Monday, July 11, 2011

What Will Be Religion-State Balance In New Egyptian Constitution?

Prof. Samer Soliman of the American University in Cairo yesterday published an article in Ahram Online analyzing the proposals of various groups involved in drafting a new Egyptian Constitution on what should be the relationship between religion and state in Egypt. He wrote in part:
Although many civic and human rights forces opposed Article 2 of the previous constitution (which states Islam is the religion of the state and Islamic Sharia the main source of legislation), because it discriminates against non-Muslims and is used by conservative powers to establish religious powers, various versions of the new constitution maintain this article in place. It seems that civic forces are now convinced that the large majority of Egyptian Muslims want this article to remain in place since it reflects the Islamic identity of the people.
This realistic acceptance of Article 2 of the previous constitution does not mean that the authors of the proposed constitutions are not trying to prevent this article from being used to establish a full-fledged religious state....
It is unlikely that Islamic forces will insist on creating an entity of religious scholars because it will be strongly opposed by the people, and it would be difficult to decide how to choose its members. It is more likely that Islamist forces will maintain Article 2 as it stands, but will reject clauses that give power to the army or judiciary to intervene to guarantee the civic character of the state. In such a case, we will return to where we were during the Mubarak era in terms of the relationship between state and religion, namely a quasi-civic state with religious overtones.