The tension that has gripped Egypt in recent weeks over a draft constitution written by Islamists briefly erupted on a New York street on Saturday night, with the arrest of a protester who disrupted a discussion of the document byEssam El-Erian, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mr. Erian, who is also the vice president of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told a standing-room-only crowd at the private Noor Islamic School in Brooklyn that the draft constitution would weaken the traditionally autocratic Egyptian presidency and strengthen Parliament.
During the discussion, Mr. Erian reassured Egyptian expatriates, who can vote on the draft in a referendum on Wednesday, that “it is not true when people say it is like the Koran and cannot be changed.”
The event continued after protesters were ejected from the room, but members of the audience seated in the women’s section continued to pepper Mr. Erian with hostile questions about the Brotherhood’s domination of the constitution-drafting process and the protests that have erupted in recent weeks against President Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood member who granted himself expanded powers to push the draft to completion.
Mr. Erian addressed controversy over his visit on Facebook, writing: “Everything that has been published and broadcast about meetings, consultations, protests and attacks during my short visit to New York have been fabrications and lies. Some people owe me an apology to maintain cordiality.”