News Tip: Passage of Egypt's Constitution Will Not End Crisis, Duke Experts Say

Egyptians vote Dec. 15 and Dec. 22 on new constitution.

A divided Egyptian public will vote this Saturday (Dec. 15) and next (Dec. 22) on a new and controversial constitution championed by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Two Duke experts weigh in on the new constitution and its likely impact. Abdeslam Maghraoui Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Political Science, Duke University Maghraoui specializes in political identity, political culture, and Islam and politics, with a focus on North Africa and the Middle East.  Quotes:"Egypt's new constitutional draft is likely to be approved in the two-round referendum. The constitution, if passed, will certainly not end the political standoff, and will unleash the beginning of a new cycle in the revolution. "The major shortcoming of the draft is quite obvious: the constitutional text does not speak to all Egyptians, regardless of creed or belief. The text assumes a monolithic community bound by a set of moral and religious principles. Any divergence from the core principles has in effect been censured. "This controversial draft illustrates a general and deeper political problem -- the new rulers, President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, confuse a democratic mandate, which they have, with absolute sovereignty, which Egyptian citizens are no longer willing to accept.  "This unfolding Egyptian crisis marks the end of a political era where power -- religious, political or military -- was used to justify absolute rule. Resistance to the draft indicates that things have changed and that Egyptians are no longer willing to accept absolute rule. That is a positive sign. The Muslim Brotherhood may learn the hard way that Egyptian attitudes about politics are changing dramatically." Ellen McLarneyAssistant professor of Arabic Literature and Culture, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University ellenmc@duke.edu McLarney's new book “Writing Revival: Women in Egypt's Islamic Awakening” (under contract with Princeton University Press) analyzes Islamist women's writings in Egypt, gender ideologies in the Islamic revival, and feminist ideologies in Islamic thought. Quotes:"The Egyptian draft constitution calls for equal rights for men and women in a number of different places. This will be the first time in Egyptian history that the constitution asserts women's unmitigated equality with men. "The new draft constitution continues prior constitutions' language of balancing women's duties in the family with her work outside the home, but without the caveat about the Sharia limiting this equality in the domain of the family. The fact that the family will continue to be legislated by religious law, though, ensures that there will still be certain legal inequalities in this area, such as in divorce. "The new constitution draws almost wholesale on liberal language of private property, freedom, equality, democracy and family. Whether the new government can make good on the promise of democracy, against all odds and expectations, remains to be seen."  ###