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New Draft Constitution Divides Egyptians


Dr. Abdul Mawgoud Dardery was elected to the now disbanded Egyptian parliament as a candidate of the Freedom and Justice Party. That's the party aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and with Egyptian President Morsi. Dr. Dardery is a member and spokesman for the Foreign Relations Committee of the party, and he's in Berlin today.

Welcome back to the program. And is it fair to say that you're among the more liberal members of the Freedom and Justice Party?

ABDUL MAWGOUD DARDERY: If you like to call me, though, Robert, thank you, and I'm really happy to be speaking with you after long time no talk.

SIEGEL: Well, given the protests and counterprotests in Cairo, would you agree that President Morsi has gone too far and paid too little attention to secular Egyptians?

DARDERY: Not really. He's gone too far to welcome the opposition to extend his hand for dialogues so that all of us, as Egyptians, can come to common terms, work on what we can agree upon and let the people of Egypt, the democracy of Egypt decide what we cannot agree upon. And that's why we have to solve this by the referendum on Saturday.

SIEGEL: But more on this draft constitution that's going to be the subject of the referendum. This is what one very conservative Egyptian Muslim cleric said about it, as quoted by the Associated Press. Sheik Yasser Borhami is quoted praising the draft with these words: "This constitution has more complete restraints on rights than ever existed before in any Egyptian constitution. This will not be a democracy that can allow what God forbids or forbid what God allows."

If I were a not very religious Egyptian or a secular Egyptian, shouldn't I be worried about ideas like that?

DARDERY: I just picked Sheik Borhami's statement. I totally disagree with it. This draft has really given us rights that were not before in any other constitution in Egypt. Maybe he read the draft in the wrong way or maybe this is his wishful thinking. Because I read the three drafts before that final draft, and they were all talking about freedom of expression, freedom of organization. We have an article called Article 31, and that's an honor for the Egyptian revolution. It speaks of not Egyptian dignity, but human dignity. That's what makes me very supportive of the draft. Of course, it is not perfect.

SIEGEL: But there's also an Article 2, which speaks rather vaguely of the principles of Shariah guiding the laws. That seems to be coming from a different direction of Egyptian politics.

DARDERY: But, Robert, this article was always in all previous constitutions: 1923, 1954, 1965, even 1971. Egypt was always ruled under the principles, and the principles allow a lot of space for interpretation.

SIEGEL: Dr. Dardery, you spoke of all Egyptians who went out in the street to bring about the Egyptian revolution. In reality, I think some would say that Islamists were actually not such great participants in those protests. And, indeed, some of the secular democracy advocates who were are the very people back in the streets now protesting against President Morsi.

Does that worry you that there is such a public rift between Egyptian Islamists, your party, President Morsi and the people who had been out in Tahrir Square determined to bring down the Mubarak regime?

DARDERY: You see, Robert, in Tahrir Square, all were there: secular, young, old, most Islamists, non-Islamists, men and women. Does it worry me that people are in the street? Not at all. That's the good thing about the Egyptian democracy, people have the right to go and protest as long as it is peaceful. The keyword that is really required in Egypt now, and that is what the President Morsi called for, is dialogue.

The country cannot wait for another six months or for another year. That's why I expect no less than 70 percent of the Egyptians will vote for the referendum so that Egypt can move forward. If there are any problems on the road, we have to be able to solve them peacefully and through dialogue.

SIEGEL: Well, Dr. Dardery, thank you very much for talking with us once again.

DARDERY: Thank you, Robert. I'm really happy to be in your program. I always liked it.

SIEGEL: That's Dr. Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, who is a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, that's President Morsi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned party. And he was elected to the now-disbanded parliament of Egypt. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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