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Salafi preacher rebuts controversial statements

Borhami denies insulting Al-Azhar

Salafi preacher Yasser Borhami lauded the new constitutions for what he saw as “full unprecedented restrictions.” (Photo via Yasser Borhami Facebook page)
Salafi preacher Yasser Borhami lauded the new constitutions for what he saw as “full unprecedented restrictions.” (Photo via Yasser Borhami Facebook page)

On Monday, Salafi preacher and Al-Nour Party member, Yasser Borhami, denied that any deals were brokered to force the passage of several constitutional articles.

In a recently leaked video of a speech Borhami had given at an academic symposium, he stated that articles 2, 4 and 219 in the constitution passed as “a full package.” Article 2 states that “Islam is the state’s [official] religion and the principles of Islamic Shari’a are the main source of legislation,” whereas article 219 outlines the principles of Islamic Shari’a. Article 4 declares Al-Azhar as an Islamic, independent body and gives it absolute autonomy over governing its affairs, adding that its Grand Sheikh cannot be removed from his post.

“I fully respect and appreciate Al-Azhar and its Grand Sheikh,” Borhami said in a statement reported Monday by state-owned news agency MENA. He applauded the stance of Al-Azhar representatives within the constituent assembly towards articles 2, 219, and all other articles addressing rights and freedoms.

Borhami stated that an agreement was signed by different constituent assembly representatives, which involved article 2, copied from the 1971 constitution, and article 219.

The Salafi preacher also mentioned that when addressing article 81 in the symposium, he was only reporting what the Committee of Rights and Freedoms has agreed on; the necessity of “curbing” rights and freedoms, “as is the case with all previous constitutions.” Borhami added, “This doesn’t mean cancelling rights and freedoms.”

In his statement, Borhami added that by saying “the Supreme Constitutional Court needs to be cleansed”, he wasn’t specifically referring to one of the Court’s counselors.

Borhami explained that the leaked video was taken out of context.  He added that his reassurances about the constitution were addressing a group of scientists and preachers coming from a conservative Salafi base. The main intention of his statements was to shut down allegations that those who vote ‘yes’ on the constitution are sinners, Borhami claimed.

The leaked video, released Friday, received wide-scale criticism, especially from human rights advocates. Borhami had claimed in the video that the new constitution “includes full restrictions which never existed in earlier Egyptian constitutions.”

He referred to article 10, saying that it places restrictions on freedom of thought, expression and creativity. He added that article 10 would allow Salafis to establish the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV); a committee of civilians allowed to preach and punish other civilians without a legal context and under the name of Islamic Shari’a.

Borhami had also attacked Al-Azhar and its Grand Sheikh in the leaked video. He accused Al-Azhar representatives of being among the most stringent advocates of Christians’ rights within the constituent assembly, and implied that they allowed articles 2 and 219 to pass when the Islamists agreed on keeping a clause which states that Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh cannot be removed from his post. Al-Azhar released a statement Monday denying having been engaged in any deals within the Constituent Assembly.

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