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Why is Egypt's draft constitution so controversial? (+video)

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Also included in the constitution is an article stipulating that scholars of Al Azhar, the university and mosque considered one of the most respected centers of Sunni Muslim research and learning, be consulted on matters of sharia. It does not make the Al Azhar scholars' opinion binding. 

It is the first time that a consultative role for Al Azhar has been enshrined in Egypt's constitution.

Both of these articles are dangerous, says Michael Hanna, a fellow at The Century Foundation who tracks Egyptian politics. "What that does is begins to shift all the terms of discourse away from the civil law system and toward religiously-based strictures," he says. "Al Azhar is enshrined in the text. Sunni jurisprudence is enshrined in the text. It begins to shift the terms of reference and privileges a certain discourse that is religiously based."

Rights and freedoms

The constitution contains one article that makes a broad provision for free expression. But Heba Morayef, Egypt director for Human Rights Watch, says the drafters failed to include crucial language explaining how that right may be limited, which is needed "to make sure that the limitations are narrow and there's no abuse," she says. 

Instead, they included two additional clauses which limit free speech. One prohibits insulting prophets, and another prohibits insulting the "individual person." Both are vague enough that they can easily be used to limit freedom of expression and could lead to an avalanche of lawsuits. Blasphemy charges have jumped in the last year and a half, and charges of insulting the president and the judiciary have already increased since Mr. Morsi took office.

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