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Egypt releases draft of constitution for debate

The panel writing Egypt’s new constitution released a partial draft of the document on Wednesday, calling for a public debate in the face of mounting criticism over Islamists’ shaping of the charter.

The campaign, labeled “Know Your Constitution,” comes as the 100 members of the assembly are still haggling over controversial articles in the constitution, some of which will determine the role of religion in the country’s affairs and the independence of the judiciary. The partial draft made public also did not include sections still under debate over the role of the military and the extent of civilian oversight over its budget.

The panel is dominated by Islamists who have come under mounting criticism from liberals and secularists. They accuse the conservative Islamists of seeking to place limits in the new constitution on religious freedoms and women’s rights.

One article introduced by Islamists that came under heated debate puts limitations on equality between men and women in accordance with Islamic laws. Liberals and rights groups argued for the conditionality to be removed, but it appeared in the draft copy distributed Wednesday.

In a sign that the role of religion in legislation has not yet been settled, another article that would install Al-Azhar, Egypt’s premier Sunni Islamic institution, as the sole body authorized to interpret religious laws, did not appear in the draft. That suggested that the assembly had not yet settled that issue.