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Religious groups react to referendum announcement

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The draft constitution garners mixed responses

Various religious groups have reacted differently to the proposed constitutional referendum. While Al-Azhar feels satisfied with the draft constitution and Shia’a groups oppose it, some religious groups are yet to decide.

Baha’a Anwar, Shia’a spokesperson, said that he rejects the draft constitution as well as the Constituent Assembly. Anwar says that the assembly does not represent Egypt’s Sufis, its three million Shia’a population nor the Christian community, whose representatives have withdrawn from the assembly. He added that it does not represent women sufficiently.

Anwar feels that the assembly was dominated by one political group. He says that the Shia’a will not take part in the referendum. “We do not acknowledge it. If we vote “no” we will only give it legitimacy,” he added.

The final draft of the constitution was handed to President Mohamed Morsy on Saturday. It is made up of 236 articles and has had its share of harsh criticism. The referendum on the constitution will be held on 15 December.

Calls for civil disobedience were made on Tuesday, in response to calls for the referendum.

Anwar said that there have been discussions as to whether there will be a strike or civil disobedience, but the Shia’a will take part in either event.

Mohamed Mostafa, the spokesperson of Al-Azhar said that the constitution achieves the independence that Al-Azhar has been wanting for a very long time. “It creates an Al-Azhar that does not have internal or external pressures,” he said.

Ahmed Mawlana, spokesperson of the Salafi Al-Sha’ab Party said that while the party supports the president’s constitutional declaration and sees it as a necessary move, the party is yet to decide on what to vote in the referendum.

Mawlana said that the party is currently having a discussion on how the armed forces and civil liberties were addressed in the draft. He does not see civil disobedience as the way to express disapproval of the draft. “The ballot box will be the judge,” he said.

Sufi Sheikh Aboul Azayem said that he now feels like a stranger in his own country. He believes that the constitution only satisfies the Muslim Brotherhood. He alleged that the Brotherhood, “look at the rest of the people as unbelievers including the Sufis and the Shia’a.”

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