The three main Churches in Egypt: the Coptic Orthodox, the Coptic Catholic, and the Evangelical, have welcomed the final version of the second article of Egypt’s new Constitution which is currently being drafted by the Constitutional assembly
The three main Churches in Egypt: the Coptic Orthodox, the Coptic Catholic, and the Evangelical, have welcomed the final version of the second article of Egypt’s new Constitution which is currently being drafted by the Constitutional assembly. The second article originally read: “Islam is the religion of the State, Arabic its official language, and the principles of Islamic sharia the major source of legislation”. Hardline Islamists had been pressing to either substitute “rules” for “principles” or to use “sharia” and annul “principles”. Both alternatives had the potential of throwing Egypt into a legislative quagmire, since there are several acknowledged schools of sharia that interpret Qur’anic texts and Hadith (the words of Mohamed the Prophet) to varying degrees of leniency. Now the wording finally agreed upon for second article reads: “the principles of Islamic sharia are the major source of legislation; and Christians and Jews have the right to be judged according to the rules of their respective religions in concerns of family matters and in choosing their religious leaders.” As regards sharia, the topmost Islamic institution in the Arab World, the Cairo-based al-Azhar which was founded in the 10th century and which has a reputation of moderation, was cited as the point of reference in Islamic views.
The acting patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Anba Pachomeus, stressed the importance of maintaining citizenship rights, equality, freedom of thought and expression, and protecting the civil State. The constitution, he reminded, should be written according to national consensus and by a constituent assembly in which all sectors of the community are fairly represented.
The Coptic lawyer and rights activist Peter al-Naggar warned against the insistence of the Salafis add to the constitution such terms as Shuria (Consultation) to denote democracy, and Al-Siyada lillah (Supremacy is to Allah). Wording of that sort, Mr Naggar said, serves only to stress the basics of a religious State, and to interpret articles according to Islamic views, cancelling the role of judgment.
Mr Naggar also warned that al-Azhar is today famous for its moderate views but, if the hardliners manage to gain ground in that institution, it may very well turn into a tool in their hands to implement their own version of hardline Islam.
13 July 2012