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Crisis talks to save Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, February 13, 2013 February 14, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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The rector of the Al-Azhar in Cairo has convened an all-party meeting of government, opposition, and religious leaders to halt the slide towards anarchy underway in Egypt.

On 31 Jan 2013, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar University and the country’s leading Islamic scholar, sat down with senior government leaders, the opposition and Muslim and Christian leaders to begin a national conversation “in which all elements of Egyptian society participate, without any exclusion.”

Dialogue “is the only tool to resolve any problems or differences,” Sheikh al-Tayyeb told the gathering, which included the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis.

“Political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and the welfare of everyone and the fate of our nation depends on respect for the rule of law,” the sheikh said, according to Egyptian press accounts.

The intervention by the al-Azhar follows street fighting and protests in the wake of the second anniversary of the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Analysts fear the political crisis in Egypt may lead to national collapse.

The International Crisis Group stated that what was “overshadowing” the dispute was a “a persistent, perilous standoff between on one side the president and his Islamist backers for whom elections appear to mean everything, and, on the other, opposition forces for whom they seem to mean nothing; between those in power who deny adversaries respect and those not in power who deny Islamists legitimacy. The constitution-writing process was a sad microcosm: Islamist contempt in forcing through what ought to have been a carefully constructed, consensual document; opposition recklessness in seeking to exploit the moment to topple the Brotherhood; one celebrating a narrow conception of majority rule, the other holding to a counter-productive notion of street politics.”

“Even if leaders back away from the brink, this could quickly get out of hand, as their ability to control the rank and file – and, in the case of the opposition, ability to represent the rank and file – dwindles,” the think tank wrote.

At last week’s meeting, Sheikh al-Tayyeb and Egypt’s religious leaders presented Mahmoud Ezzat, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saad el-Katatni, the head of its political party with a document that called for the renunciation of violence and a pledge to engage in dialogue with the opposition.

Across the table from the Muslim Brotherhood leaders were leaders of Egypt’s National Salvation Front – including Mohamed ElBardie, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and leader of Egypt’s Constitution Party, and former presidential candidates Amr Moussa and leftist Hamdeen Sabahi. Representatives of Egypt’s hardline Islamist parties, including the head of the salafist Nour Party also participated in the talks.

The ten point agreement signed by the political and religious leaders agreed to renounce violence “in all its forms and manifestations” and respect the dignity of all Egyptians irrespective of religion or political views.

Dr. Anis reported after the meeting: “Today the Grand Imam invited all opposition parties and ruling party and churches. We produced a document against violence and formed a committee to prepare for a dialogue. We pray so that the Lord may put an end for this violence and bring peace to Egypt.”

Al-Azhar meeting to head off civil war in Egypt: Anglican Ink, February 1, 2013 February 1, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Politics.
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Egypt’s warring political factions sat down with the country’s religious leaders on Thursday and endorsed a joint declaration pledging an end to the political violence that has left over sixty dead in the past week.

On 31 Jan 2013, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar University and the country’s leading Islamic scholar, convened a meeting of top officials of President Mohammad Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood party and the secularist opposition. Egypt’s leading religious and social leaders including the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis, attended the conference at the 1000-year old university in Cairo in a bid to halt Egypt’s slide toward anarchy.

Sheikh al-Tayyeb told the politicians that a national conversation “in which all elements of Egyptian society participate, without any exclusion, is the only tool to resolve any problems or differences.”

“Political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and the welfare of everyone and the fate of our nation depends on respect for the rule of law,” the sheikh said, according to Egyptian press accounts.

The unprecedented intervention by the al-Azhar follows two weeks of political tensions in the wake of the second anniversary of the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Last week President Mursi declared a “state of emergency” for Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, placing them under martial law.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

First round win for Islamists in Egyptian constitutional referendum: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2012 p 6. December 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Politics.
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The Muslim Brotherhood has claimed victory in the first round of voting to introduce a Sharia Law-based constitution for Egypt.  Unofficial returns after Saturday’s vote released by President Mohammed Mursi’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) show 56.6 per cent of ballots cast were in favour of the new constitution, while 43.5 per cent were opposed.

However, the Egyptian Coalition for Monitoring Elections said in a statement after the polls closed on Saturday there were “cases of voter intimidation, delaying the voting process, and early closure of some voting centers with no clear reasons,” while the Egyptian Independent newspaper reported that in some polling places Coptic Christians were not allowed to vote.

In a pastoral letter released on the eve of the vote, the Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis warned the political battle between Islamists and moderates may push Egypt into civil war.

“I cannot tell you how much I am heavy-hearted because of what is going on in my beloved country Egypt,” Dr. Anis said, as “many Egyptians were expecting that after the 25 January Revolution in 2011 there would be no exclusion for any citizen or groups because of their political or religious stance. Sadly, we are still groaning for this equality.”

The new constitution posed significant problems for Christians, women and moderate Muslims, the bishop said as the constitution would empower religious vigilante groups to impose their views on society. “We have already seen some groups such as ‘The Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’ who, in the name of Islam, punish others without resorting to the legal authorities,” the bishop wrote, noting the language of the new constitution would give their actions the force of law.

“Another example would be how Article 2 mentions that ‘the principles of the Islamic sharia is the source of all legislation’ while Article 219 defines ‘the principle of the Islamic sharia’ in a vague way which can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the different Islamic sects,” the bishop wrote.

This breakdown of public trust in the government over the constitutional reform process had led to street fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-democracy activists.  “The two demonstrating groups became violent and more than 450 people were injured and 8 people were killed. The demonstrations continue now and the fear is that another wave of violence and bloodshed may happen tomorrow.”

The bishop said that those who opposed the new constitution believed it should be a document that fosters national unity, not the sectarian interests of one political-religious party.  The document was “dividing the society into Islamists and non-Islamists (moderate Muslims and Christians),” the bishop warned.

Ten provinces, including Cairo and Alexandria voted on 15 December and 17 rural provinces are scheduled to vote on 22 December. “It is heart-breaking to see Egyptians against Egyptians,” Dr. Anis said. “We don’t want to see Egypt in a civil war.”

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

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