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Constituent Assembly at odds over Shari’a

Constituent Assembly committee agreed on articles outlining a democracy based on ‘Shura’ with ‘principles of Shari’a’ 

Constitutional Assembly sits in the Shura Council chamber (File photo)

Parsing phrasing over the issue of God, and His authority in the Egyptian public sphere, The Basic Principles of State Committee of the Constituent Assembly agreed on Tuesday on articles outlining a democracy based on ‘Shura’ with ‘principles of Shari’a’ dictating its legality.
The assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution agreed on controversial sticking points to both its first article and its second article, both of which dealt with the shape of the nation and divine inclusion in its legal framework.

The first article, which outlines the main principles of the state, will now read as follows:
“The Arab Republic of Egypt is a democratic, Shura-based, constitutional, modern state set up on the principles of separation of powers and citizenship; it is part of the Arab and Islamic nations and is connected to the African continent”.

The addition of the word “Shura” which translates into advisory or consultative, was proposed by a Salafist member of the committee and was agreed upon by the rest of the committee since it is, according to Yasser Borhami a Salafist member of the committee, “an Arabic translation of the word democracy.”

The committee has also agreed on Tuesday upon the phrasing of article two, the article concerning Shari’a law, which had been a point of contention ever since the assembly’s formation. The article now reads:
“Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic its official language, the principles of Islamic Shari’a are the main source of legislation, the honourable Azhar is the final source of its interpretation and the proponents of Christianity and Judaism have the right to refer to their own doctrines when it comes to personal law and performing their religious affairs and selecting their spiritual leaders.”

The Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed El-Taib held a press conference on Tuesday night announcing that Azhar would not accept any phrasing for article 2 except the original one from the 1971 constitution which just reads: “Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic its official language, and the principles of Islamic Shari’a are the main source of legislation.”

“[Tuesday’s] statement fully portrays Al-Azhar’s position. We are against any editing or omission of the original text of the article,” Mohamed Fathy, Al-Azhar media officer, told Daily News Egypt.

Some hard-line Salafists are also against the phrasing. In an interview on the show “Akher Al-Nahar” on the Al-Nahar private channel, SalafistAslala Party Chairman Adel Afify said the word “principles” has to be removed and that the article should just say that Shari’a law is the main source of legislation.

The committee also finalised the article relating to the freedom of the press, which now stipulates that the freedom of the press is guaranteed, except in times of war.

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