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Egypt’s Islamists rush through new constitution

  • Azza el-Gharf of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, second left, speaks with other members of the assembly during the vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The assembly, overwhelmingly made up of allies of President Mohammed Morsi, abruptly moved up the vote which hadn't been expected to take place for another two months in order to pass the draft before Egypt's Supreme Constitution Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel. (AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)

    Azza el-Gharf of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, second left, speaks with other members of the assembly during the vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The assembly, overwhelmingly made up of allies of President Mohammed Morsi, abruptly moved up the vote which hadn't been expected to take place for another two months in order to pass the draft before Egypt's Supreme Constitution Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel. (AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)

  • The Islamist-dominated panel vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The assembly, overwhelmingly made up of allies of President Mohammed Morsi, abruptly moved up the vote which hadn't been expected to take place for another two months in order to pass the draft before Egypt's Supreme Constitution Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel. (AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)

    The Islamist-dominated panel vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The assembly, overwhelmingly made up of allies of President Mohammed Morsi, abruptly moved up the vote which hadn't been expected to take place for another two months in order to pass the draft before Egypt's Supreme Constitution Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel. (AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)

  • Members of the constitutional assembly attend a session to vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. An Islamist-dominated panel began a fast-track vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution Thursday, pushing through the document despite liberals' boycott in a move likely to stoke a deepening political crisis between the Islamist president and the opposition.(AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)

    Members of the constitutional assembly attend a session to vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. An Islamist-dominated panel began a fast-track vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution Thursday, pushing through the document despite liberals' boycott in a move likely to stoke a deepening political crisis between the Islamist president and the opposition.(AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)

  • An Egyptian protester is treated for wounds sustained during clashes with security forces at a field hospital in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Members of an Islamist-dominated panel tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution are gathering to vote on the document's final draft in Cairo, where dozens of opposition supporters are still camped out at Tahrir Square. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

    An Egyptian protester is treated for wounds sustained during clashes with security forces at a field hospital in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Members of an Islamist-dominated panel tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution are gathering to vote on the document's final draft in Cairo, where dozens of opposition supporters are still camped out at Tahrir Square. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • In this Friday, July 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds a joint news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, unseen, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's Islamist president may look like he's running out of options as he faces an appeals court strike and massive opposition protests over decrees granting himself near absolute power. Will he back down now? Most likely not. Mohammed Morsi's next move may be to raise the stakes even higher. Signs are growing the constitutional panel at the heart of the showdown could vote on a draft this week despite a walkout by liberal and Christian members. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

    In this Friday, July 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds a joint news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, unseen, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's Islamist president may look like he's running out of options as he faces an appeals court strike and massive opposition protests over decrees granting himself near absolute power. Will he back down now? Most likely not. Mohammed Morsi's next move may be to raise the stakes even higher. Signs are growing the constitutional panel at the heart of the showdown could vote on a draft this week despite a walkout by liberal and Christian members. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • In this Friday, July 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds a joint news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, unseen, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's Islamist president may look like he's running out of options as he faces an appeals court strike and massive opposition protests over decrees granting himself near absolute power. Will he back down now? Most likely not. Mohammed Morsi's next move may be to raise the stakes even higher. Signs are growing the constitutional panel at the heart of the showdown could vote on a draft this week despite a walkout by liberal and Christian members. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

    In this Friday, July 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds a joint news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, unseen, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's Islamist president may look like he's running out of options as he faces an appeals court strike and massive opposition protests over decrees granting himself near absolute power. Will he back down now? Most likely not. Mohammed Morsi's next move may be to raise the stakes even higher. Signs are growing the constitutional panel at the heart of the showdown could vote on a draft this week despite a walkout by liberal and Christian members. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • Azza el-Gharf of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, second left, speaks with other members of the assembly during the vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The assembly, overwhelmingly made up of allies of President Mohammed Morsi, abruptly moved up the vote which hadn't been expected to take place for another two months in order to pass the draft before Egypt's Supreme Constitution Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel. (AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)
  • The Islamist-dominated panel vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. The assembly, overwhelmingly made up of allies of President Mohammed Morsi, abruptly moved up the vote which hadn't been expected to take place for another two months in order to pass the draft before Egypt's Supreme Constitution Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel. (AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)
  • Members of the constitutional assembly attend a session to vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. An Islamist-dominated panel began a fast-track vote on a final draft of a new Egyptian constitution Thursday, pushing through the document despite liberals' boycott in a move likely to stoke a deepening political crisis between the Islamist president and the opposition.(AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)
  • An Egyptian protester is treated for wounds sustained during clashes with security forces at a field hospital in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Members of an Islamist-dominated panel tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution are gathering to vote on the document's final draft in Cairo, where dozens of opposition supporters are still camped out at Tahrir Square. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
  • In this Friday, July 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds a joint news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, unseen, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's Islamist president may look like he's running out of options as he faces an appeals court strike and massive opposition protests over decrees granting himself near absolute power. Will he back down now? Most likely not. Mohammed Morsi's next move may be to raise the stakes even higher. Signs are growing the constitutional panel at the heart of the showdown could vote on a draft this week despite a walkout by liberal and Christian members. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
  • In this Friday, July 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds a joint news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, unseen, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's Islamist president may look like he's running out of options as he faces an appeals court strike and massive opposition protests over decrees granting himself near absolute power. Will he back down now? Most likely not. Mohammed Morsi's next move may be to raise the stakes even higher. Signs are growing the constitutional panel at the heart of the showdown could vote on a draft this week despite a walkout by liberal and Christian members. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Islamists yesterday rushed to approve a draft constitution for Egypt without the participation of liberal and Christian members, aiming to pre-empt a court ruling that could dissolve their panel and further inflaming the clash between the opposition and President Mohammed Morsi.

The draft of the charter, meant to determine a new political identity for Egypt after 60 years of rule by authoritarian leaders, has an Islamist bent that rights experts say could lead to a say by Muslim clerics in legislation and restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights and other liberties.

The lack of inclusion was obvious in yesterday’s session of the assembly that has been writing the document for months. Of the 85 members in attendance, there was not a single Christian and only four women, all Islamists. Many of the men wore beards, the hallmark of Muslim conservatives. For weeks, liberal, secular and Christian members, already a minority on the 100-member panel, have been pulling out to protest what they call the Islamists’ hijacking of the process.

Voting had not been expected for another two months. But the assembly, overwhelmingly made up of Morsi’s allies, abruptly moved it up in order to pass the draft before Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court rules Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel.

Morsi is expected to call for a referendum on the draft as early as mid-December.

“I am saddened to see this come out while Egypt is so divided,” Egypt’s top reform leader, Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei said, speaking on private Al-Nahar TV.

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