Al-Azhar stands up to Salafis
The wording of 1971 constitution's Article 2 on Islamic Sharia will be retained, reports Gamal Essam El-Din
Al-Azhar intervened this week to ensure the text of Article 2 of the 1971 constitution be retained.
"People should feel confident that the wording of the article on Islamic Sharia will not be changed," said the Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb.
El-Tayeb's statement came in response to attempts by Nour Party members on the Constituent Assembly to change the existing reference to Sharia as "the principle" source of legislation in Egypt. The ultraconservative Salafis wanted "principle" replaced by "major" together with the coda "legislators must draw on Islam's four sources of jurisprudence when drafting laws".
Al-Azhar's intervention led the Nour Party to accuse El-Tayeb of undermining their attempts to "apply God's laws" which, in any fundamentalist reading, include practices as stoning and the amputation of limbs.
After much discussion the Assembly's Basic Components Committee decided on Tuesday to retain the 1971 wording: "Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is the official religion of the state and principles of Islamic Sharia are the major source of legislation". It also adds that "Al-Azhar is the major reference in interpreting the principles of Islamic Sharia and non-Muslims should refer to their religious precepts on personal matters..."
The Basic Components Committee's first article of the new constitution states that the Arab Republic of Egypt "is democratic, consultative, constitutional̉ê¦ based on the separation of powers and the principle of citizenship" and "Egypt is part of the Arab and Islamic nation with strong links to the African Continent." This differs only slightly from the text of 1971 constitution which states that "Egypt is a democratic state based on the principles of citizenship and that the Egyptian people are part of the Arab nation and seek to achieve comprehensive unity".
The addition of the word "consultative" was proposed by the Nour Party. The Constituent Assembly's Rights and Freedoms Committee has refused to allow any mention of censorship in the new constitution, including instead a guarantee of "unlimited freedom of speech".
Constituent Assembly spokesperson Wahid Abdel-Meguid said on Tuesday that Egypt's new constitution will be ready in three months.