Thursday, December 27, 2012

What does the new Egyptian constitution mean?

 Voting with an inky finger (Photo: AP)


When it comes to the rights of non-Muslims in Egypt, is the glass half full or half empty? Is Egypt's new constitution better or worse for them than the previous one?
While Judaism and Christianity are protected as long as they do not 'violate public order', other sects, like Baha'ism, are not.  Key passages are highlighted in bold :(With thanks: Lily)

CBS News reports:

Egypt's draft constitution, which is being voted on in a referendum Saturday, is made up of an introduction, an 11-part preamble and 236 articles. Critics have raised concerns over issues including Islamic law and women's rights:

Shariah (Islamic) law
Like a previous constitution, the draft states, "Principles of Islamic Shariah are the principal source of legislation." For the first time, the draft defines those principles, rooting them in "general evidence, foundational rules" and other rules from the long tradition of Islamic jurisprudence. Both critics and ultraconservative supporters of the charter say that opens the doors for stricter imposition of Islamic law.

Role of clerics
The draft gives Islamic clerics unprecedented powers with an article stating, "Al-Azhar senior scholars are to be consulted in matters pertaining to Islamic law," referring to the most respected centre of scholarship and rulings in Sunni Islam.

Morals
An article commits "the state and society" to "entrenching and protecting the moral values" of "the authentic Egyptian family." Critics worry the broad phrasing will allow not only the government but also individuals to intervene in personal rights.

Women's rights
The draft mentions women in the framework of the traditional Muslim family, adding, "The state shall ensure maternal and child health services free of charge and ensure reconciliation between the duties of a woman toward her family and her work." The preamble underlines equality "for all citizens, men and women, without discrimination or nepotism or preferential treatment, in both rights and duties." But opponents charge that the document does not protect women from discrimination.

Civil rights
The draft guarantees freedom of expression, creativity, assembly and other rights. It also has a direct ban on torture and stricter provisions limiting detentions and searches by police. But it says the rights "must be practiced in a manner not conflicting with" principles of Shariah or the morals of the family. There is also a ban on insulting "religious messengers and prophets," opening the door to arrests of bloggers and other activists.

News media
Independent publications closed for a day to protest the lack of an article banning arrest of journalists for what they write. The draft has this: "Freedom of the press, printing, publication and mass media shall be guaranteed. The media shall be free and independent..."

Religious minorities
The draft guarantees the freedom of Christians and Jews to practice their rites, live by their religions' rule on marriage, inheritance and personal status and establish places of worship. But it hedges those rights on the condition they do not "violate public order" and that they will be "regulated by law." In the past, the building of churches has been limited by law because of claims it disturbs public order. The draft guarantees those rights for "the divine religions," meaning Christianity and Judaism, but not others, raising concerns of persecution of smaller sects.

Military
The charter ensures an independent status for the powerful military. The president is the head of the national security council, but the defence minister is the commander in chief of the armed forces and "appointed from among its officers." Control of the military budget is not mentioned. It also allows civilians to be tried before military courts in some cases


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The Voice of America takes a more optimistic line:

Role of Islam

Both constitutions designate Islam as Egypt's official religion and Islamic law, or Sharia, as the main source of legislation. They also obligate the state to "preserve" traditional family values based on Islam.

But in a key difference, the 2012 charter defines the principles of Sharia for the first time. It says those principles include "evidence, rules, jurisprudence and sources" accepted by Sunni Islam, Egypt's majority religious sect.

The new document also gives unprecedented powers to Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most respected religious school, by saying its scholars must be consulted on all matters relating to Sharia. The 1971 charter did not mention Al-Azhar.


Human rights

Both documents say detainees must not be subjected to any "physical or moral harm," and must have their dignity preserved by the state.
In a new protection of rights, the 2012 charter bans all forms of human exploitation and the sex trade.

Women's rights

Both documents commit the state to helping women with the financial costs of motherhood and the balancing of family and work responsibilities. But they differ on the issue of equality between men and women.

The preamble of the 2012 constitution says Egypt adheres to the principle of equality "for all citizens, men and women, without discrimination or nepotism or preferential treatment, in both rights and duties."

The new document's main section also contains two articles barring the state from denying equal rights and opportunities to citizens. But those provisions do not explicitly bar discrimination against women.

The 1971 constitution included one article that required the state to treat women and men equally in the "political, social, cultural and economic spheres," provided that such treatment did not violate Sharia.

Another article explicitly prohibited gender discrimination.

Freedom of expression

Both charters guarantee the freedom to express opinions orally, in writing or through images, and the freedom of the press to own news organizations and publish material independently.

In a major change, the 2012 document guarantees the freedom of belief for the "divine/monotheist religions" - a reference to Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

It says followers of those faiths have the right to perform religious rituals and establish places of worship "as regulated by law." The previous constitution made no mention of the rights of any religions other than Islam.

In another difference, the new document contains an unprecedented ban on "insults" toward the prophets of Islam.



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

only time will tell!But in any case it'll be without it's JEws
sultana

Anonymous said...

thanks for share..