The new Egyptian constitution is based on discrimination, speakers at Al-Tayar Al-Shaaby’s conference on national harmony said on Wednesday.
Al-Tayar Al-Shaaby held a third session of its Conference of National Harmony on Tuesday and Wednesday, focusing on religious pluralism in Egypt.
During a session on combatting discrimination through legal texts, Mohamed Noor Farahat, constitutional expert and leading figure at the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP), said that the members of the Constituent Assembly which drafted the constitution favoured discrimination; be it discriminating against women, non-Muslims or, in essence, any dissenting viewpoints.
“The constitution includes a set of articles which might allow for discrimination in the future,” Farahat said.
International law professor Fouad Abdel Moneim Riad said that combatting discrimination is an international as well as supra-constitutional concept. “Nevertheless, the Constituent Assembly arrogantly announced it doesn’t recognise international law, putting the Islamic Sharia above all other sources of legislation,” he said.
Riad outlined the danger of impunity in cases of attacks on Coptic Christians.
“The absence of any hunt for the perpetrators has given them licence to do whatever they please, with their deeds believed to be sacred,” Riad said. He added that this behaviour had pushed the people to take the law into their own hands to reclaim their right of redress.
Farahat criticised Shura Council member Adel Afifi’s proposition to disband the National Council for Women (NCW) during Tuesday’s session. He also condemned Shura Council member Gamal Hamed’s suggestion to cancel the art of ballet, after describing it as “an art of nudity”.
“Most Salafis only see ballet dancers as naked women,” Farahat said, considering both suggestions as a form of discrimination against women. “They also see women as a sexual creature; as an enemy.”
Farahat stated that such cultures are all “imported from the deserts [of the Gulf region],” adding that the Egyptian culture is not compatible with such patterns of thought.
The conference also included sessions on education, media and culture. It featured a number of national figures, politicians, and representatives from Al-Azhar and Egypt’s churches.
In a press statement released on Tuesday, Al-Tayar Al-Shaaby denied inviting the Muslim Brotherhood or its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), to the conference.
“We welcome dialogue and present different visions and opinions,” the statement read. It added that the conference featured speakers from different backgrounds and affiliations, including non-Brotherhood Islamist figures. “If the Brotherhood is really keen on achieving national harmony, they should apply the alternative policies presented in this conference.”