Policymic posted a live blog report on yesterday's debate in Egypt between the country's two leading presidential candidates-- Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, former leader of the Musilm Brotherhood running as a liberal Islamist; and Amr Moussa, formerly Hosni Mubarak's foreign minister running as the secular candidate. Here are excerpts from the debate relating to the candidate's views on religion and its relation to government:
5:35pm. Aboul Fotouh asks what he meant by referring to "the general principles" of Sharia?
Moussa responds by saying his understanding does coincidence with the prevalent understanding of this topic, and it refers to the general framework of Islamic thought which encourages tolerance, serving people and the nation, moral values, etc. He states that we have to be clear, though, that Aboul Fotouh calls for applying the rules of Sharia whereas I am calling for applying only the principles (as is stated in Article 2).
4:40pm Amr Moussa asks Aboul Fotouh: in a previous interview you stated you believe that it is the right of a Muslim to convert to Christianity and it is the right of a Christian to convert to Islam. Do you still believe this?
Aboul Fotouh: That quote isn't precise: I said that God has given all of humanity the right to choose a religion. And when it comes to apostates, we can try to convince them to change their mind but ultimately we cannot interferring with their right to choose.
4:35pm What is your specific vision for the relationship between religion and state?
Moussa: There is consensus on Article 2 of the constitution which states that the principles of Sharia are the main source of legislation. Different religious groups also have their different primary sources. Egypt is a religious society and the foundation for all the candidates' visions is rooted in religion, but when it comes to making decisions about social issues (health, education, etc.) this foundation needs to agree with the needs of Egyptian society. For example, our education system must be modern and must be able to prepare our youth to compete in today's world.
Aboul Fotouh: The nature of Islam and its basic principles is that it seeks the best interests of the people. So when we seek the best interests of the people in health, education, agriculture, etc this is in agreement with Islam. As the current constitution states, and we hope the forthcoming constiution will also affirm, Sharia is the main source of legislation, under the supervision of the Constitutional Court.