Top News: Al-Azhar Asserts Role, Clashes with Brotherhood

Azhar-David Stanley.jpg


Al-Azhar said on Thursday its clerics must be consulted on a law allowing the state to issue sukuk (Islamic bonds), setting it at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood which drove the legislation through the Shura Council last week. It marks the first time Al-Azhar, a thousand-year-old seat of Islamic learning, has said its Senior Scholars Authority should be consulted on issues pertaining to Islamic law as set out in the new, Islamist-tinged Constitution. 


Egypt National Security Council awaits presidential green light
The political tensions that have impeded crucial decisions in a number of vital human-security areas (food security, water security, the economy, personal safety, etc.) and the consistently poor performance levels of the political authorities since the revolution, which has aggravated all these concerns to alarming degrees, have led a range of political, security, economic and social figures and experts to come together to assess the current situation. Meeting at the National Centre for Middle Eastern Studies last week, they launched an initiative to form a National Security Council and submit it to the presidency for approval, as the general consensus at the meeting was that the current president will not take this initiative himself, in spite of the constitutional provision calling for the creation of this body. [Ahram Online, 3/28/2013]

Egypt PM orders Police to initiate sexual harassment hotline
Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has ordered the Interior Ministry to set up a hotline for sexual harassment reports. Qandil instructed the ministry to have female officers answer the phone to make the caller comfortable when relaying her account, stressing that psychological assistance should be provided. Sexual harassment has become a rampant practice in Egypt, most recently manifested by mob sexual assaults at protest sites, such as the iconic Tahrir Square in Downtown Cairo. [Ahram Online, 3/28/2013]

Generational conflicts shake ElBaradei’s Constitution Party
Nearly a year ago, many in Egypt had high hopes for the Constitution Party founded by Mohamed ElBaradei and a number of Egyptian political and intellectual figures, including activist Gamila Ismail and world-acclaimed novelist Alaa Al-Aswany. Through the activities of its youth members across the country the party swiftly became a keystone of the liberal political current, and later a founding member of the National Salvation Front opposition umbrella. Beginning with 10,000 members, the party managed to double that number with member drawn nationwide. Still, in the past week there have been both doubts and fears about the party and its future following recent internal problems and leadership resignations. [Ahram Online, 3/28/2013]

Also of Interest:
Minister: No pardon for Mubarak except through public referendum | SIS
Qandil accuses media of downplaying his success | Egypt Independent


Charges against Abdel Fatah, activists are politically motivated: Lawyers
Opposition activist Alaa Abdel Fatah received notice on Thursday that he would stand trial along with his sister — activist Mona Seif — and 11 others on charges relating to the burning of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq’s headquarters in June 2012. Lawyers argue that, like former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime and the interim military junta, the Muslim Brotherhood is pushing cases against high profile activists in order to send a warning message to opposition forces. Thursday’s charges are the second in the span of a week against high-profile activists. [Egypt Independent, 3/28/2013]

Ex-Mubarak minister pays LE15 million back to state
The Public Prosecution lifted a travel ban Thursday on former Industry and Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid after he repaid LE15 million to the state. Spokesperson Mostafa Dewidar said the move is part of a reconciliation program sponsored by the government to get cash from former officials charged with squandering public funds. Last year, Rachid was found guilty of illegally granting licenses to steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz. [Egypt IndependentSIS, 3/28/2013]

Also of Interest:
Ex-MP to stand trial on sabotage charges | Aswat Masriya


Egypt calls in favors as credit crunch hits key imports
Egypt has hit breaking point in its ability to pay for imports of oil, wheat and other basic commodities, forcing it to call in diplomatic favors or seek easy payment terms from suppliers who hope for future advantage in return. Nevertheless, Central Bank of Egypt Governor Hesham Ramez insists Egypt can meet its demands for petroleum and food imports, despite its troubled economy. Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm on Wednesday, Ramez denied reports he warned President Mohamed Morsi that foreign reserves could not cover the country’s staple imports. Egypt’s reserves of foreign currency did not decline significantly in March even though $1.3 billion of hard currency was used for imports including essential commodities and oil. Egypt’s total budget deficit reached around 146.5 billion Egyptian pounds during the first eight months of the 2012-2013 fiscal year which equals 8.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Ministry of Finance’s monthly report revealed. [ReutersEgypt IndependentAswat Masriya, 3/28/2013

Egypt short of money to fuel power stations: ministry  
Egypt is being plagued by repeated power cuts because it does not have money to buy enough fuel, the oil ministry said on Thursday. Rolling power cuts in the country of 83 million people are due to "the electricity sector’s failure to secure needed funds for buying liquefied fuel for some power stations," the state’s MENA news agency quoted a ministry official as saying. Power stations have been forced to resort to alternative fuels, which do not provide the required energy, the official said. The Contractors Union has demanded the Petroleum Ministry allocate a share of diesel to contractors to ensure that they are able to continue to work and finish projects in a timely manner. The union holds the ministry responsible for the delay in numerous projects, which has led to fines being imposed on contractors. [Ahram OnlineEgypt Independent, 3/28/2013]

Also of Interest:
IMF mission to visit Egypt in early April for loan talks | Egypt Independent
Egypt, World Bank to accelerate implementation of service projects | Aswat MasriyaSIS
Suez Canal revenue drops 7.4 pct in Feb vs Jan | Egypt Independent


FJP office in Beheira torched
Unknown assailants have torched an office of the Freedom and Justice Party – the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood – in the governorate of Beheira. The office was located in the town of Badr in the govrnorate. The assailants reportedly threw petrol on the building before setting it on fire. Nabil El Sharkawy, the secretary-general of the FJP in Badr said that security forces have begun investigating the incident. [Ahram Online, 3/28/2013]

Interior Minister urges political powers to adopt language of dialogue
Official statistics over the past three months have shown a rise in the arrest of criminals and decline in the numbers of certain crimes, thanks to the high security performance, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said. However, despite the improvement of the security performance, the citizen continues to feel insecure because of the continued demonstrations and sit-ins on the street on one hand, and the differences among the various political forces and revolutionary figures on the other hand, said the Interior Minister. [SIS, 3/29/2013]


Al-Azhar asserts role, clashes with Brotherhood
Al-Azhar said on Thursday its clerics must be consulted on a law allowing the state to issue sukuk (Islamic bonds), setting it at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood which drove the legislation through the Shura Council last week. It marks the first time Al-Azhar, a thousand-year-old seat of Islamic learning, has said its Senior Scholars Authority should be consulted on issues pertaining to Islamic law as set out in the new, Islamist-tinged Constitution. Al-Azhar’s intervention could set a precedent for clerical oversight of other affairs of state. The Salafi Nour Party has said Al-Azhar must also approve an agreement the country is seeking with the International Monetary Fund because it includes a loan upon which Egypt will pay interest. [Reuters/Egypt IndependentAhram Online, 3/29/2013]

Protesters gather outside High Court, chant against Brotherhood
Dozens of protesters began gathering outside the High Court earlier on Friday afternoon in preparation for a protest they called, "We are not to be intimidated." They are demanding the dismissal of Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah, Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim after Abdallah issued arrest warrants for five activists. Hundreds of Central Security Forces were deployed to the High Court’s main lobby on Friday afternoon, reinforcing the already heavy security presence in place since this morning. The officers carried sticks and batons, acting under the supervision of Cairo Security Directorate leaders to respond to potential outbreaks of violence during today’s protest. All doors to the building were closed, and one fire truck was stationed nearby. [Egypt Independent, 3/29/2013]

Police violently disperse April 6 protest
Security forces arrested four April 6 Youth Movement members on Friday during a protest staged in front of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim’s home in Nasr City. Security officials claim that dozens of protesters flocked to the minister’s house starting at midnight, some with Molotov cocktails. Early in the morning, the protesters also raised underwear and chanted that the ministry was a “slut.” A source from the Cairo security department said the troops fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, but April 6 accused security of firing birdshot as well, injuring some of their members. [Egypt IndependentAhram Online, 3/29/2013]

Also of Interest:
Tahrir protesters vent anger on nearby shops after sit-in attacked | Egypt Independent
Protesters close Tahrir Square again, gunshots heard in nearby square | Aswat Masriya


UN experts condemn Shura Council’s NGO bill
United Nations human rights experts have slammed Egypt’s draft law regulating NGOs, which many activists decry for its potential restrictions on civil society. “We are seriously concerned that numerous provisions contained in the draft law may be used to hamper the legitimate work of civil society organizations, particularly those advocating human rights,” said a statement on the United Nations Human Rights website. The experts lauded an initiative by the Shura Council, which holds temporary legislative powers, to revise law 84/2002 due to its lack of compliance with international standards; however, they warned that “the draft legislation currently being considered by the Shura Council has a number of serious shortcomings.” [Egypt Independent, 3/29/2013]

Iraq rejects Egypt request for $4 billion
An Iraqi official says Baghdad has rejected a request from Egypt for a $4 billion bond to be deposited in Egypt’s central bank to bolster its faltering economy. The official said on Friday that it’s “too risky” to deposit such a large sum in Egypt but that talks are continuing for a smaller amount. The official didn’t elaborate. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media. [AP, 3/29/2013]

Azhar Imam urges Islamic world to stop bloodbath in Syria, rejects visits to Al-Quds
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayyeb called on the peoples and governments of Arab and Islamic states to stand beside the Syrian people suffering from massacres during a meeting with the assistant secretary general of the association of Syrian scholars Dr. Mohamed Yasser and his accompanying delegation. He also voiced his rejection of visiting Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) as long as it is under the Israeli occupation. He warned against official visits to the holy city, saying visiting the city could come at the expense of the Palestinian cause. [SIS, 3/29/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt calls UfM to take decisive stance over Israeli settlement | SIS
Egypt receives invitation from Britain to attend conference on Somalia: diplomat | SIS

Photo: David Stanley


Image: Azhar-David%20Stanley.jpg