Many demonstrators have arrived in chartered buses from provincial areas.The constitution itself deals with religion somewhat inconsistently; while it says "Islam is the state religion" and "the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main sources of legislation" it also calls for equality of various groups depending on which draft is being used. For example, the language saying that women are equal to men has recently been dropped from the document. Other drafts seemed to allow freedom of religion only to Christians and Jews, and no others.
On Thursday night, protesters built a huge stage inside the square with banners demanding the enforcement of the "law of God".
"We promise the prophet of God that we will sacrifice ourselves for the sharia of God," read one of the banners.
The protest, which was called for by a number of Salafist groups including Gamaa Islamyia and the Salafist front, also calls for the dismissal of the Prosecutor General.,
Meanwhile, Egypt's most influential Islamist groups the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Al-Nour party announced that they will not participate in the protest.
The Islamists, however, are not happy with the language of "principles" of Sharia - they want Egyptian law to be Islamic law, period.
Islamic Sharia and its rulings – not its "principles" – should be the main source of legislation, Ahmed Mawlana, People Party spokesman, told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website.In a press conference on Wednesday, the Islamists described exactly what they want. One said "Shari’a does not mean immediately implementing Islamic hudud [punishments] for we have to ensure social justice and eradicate poverty before cutting off the hands of thieves."
Many Salafist Muslims regard the "principles" of Islamic law – which translate into values such as justice, truth, and equality – as too vague and far placed from proper Islamic doctrine, while Sharia encompasses all aspects of life, they argue.
Sheikh Hashem Islam, conservative Al-Azhar scholar and member of the Fatwas Committee (religious edicts) of Al-Azhar, issued a religious edict toping to enshrine Sharia as such.
Article 2 should read as, “Islamic Sharia alone is the source of all legislation and all that conflicts it is invalid and corrupt,” said Sheikh Islam. The article should also stipulate that Sharia governs the constitution and laws, he added.
One person who strayed slightly from the Islamist line caused a controversy at the meeting:
Magdy Hassan, Chairman of the New Labour Party, accused liberals of trying to “destroy the nation” by fighting the Constituent Assembly.
In a comment which earned the crowd’s approval he also said that the “Islamic project” was gaining ground regardless of what the constitution said and that more judges and legislators are becoming Islamists on their own accord.
Hassan’s advocating for the phrase “principles of Shari’a” instead of just “Shari’a” to remain in Article 2 of the constitution as the principle source of legislation earned him the anger of the crowd; predominantly made up of Islamist youth.
“We reject principle: this is an Islamist state despite the secularists noses,” and “The people demand the implementation of God’s law,” were the loudest chants, this time in an angry rather than approving tone. Hassan had to leave the press conference.
In a related story, Islamist preachers are now lecturing to Egyptian police.