Contradictory draft constitution sows seeds for Islamic state in Egypt

November 1, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

The Constituent Assembly of Egypt

The Constituent Assembly of Egypt

Egypt, October 31, 2012: Egypt’s draft constitution sows the seeds for an Islamic state with contradictory clauses that grant rights and freedoms with one hand and take them away with the other.

While some articles guarantee equality for all, regardless of gender, race or faith, and freedom of thought and expression, others include significant caveats to these rights, leaving women, Christians and other non-Muslims particularly vulnerable.

Regarding women’s rights, Article 68 says:

The state will do everything to promote equality between women and men without abandoning the judgements of Islamic law.

So while lip service is paid to gender equality, the actual status of women will be shaped by sharia, which gives them a subordinate position.

And while the draft constitution upholds freedom of belief, Article 2 describes Islam as the “state’s religion” and refers to the “principles of sharia” as the primary source of legislation. There is also an “anti-blasphemy” measure in Article 38 that contradicts other clauses that apparently safeguard freedom of thought and expression.

Article 3 states that for Egyptian Christian and Jews “the principles of their religious laws are the main source of legislation in personal and religious matters”. But other particularly disturbing clauses grant the state power to interfere in matters of morality and behaviour, or to be what has been described as a “religious nanny state”. In Article 10 the government is given the responsibility to “safeguard and protect morality and public decency” and to “maintain a refined level of upbringing, religious and nationalist values and scientific facts”, while Article 69 grants the authorities the power to oversee “the spiritual, moral and cultural development” of young people.

These clauses pave the way for a religious police, who would enforce the government’s Islamic values. This could make the position of Christians and other non-Muslims in Egypt untenable.

President Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) have made repeated declarations about their intentions to impose sharia law. This was reinforced by the party’s new chairman, Saad al-Katatny, who was elected on 6 October. He said:

The Muslim Brotherhood established the [FJP] to represent the Brotherhood’s political project, which, in the end, will be a wise government that will institute Islamic sharia law.

This contradictory draft constitution has been criticised by secular liberals, who have complained that the process has been dominated by Islamists. But for the hard-line Salafists, who have thus far failed to get sharia enshrined as the sole source of legislation, it is not Islamic enough.

–  barnabas team

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