Coptic church withdraws representatives from constituent assembly

State-run MENA news service reported on Thursday that the Coptic Orthodox Church withdrew its representatives from the constituent assembly that is meant to draft the new constitution. The Islamist-dominated assembly is currently facing fierce criticism.

MENA quoted an unnamed church sources as saying that the decision to withdraw church representatives came in solidarity with the minority liberal forces in Parliament. The church was represented by adviser Nabil Merhem and lawyer Magdy Shenouda.

Privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper’s website quoted a church source as saying, "The Coptic Orthodox Church will issue its final decision to withdraw its representatives from the constituent assembly within hours."

The newspaper added that the church's decision came after it issued a statement demanding the inclusion of an article in the constitution ensuring a civilian state and full citizenship rights to all Egyptians.

It also said the church demanded adding a clause to Article 2 of the constitution that allows Copts to recourse to their own law with regard to personal and religious matters and to practice their rituals according to the Coptic Orthodox faith.  

In a statement on Thursday, the Coptic Orthodox Lay Council in Alexandria criticized the formation of the constituent assembly, saying it did not represent all segments of Egyptian society including minority political parties, syndicates, associations and bodies as well as women and Copts.

The statement added that the council submitted a memorandum to the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces on the issue.

On Thursday, Al-Azhar withdrew its only representative from the constituent assembly. As the influential religious institution removed its delegate, Nasr Farid Wasel, a former state mufti, it expressed reservations over the assembly make-up and described its representation as "inappropriate."

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