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Egypt’s Copts quit panel drafting new constitution

By Aya Batrawy,

CAIRO — Egypt’s Coptic Church withdrew Monday from an Islam­ist-dominated committee that will draft the nation’s new constitution, and a leading Christian figure said the minority was never really represented to begin with.

The move fed growing fears that Islamists and the military will control the most important governmental bodies in post-revolutionary Egypt and minorities, women and the liberal groups that drove last year’s uprising will be largely excluded. Out of 100 members of the committee originally selected, there were six Christians, six women and a handful of liberals.

Yousef Sidhom, editor of the weekly Watani newspaper and a Coptic Church official, said the church never officially put forth any members for the panel selected last week.

“How can we withdraw from something we have not been a part of?” he said. “We are calling on people to withdraw along with other groups that have pulled out.”

The new constitution will determine whether Egypt leans toward more conservative Islam and whether the decades-old system that concentrated power in the hands of the president will be maintained or replaced by an empowered parliament under an Islamist majority.

The Coptic boycott was the latest defection from the panel, whose work could set the tone for Egypt’s government for decades. Liberal and secular members and the main Christian church have left the panel, complaining of a lack of diversity. The result is that Islamists, a majority on the panel to begin with, have cemented their hold on the process.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, and most of them are Copts.

— Associated Press

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