Bishop Hanna: Articles of Egyptian Constitution Endanger Religious Freedom

Auxiliary Bishop of Alexandria Denounces Muslim Brotherhood Statements

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CAIRO, DEC. 12, 2012 ( Auxiliary Bishop of Alexandria of Catholic Copts, Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna, denounced attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to incite demonstrators supporting President Morsi against local Christians.

According to Fides News Agency, during a demonstration in support of the current Egyptian president, Mahmoud Beltagui, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood provoked the crowd gathered against Christians, claiming that 60 percent of participants in demonstrations against the government belong to the Coptic Church. The claim was also expressed by Khairat al-Shater, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

When asked by Fides regarding the statements made by the Muslim Brotherhood, Bishop Hanna denounced the attempt to slide the conflicts that shake the country on sectarian contrast. “The strategy”, Bishop Hanna said, “is to find a scapegoat to hide the disaster of a policy that has destroyed the unity of the nation. This is extremely dangerous. But it seems to me that people have perceived that it has to do with divisive operations of propaganda.”

Bishop Hanna highlighted that the opposition to the text of the draft constitution is not generic and indistinct, and underlined a few items regarding religious matters.

“Article 2 is not a problem. Everyone here accepts the legal [criterion] that recognizes the principles of the Sharia as a fundamental source of legislation; Article 3, which is new, guarantees Christians and Jews to use their canonical principles to regulate the personal and religious issues in their communities. It may appear as a guarantee of autonomy. But in fact there is no glimmer of religious freedom and the ability to freely choose their religion,” Bishop Hanna said.

Article 4, he continues, “confers the power to interpret the law at the Sunni University of Al Azhar, and not the Supreme Court. Now in Al Azhar moderate positions prevail, but who can say how things will evolve in the future? Article 44 sets the constitutional basis for a possible blasphemy law, which is doing so much damage in other countries with a Muslim majority.”

The Auxiliary Bishop of Alexandria stated that several articles “enshrine a role of social groups in safeguarding ethics and public morals” which he feels could be used as a basis to pursue individual behavior with religious precepts.

“Finally, Article 219 makes it clear that the interpretation of the Sharia law should be in accordance with the rules established in the early centuries of Islam. Thus one recognizes the possibility of intervention to interpretative schools in conflict with each other, with an implicit preference for those most followed by the Salafis [Muslims who look towards their predecessors as examples of practicing Islam],” Bishop Hanna told Fides.

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