(AsiaNews/ Agencies) - The heated debate between Islamists and moderate Muslims
over Egypt's constitution has led al-Azhar University to propose a new article
to protect Christians in case Sharia is adopted. Earlier this month, a
Constituent Assembly committee drafted Article 2 to state, "Islam is the
religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Principles of Islamic
law (Sharia) are the principal source of legislation." However, the assembly drafting
the new charter is considering adding a line that reads, "Christians and Jews
shall resort to legislation derived from their own religions."
Abdel Salam, adviser to the Al-Azhar grand sheikh and member of the Constituent
Assembly, said that, as it stands, the article is ambiguous, since it does not
say which Sharia principles it should refer to and references to Christians
could be misleading.
would prefer that a separate article be added to the constitution to stipulate
that Christians be subject to their own religious laws, rather than including
this provision in Article 2.
the steadfast defence of Christian rights and moderate Islam by al-Azhar and
certain Muslim groups, the situation in post-Mubarak Egypt has not changed. Religion,
not civil rights free from religious interpretations, dominates the debate,
which is not what many of those who protested in Tahrir Square wanted. Notions like
citizenship, the rights of the individual and the separation of state and
religion are still excluded from the debate.
experts, a separate article or law would protect Christians as a minority, but
would lead to their total isolation, a trend already visible in many Cairo
neighbourhoods and villages, where residential segregation along religious line
slowed down Egypt's march towards modernity.
and Catholic Copts represent about 10 per cent of the population. Many are in
favour of religion-based rights. This is already the case in Ira, Syria and
Lebanon, where the population is defined by religious affiliation rather than
favoured the progressive ghettoisation of minorities, who face the danger of
total isolation, which is counterproductive and damaging to universal civil
2 of the constitution has not yet been changed. In order to stem the Islamist
wave, al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb has called on his representatives
in the assembly to leave Article 2 of the 1971 Constitution as it is since it
was agreed upon and accepted by all national forces.