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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Unease grows over Islamist political agenda in Egypt


The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in Egypt are flexing their growing political muscle. They control the legislative agenda in parliament, and in recent weeks introduced controversial proposals to curb social freedoms and legal rights.

Islamist lawmakers also handpicked a 100-member panel that began meeting this week to write a new constitution, which is widely expected to enshrine Islamic law.

Even so, Islamist leaders say they want Egypt to remain a secular state. But many secular Egyptians are not convinced.

Salwa Gerges is one of many Egyptians at an outdoor clothing market in Cairo nervous about the Islamist politicians' plans.

The 46-year-old Coptic Christian housewife says she has a hard time believing the politicians embrace secularism and diversity. She points to one Islamist lawmaker who recently proposed adopting punishments prescribed by religious law, such as cutting off limbs.

Fellow shopper Mona El Shazly is also annoyed with what she sees as the mixed messages coming from the Islamists.

The nursery school owner and conservative Muslim complains that Islamists have done nothing to fix Egypt's deteriorating economy and security. Instead, she says, the Islamists come up with misguided proposals like stripping foreign-language instruction from Egyptian primary schools.

Islamist lawmaker Mohammed El Kordy introduced that measure last month. In a televised session, he argued that teaching foreign languages leads to Egyptian children embracing the West.


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