(Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood majority government continues to debate the phrasing used while drafting its new constitution that will more than likely have Islamic Sharia law as its foundation. A religious persecution watchdog group says the implementation of such a constitution is expected and can only mean deepening trouble for Christians in the country.
"It is hardly a surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood is now pushing Sharia as the law of the land in Egypt," said Jerry Dykstra, director of communications at Open Doors USA. "Strict Islamic law has always been its main agenda for Egypt. President Morsi attempted to disguise this before the election, saying his government would be moderate. Now the true face of extreme Islam is being unveiled to the world. The high hopes of the revolution and overthrow of Mubarak have now been replaced by the reality of another form of extremist government – an Islamist one."
Since last year's removal of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, Islamists have dominated every election and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi is the president. However, the Brotherhood is being pressured by ultraconservatives known as Salafis to make sure Sharia is followed nearly to the letter if not entirely.
On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that the Brotherhood was "committed to enshrining Islamic Sharia law as the main source of a new constitution."
"The principles of Sharia" are the basis of law in Egypt according to the old constitution. The Salafis want the phrasing of the new constitution to read "the rulings of Sharia." This would mean that Egypt's laws would have to mirror Islamic law as outlined by the clerics, according to AP.
While a government panel continues to draft a resolution, Coptic Christian leaders, who were accommodated by the previous administration by allowing them to hold at least 10 percent of the parliamentary seats, are voting on a new Pope. More than 2,400 clergy and community leaders gathered in Cairo on Monday for the first time in nearly 40 years for the election.
Pope Shenouda III, who died at the age of 88 earlier this year, had been an important part of the lives of Copts in Egypt, estimated to be a population of anywhere from 5 to 20 million. Evangelical Christians also make up part of the demographics as well, but the numbers are said to be smaller.
Coptics say a new pope is needed to bring some stability and sense of authority for Christians worried about the future under a Muslim Brotherhood majority in government.
"The reality is the persecution of Christians and other minorities inside Egypt has increased dramatically since Mors' election this summer," Dykstra said. "The kidnapping of Christians has increased. Qualified Christians are not getting jobs. Christians have been driven out of their churches and communities. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of Christians are fleeing the country as they face even more erosion of their 'freedom' to worship the true God."
He added, "But the good news is Christians are coming together in fervent prayer and worship. In October, 10,000 young people gathered for worship in the desert north of Cairo. An evangelistic festival drew huge numbers this past weekend. The Lord is moving hearts in Egypt. There is revival. Please pray with the Christians there during the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, which will be held Nov. 11 in the United States, or Nov. 4 in some other countries."