Many Egyptian Christians voted ‘no’ on constitution, fearing Islamists

March 21, 2011
egypt referendum

(Pope Shenouda (L), head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, casts his vote during a national referendum, at a school in Cairo March 19, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Many Egyptian Christians say they voted to reject proposed constitutional amendments in a referendum on Saturday because they fear hasty elections to follow may open the door for Islamist groups to rise to power. It turned out they were in the minority — 77% of those voting supported the proposed changes.

Parliamentary elections should take place in late September followed by presidential elections in December, giving scant time for new parties to organise, including ones representing the aspirations of Christians. Foremost among these aspirations is the creation of a civil state where religion is not a basis for legislation.

It is widely assumed that quick elections would give an advantage to the well-established Muslim Brotherhood, a group founded in the 1920s which has emerged as the best organised political force since Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power.

“I fear the Islamists because they speak in civil slogans that have a religious context, like when one said he believed in a civil Egypt but at the same time no woman or Copt should run for president,” said Samuel Wahba, a Coptic doctor.

The Islamist group has always sought to reassure Copts, who make up about 10 percent of 80 million citizens, saying they have the same rights as other Egyptians. But they have also historically opposed the idea of a Copt assuming the presidency.

Coptic Christians also want the new constitution to do away with Article 2, which says Islam is the religion of the state and Islamic jurisprudence the main source of legislation — a point of tension with Islamists. “I voted ‘no’, because I don’t want to return to the old constitution or a patchwork of the old constitution and a tyrannical president after such a great revolution,” Wahba said.

Some church leaders advised their congregations to reject the amendments as a patriotic effort to support pro-democracy Egyptians who seek a civil state.

Read the full story here.

.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

rss buttonSubscribe to all posts via RSS

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/