by Ashraf Ramelah:
“Egypt is now a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern.” — Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, after his election.
Democracy is unfathomable because it allows the doctrine of Islam, and its followers, to co-exist equally with other religions and doctrines — a societal demotion. That outcome cannot possibly be the one desired by those now drafting Egypt’s constitution.
As Egyptians wait for the constituent assembly to produce the country’s new foundational document, the world can only speculate as to how well the new draft will distinguish Egypt’s future from its past. Article 2 of Sadat’s 1971 constitution is the controversial point today. If its wording is written into the draft of Egypt’s new constitution, all hope is lost for a modern renaissance sought by the uprising of January 2011. Article 2 spells out two critical foundational points which clash with the formation of democracy. Even if these Islamic measures are accompanied by words promoting liberty, equality and human rights elsewhere in the same writing, the use of Article 2 will present a huge problem for the liberal, secular, pro-democracy freedom movement.
Egypt is likely to receive a draft of the constitution, due before the end of this year, comprised of both liberal elements and Article 2 (or its essence). The explicit language of Article 2 states, since 1980, that the religion of the state is Islam and Sharia (Islamic religious law) is the source of state legislation. This substantiates a religious state. If Article 2 is transferred to the current draft, it will mean that the draft of the constitution draft is unsuccessful for the third time since Egyptians rebelled against authoritarianism and religious supremacy. Would this be a signal for the continuance of Egypt’s already two-year old revolt against a political class using religion to accrue power?
The greatest contributor to the making of Article 2 and its formation of the deeply rooted Islamic state was former President Anwar Sadat. While Sadat’s constitution promised free markets, individual freedom, democratic procedures and safeguards for an independent judiciary; other buried clauses granted his presidency complete power, and he used it to appropriate exclusive ownership of the state for Islam. In 1971Sadat replaced Egypt’s 1954 constitution, moving the country away from the policies of socialism enacted by his predecessor, Nasser. Sadat used the help of Islamists who influenced the populace against socialism in accordance with Islamic beliefs. In return, Sadat added pro-Islam clauses to Egypt’s constitution, making Islam the state religion, Arabic the official language and Sharia a source of Egyptian law (later changing “a source” to “the source”). As such, Sadat encouraged Islamists to lay claim to Egypt.
The key to Sadat’s success was “Islamic duality” — a political doctrine of deception based upon the Hadith [tales of the life of Muhammed] and the Sira [Mohamed's biography] in which the Prophet teaches that to advance Islam, it is permissible to lie in three cases: to a wife, to a friend and to an enemy. We shall likely see this again with the forthcoming constitution. Envision the following scenario. Upon receiving the draft, Egyptians will wait for constitutional experts in the media to fully explain and challenge it in the period of time between its issuance and the popular referendum vote to approve it. The populace will be incapable of comprehending the full implications of the extensive fine print inside the sugar coating of human rights and freedom-sounding words. Meanwhile, assembly committee members assigned to write separate draft sections will hawk their special wares to the country, selling Sharia and selling democracy.
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