assembly which wrote Egypt’s constitution. The point is to determine if the writing of the national charter was ‘dominated’ by Islamists, as it is often portrayed.

According to Messiha, 55% of the original members were Islamist in orientation. Following the mass withdrawal of many non-Islamists near the close of the process, the final count was 75%.

This article is not meant to be the final word. Arab West Report is currently producing a book on the Egyptian constitution; the question of member orientation is being put also to Islamists, both independent and affiliated with their official parties.

Holding judgment until then, here is the conclusion from the discussion with Messiha:

The Egyptian constitution reflects work inclusive of substantial non-Islamist participation. Many of the articles were discussed, argued, and formalized as divergent interests compromised and found agreement. But the charge that this is an ‘Islamist dominated’ constitution is also true. It is the product of a clear super-majority which approved the final text, recommending its presentation to the people in a referendum. Rightly or wrongly, non-Islamists felt themselves marginalized, and abandoned the process.

Whether it could have been otherwise is another story.

Please click here to read the whole article at Arab West Report.

Atlantic Council Middle East Published Articles

The Common Islamist: Principle, Pragmatism, or Triumphalism?

Islamist Giza Protest

From my new article on EgyptSource:

For many in Egypt, conspiracies and manipulations are evident, none clearer than the current battle over the Supreme Constitutional Court. Many liberals are convinced Islamists are seeking to destroy the judiciary in order to establish control over all three branches of government.

But do Islamists see themselves this way? Setting aside any possible top level schemes and propaganda among Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi leaders, do their supporters believe they are involved in a pre-planned hijacking of the revolution? Or might their own assumed conspiracies of the liberals have a measure of legitimacy?

‘They are doing everything they can to keep the decisive voice from going to the people,’ Ezzat al-Salamony, a member of the Guidance Bureau of the Islamic Group in Cairo, said of the secular politicians.

Demonstrations on Sunday at the Supreme Constitutional Court led to its chief justice suspending all work in protest. The headline of Ahram Online read: ‘Besieged by Islamist protestors, court delays ruling on Constituent Assembly’. Attending this protest, I witnessed hundreds chanting against the court.

But I also witnessed scores of riot police securing the entrance, enabling anyone to go in or out.

SCC Islamist Protest

I write next of what may represent a liberal effort to discredit Islamists via the protest at the court. But there may well be other games as well by the other side:

In his [Morsi’s] earlier declaration the president issued two more months for this assembly to complete its work. But in this closed door meeting the message was different.

‘Either we accept the declaration, or the constitution would be voted on tomorrow [Thursday, November 29],’ said Messiha, referring to the message delivered by the president’s legal advisor Mohamed Gadallah. The president was forcing their hand, and they refused. Just like that, the two months disappeared.

But most of the article is given to direct quotes from protesting Islamists, such as this one:

‘We can go outside the law if necessary for the public interest,’ said Adel Mohamed, ‘and the wali al-amr [Islamic terminology for the leading governmental authority] has the right to define the public interest.

‘Morsi walks righteously because he knows God, whereas Mubarak [also a wali al-amr] put those who mentioned the name of God in prison.’

Some of the quotes will resonate, others will infuriate. I can only hope, though, that all were sincere. For the most part I did not feel Islamists were trying to sell me a bill of goods.

Now, the country must make that determination. The referendum on the constitution is scheduled for December 15. The next two weeks will be very interesting.

Please click here to read the rest of the article at EgyptSource.

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