by Adel Guindy:
The single greatest priority of the United States and other Western governments towards Egypt should be to encourage the drafting of a constitution based on full equality of all citizens. This means the new constitution cannot be based in Sharia law.
The US and EU claim to care about human rights and women’s rights, which were increasingly suppressed and targeted under Morsi. After Morsi’s ouster, Copts have borne the brunt of Muslim Brotherhood outrage through targeted murders and kidnappings of Copts and destruction of their churches, monasteries, schools, homes and businesses. According to a recent Reuters report, Egypt is the very worst country in which to be a woman: “Egypt scored badly in almost every category, including gender violence, reproductive rights, and treatment of women in the family and their inclusion in politics and the economy.”
Unfortunately, many in the West seem blind to the far-ranging impact that the denial of religious freedom has on an entire society. Citing from The Price of Freedom Denied, a letter from the international religious freedom community to President Obama, says, “where there is less religious freedom, there is less women’s empowerment, less economic development, and more political instability and conflict, violent extremism and terrorism.”
If we want to see an Egypt in which poverty is decreased due to economic development, in which women are empowered to participate in politics, receive an education, work, and travel without fear of harassment; in which individuals can practice their faith both publically and privately without fear of attack on their person, possessions, and houses of worship, and a country that is stable without constant terrorists attacks, the single greatest antidote would be to ensure religious freedom for all, which has been proven through Pew research to improve all these other aspects of society and economy.
This is the very discussion happening with the drafting of the new constitution in Egypt. Islamists such as the Salafists (the “export” version of the notorious Saudi Wahabis), and those sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood insist that the new Constitution must be based on Sharia law even more explicitly than previous constitutions have been. If the constitutional committee does not comply, they face the threat of even greater terrorism and violence by the Muslim Brotherhood and a withdrawal of support from the Salafists in finalizing the constitution.
Egypt’s constitutions saw the mention of Sharia for the first time when Sadat in 1971 inserted in Article 2 that “principles of Sharia” be “a” main source of legislation. In a further effort to appease Islamists, he changed the stipulation in 1980 to make “principles of Sharia the main source of legislation.” In an attempt to clarify these “principles,” the Constitutional Court defined them (in May 1993) as the “Sharia injunctions, which are peremptory in proof (of origin) and significance,” somewhat limiting the possibility of applying the myriads of interpretations and rulings that date back to the tenth century. The Court further clarified that the constitutional article was addressed to legislators (not to judges) and that it was not applicable retroactively on existing laws.
Family status is entirely based on Sharia and matters related to adoption, heritage or custody apply to non-Muslims as well. More important than impacting the legislation over three decades, Article 2 had a devastating effect on Egypt. It implicitly justified treating non-Muslims as second class citizens and set the foundation of the process of Islamization of the country. Both Mubarak’s regime and the Islamists, led by the Brotherhood, participated in a competition, whose terrain was the media, education and societal behavior, to be regarded as “more pious” than the other. It set the stage for the emergence of “religious parties,” calling for ever more Sharia-compliant measures. Appealing to raw religious passions and instincts of uneducated masses, they used “the ballot box” to democratically impose fascistic rule–just as happened with the Brotherhood during the past two years.
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