Egypt’s Coptic community is alarmed over the constitutional road map issued on Monday by interim president Adly Mansour. The Sharia closed circle that has stifled Egypt’s efforts since the 1820s to produce a pluralistic society based upon a secular consensus has not been defeated.
A Coptic activist group, Egypt’s Maspero Youth Union — named after the brutal Maspero massacre, during which the Egyptian military targeted and killed dozens of Coptic Christians, and injured some 300 – responded with understandable anguish to the declaration by interim president Adly Mansour. The Maspero Youth Union characterized as “shocking,” the 33-article document, which outlines the roadmap for the transitional period anticipated to last six months.
The declaration’s first article combines Articles 1, 2 and 219 of the suspended constitution – article 219 having been added by avowed Muslim Sharia supremacists to clarify the meaning of “principles of Islamic sharia” mentioned in the second article. Here are the aforementioned articles from Egypt’s recently suspended Constitution, which, it should be noted, had been approved, just this past December, 2012, by a total of 64.0% of Egyptians, (10,543,893/16,472,241), including 67.5% (162,231/240,224) of Egyptian expatriates.
Article 1: The Arab Republic of Egypt is an independent sovereign state, united and indivisible, its system democratic. The Egyptian people are part of the Arab and Islamic nations, proud of belonging to the Nile Valley and Africa and of its Asian reach, a positive participant in human civilization.
Article 2: Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Principles of Islamic Sharia are the principal source of legislation.
Article 219: The principles of Islamic Sharia include general evidence, foundational rules, rules of jurisprudence, and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community.
According to an Al-Ahram report yesterday (7/10/13), the “new” and “hybridized” article 1 now,
…states that the Arab Republic of Egypt is a democratic system based on citizenship, that Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language and the principles of sharia law derived from established Sunni canons are its main source of legislation. [emphases added]
Although I do not share, at all, Maspero Youth Union’s hagiographic assessment of the true impetus behind Morsi’s removal, I fully agree with their understanding of the “new” constitutional declaration, and its dire, tragic implications for them, and any hope of establishing the long elusive modern secular consensus Egypt so desperately requires.
Maspero Youth Union has issued this plaintive statement:
The [constitutional declaration] is not compatible with the ideals of the 30 June uprising… that went out for a civil state that upholds religious and cultural diversity
The depressing spectacle unfolding (again) in Egypt confirms the doleful wisdom of this observation by the great Indian historian of Islam, K.S. Lal:
Muhammad could not change the revelation; he could only explain and interpret it. There are liberal Muslims and conservative Muslims; there are Muslims learned in theology and Muslims devoid of learning. They discuss, they interpret, they rationalize — but all by going round and round within the closed circle of …read more