Proposed constitution would take Egypt a step in the wrong direction
By Sherif Said
Sherif Said is a dentist who was born and raised in Cairo. He has been a resident of Minnetonka since 2004.
On Saturday, Egyptians will vote in a referendum on the draft of a post-revolution constitution. The draft has been so controversial that some groups, notably secularists and Christians, have refused to be a part of it. They believe the drafting process was dominated by Islamists intent on subjecting Egypt to Islamic rule.
Even though I live in Minnesota, as a dual citizen I still have a vote in Egypt. And I intend to use it to vote "no."
President Mohamed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, seems inexplicably tone-deaf to the mood of a nation that so recently demonstrated its resolve and its willingness to sacrifice lives to the idea of free speech and a fair constitution.
The National Salvation Coalition has called for a "no" vote, or for a boycott of the ballot boxes to undermine the balloting process. But the coalition is not the entire opposition, even if it represents leading figures within it, including Mohamed Elbaradei, who supporters see as the godfather of the January Revolution; Hamdeen Sabbahi, ex-presidential candidate and founder of the Popular Front; and Amr Moussa, Mubarak-era foreign minister and founder of the Conference Party.
Other political parties and groups that are not part of the coalition have already made up their minds about the referendum. The "Strong Egypt" party, founded by ex-Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, has called on supporters to vote "no." The same position is shared by the 6th of April Movement, which supported Morsi in the presidential election runoff. The main association of Egyptian judges has announced that 90 percent of its members refuse to oversee the referendum.
Egyptian expats began voting in the country's constitutional referendum on Wednesday. The poll was scheduled to open on Saturday, but was delayed after violent clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi's constitutional declaration. On Tuesday, Defense Minister Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi invited President Morsi and "political parties and forces" to hold dialogue on Wednesday in hopes of resolving the current political crisis. The event was later canceled.
Morsi has ordered the army to safeguard the voting process, and has given army officers temporary power to arrest civilians.
The current situation offers a dilemma for the United States and the European Union. The U.S. State Department issued a statement reminding Morsi that "one of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution."
The constitution in its current form will probably not mean the full implementation of the Islamic Shariah, nor would it establish an Islamic state. However, it represents a significant step on the path to one. The constitutional draft is seen as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood's plan for a gradual implementation of Islamic rule in Egypt.
As an expat, this referendum is exceptionally important for me. I have always envisioned a free, secular Egypt. That's why I, and practically every Egyptian I know, will vote "no" on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the crowds of demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in front of the presidential palace give viewers a sense of deja vu. Morsi may be able to survive the current political turmoil, but will his presidency last a full four years?