Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Egypt's Al-Azhar Calls For Modern Democratic Nation

In Egypt, Al-Azhar, the country's pre-eminent center of Sunni learning, issued a document calling for the country to be a modern democratic state.  According to reports from AlMasryAlYoum and Daily News Egypt, the document that was drafted by Al-Azhar and a number of Egyptian intellectuals defines the relationship between Islam and the state, and is considered to be a draft constitution. It provides that sharia law should remain "the essential source of legislation," but calls for Christians and Jews to have their own judicial tribunals. It calls for "the protection of places of worship for the followers of the three monotheistic religions" and considers "incitement of confessional discord and racist speech as crimes against the nation." It provides for care for all Egyptians without discrimination on the basis of gender or religion, and lists health, education and scientific research as priorities. In a news conference announcing the document, Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Sheikh Al-Tayeb also called for the independence of Al-Azhar, with its imam being elected by Muslim Senior Scholars Authority instead of being appointed by the government.