MPs debate citizenship, doubt sincere implementation

Daily News Egypt
4 Min Read

CAIRO: A suggestion to include a clause on citizenship rights to Article 1 of the constitution was fiercely debated in parliament last week.

The amendment is one of 34 changes to the constitution proposed by President Mubarak in December. The move, observers claim, is an attempt by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to prove their commitment to reform.

Reports by the legislative committees of both the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council (the upper house of parliament) concerning the amendments, stressed that the changes to Article 5 banning political parties based on religion or ethnic origin are a means of entrenching citizenship values.

This, the report states, will rule out any attempts to mingle religion with politics.

NDP members expressed their support for the amendment to Article 1 at the PA. They assured that it is the ideal way to ensure better representation of Christians and women.

The same ideas were voiced by Shura Council’s Safwat Al Sharif – who is also the secretary general of the NDP – who said: There is a sort of a general agreement over citizenship.

But Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated MPs, who comprise one fifth of the seats in parliament, begged to differ.

MP Ragab Abo Zied, for instance, declared that citizenship is a Western notion . Separating religion from the state, he said, is not only unacceptable to the Brotherhood, but to most Egyptians.

Another Brotherhood MP Saad Al Katatny, concurred. Yet he assured that although the Brotherhood is after establishing a civil state with a religious frame of reference, this did not mean setting up a theocratic regime.

The Muslim Brotherhood believes in the importance of achieving equality between Egyptian citizens no matter what their religion, gender or background is. We declared this in our public statements concerning the constitutional amendments, MP Hussein Ibrahim, head of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary block told The Daily Star Egypt.

We agree with the concept of citizenship but we are not sure what the intentions are behind including it in the constitution. We refuse any legislation that will misuse citizenship to stop our political activity, Ibrahim added.

Refaat El Saeed, head of leftist Al Taggamu opposition party and member of Shura Council lamented the lack of real implementation of citizenship principles.

Citizenship means achieving equality between people which does not happen in elections, for example. The poor cannot elect each other only because they are poor, so where is the citizenship you are speaking about here? Al Saeed fired out.

Citizenship has been one of our major demands for a long time, and we refuse any attempt to exclude it from the constitution, said MP Mohammad Mustafa Shereidy, a member of the liberal Al Wafd party.

He told The Daily Star Egypt: Al Wafd declared its stance on citizenship. We believe it’s one of the best amendments but at the same time we are against any attempt to misuse it to fetter the political participation of groups like the Muslim brotherhood .

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