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  Middle East & Africa
Egyptian Footnotes from Zvi November
Special Contribution
By Zvi November
Hosni Mubarak

Egypt has promulgated over the years several constitutions. The current constitution’s introductory paragraph declares that Egypt is a Moslem country whose laws adhere to the spirit of Islam. This declaration, of course, falls far short of Islamic fundamentalists’ aspirations.

Be this as it may, it is against the law for a Moslem woman to marry a Christian man. However, Moslem men can take Christian wives and their children are automatically Moslems.

A Moslem, according to Shari’a law, who converts to another religion can and should be executed. A few years ago, a leading Cairo cleric, in a moment of humanitarian reflection, suggested that an apostate could remain alive if his conversion was a matter of conscience.

Over the last few years Mubarak’s regime has moved in a liberal direction. For instance, the government has enabled more women to become judges and fill senior posts. In January 2005 the Egyptian parliament passed a more liberal personal status law which was actively supported by Suzanne Mubarak, the president’s wife. This law makes it easier for a woman to initiate divorce proceedings and even
get a passport to travel abroad without her husband’s permission.

Previously, a woman had to get her husband’s permission to travel.

Like Syria, Egypt for the past thirty years has been functioning under a state of emergency. One of the demonstrators’ demands (according to news reports) is that the government abolishes the state of emergency.

The Egyptian political system is multi-party. But only parties approved by the government (i.e. Mubarak’s ruling party) can contest seats in parliamentary elections. The Moslem Brotherhood, which everyone agrees is the most powerful opposition force in the country, is banned from participation because there is a law that forbids political parties based on religious precepts. However, parliament has “independent” members who identify with the Brotherhood (Ichwan in
Arabic).

Until recently presidential elections in Egypt (and in Syria as well) were really plebiscites because voters could say “yes” or “no” to the one single candidate. Then, five years ago, under American pressure, the system was changed to allow for competing contenders.

As in most Arab countries, vigorously criticizing the government is unlawful. Opposition politicians are often imprisoned or go into exile.

After Israel expelled its Jews from Gaza (8/2005), it abandoned the border with Egypt. Then in 2007, Hamas fought Fatah and gained control over Gaza. Hamas, which is a Palestinian Moslem Brotherhood, stands in opposition to Mubarak’s regime.

Consequently, Egypt closed the border crossing. But (it is claimed) there are a hundred tunnels
under the border through which merchandize, guns, ammunition, terrorists and much more flow into and out of Gaza.

If Mubarak falls and new Egyptian leaders sympathetic to Hamas take over the government, then the border crossing into Gaza will surely be opened to facilitate a massive flow of missiles to further threaten Israel. The Iranians will be elated!



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Zvi November, who grew up in New York, served as a Peace Corps's teacher in rural Philippines. He also taught at Hong Kong Int'l School. He earned his diploma from Univ. of Edinburgh, his MA from Syracuse Univ, both in anthropology. Now he is an activist in Israel's Media Watch and other civic bodies.

 

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