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Down with Shari’a in the constitution

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Mahmoud Salem

Mahmoud Salem

With every semblance of what is commonly referred to as “the civil forces” (the church representatives, the secular parties and members) withdrawn from it, the Egyptian Constituent Assembly’s fate seems more precarious than ever.

While many speculate about its fate and the fate of the constitution it is supposed to present to the public soon, it is safe to say that the current draft is not satisfactory for neither the Islamist nor secular factions, each believing that the constitution is too secular or too Islamist, respectively, because of the argument of the meaning of the word Shari’a in it.

Having followed its news with increasing boredom like the rest of you, I have reached a sense of moral clarity towards it: I don’t want the word Shari’a , or any amendment that refers to it, to be in our constitution. I want all of it, gone, and here are my reasons for this very unreasonable request.

First of all, I would like a solid definition of what Shari’a actually means from the Islamist side. I am willing to bet that if you gathered a representative from every Islamist political party and asked them for their vision and definition of Shari’a and what it means in terms of governance and implementation, they would come up with very different answers from each other.

Islamic jurisprudence and schools of thought is a vast field with many contradictory interpretations, hence why there are so many Islamist parties in existence in Egypt today: they all think the others understand or implement Shari’a the wrong way. If you think the secular side has problems uniting and unifying, then you should try uniting or unifying the Islamist side. It should be a hilarious experiment. They all think each other are extremists or infidels.

The constituent committee tried to side-step that by creating an amendment that states that Al-Azhar’s scholars should be the ones that interpret what Shari’a means and how it should be implemented, which brings us to the second reason behind my decision: I do not trust Al-Azhar with that role either.

It was an Al-Azhar scholar who came up with the Fatwa that would allow strange men and women to share office space if the women breastfeed the men. It was an Al-Azhar scholar who came up with the fatwa that any journalist that criticised Mubarak would get 40 lashes. Both cases were based on flimsy reasoning or interpretations for purposes of insanity in the former and corruption in the latter, and both came from Al-Azhar.

 If we choose to ignore insanity for a second (despite having Islamist politicians who see nothing wrong with kidnapping a 14 year-old Christian girl and claiming she converted and marrying her off without parental consent, or others who see nothing wrong with having Al-Qaeda operating in Egypt as long as they don’t attack us), we will have to face the problem of corruption. Al-Azhar scholars can be as corrupt as any other institution in the fantastically corrupt entity referred to as the Egyptian state.

There are scholars who tailor fatwas for reasons ranging from gaining favor from whomever is in power, to whomever pays them more. Are they all like that? No, of course not, but given that fatwas are based on interpretation, a scholar could easily come up with two opposing fatwas based on the same “evidence”, which creates a very flexible environment for corruption to grow and prosper, in a land that already suffers from a corruption epidemic in its government. Here is another fun experiment: try to bribe Al- Azhar scholars for a tailored fatwa and see if he will have a problem with it.

This brings us to the final reason why I am against having Shari’a in our constitution: I don’t trust our government one bit, and I believe this distrust is commonly shared by Egyptians all over after the events of the past two years, especially after the Assiut school bus incident.

The question then becomes: how do you trust this fabulously corrupt government not to abuse its powers under the cover of Shari’a? Hell, my level of distrust in them is so high, I don’t even want them teaching our children religion in public schools, especially with an Islamist president in office.

Our public school teachers find it acceptable to beat up their students, cut their hair because they were not veiled, and have them clean their shoes, examples of which we all saw in the past few months, so do you trust those people to teach the next generation of Egyptians- your children- religion? Do you even trust them to not mess with the curriculum to have it suit their political ends?

I had no problem with keeping the Shari’a clause in the constitution before, but it has become increasingly obvious that the Islamist parties won’t just contend with having it there, but will increasingly try to use it to “fix us” , which is something I am totally opposed to. I am not the one who wants to sleep with children or who finds it acceptable to kidnap teenage girls and marry them off without the consent of their parents. I don’t need fixing, and neither do any of you.

The level of  potential abuse of power that having even the word Shari’a in the constitution with the Islamists in charge is so high that I fear we will continue witnessing horrifying events, laws and justifications- like the ones we have been hearing for months- for years to come if it stays in its current form. So ask yourself this question today: does that seem like a country you want to live in?

About the author

Mahmoud Salem

Mahmoud Salem

Mahmoud Salem is a political activist, writer, and social media consultant. His writings could be found at www.sandmonkey.org and follow him @sandmonkey on Twitter

  • Seif

    Thaaasaaasaaaaaankkkk u!! اخيراً حد نطء بإستخدام الدماغ. شكرًا يا سيد مانكي.

  • http://www.coralife-style.com Alan Cockayne

    Would Mahmoud consider posting these brilliant comments on our Hurghada facebook group wall?

    We recently lost a valued contributor in Mr. Hassan Elsaway who passed away this month and had the very same ideological views as Mahmoud Salem.

    We Ex-Pats and locals of the Red Sea locations miss Hassan’s comments emmensly and need a prominent journalist of his calibre to “step in his shoes”.

    Thank you.

  • A. Tarek Elbohy

    I wish that you can offer a space for different opinions about the same subject .. As that article about shari’a by Mahmoud Salem. I wish you can share an article in the different point of view.

  • Pango

    I fear for the new Egypt and all the other Arab states who now have islamist running the government,Islam itself is a scarey thought,governments that are run by Islam are doomed for failure may God help you all

  • Tarek El-Maddah

    well, u based ur point of view on two points
    1-ur claim that sharia may be interpreted by many ways from untrusted people
    2-ur claim that sharia may be implemented by untrusted & vulgar peolpe

    but u didn’t tell that also the laws & constitution (people made) wording can be interpreted by many ways and by untrusted people bribed people … perhaps forgot mubarak days when everything can be written and done with many bribed law people.

    also u didn’t mention that in france (secular nation) they force girls not to wear hijab in the schools and universities .. which is against human rights … they don’t only beat them .. they jail them

    i lost sometime reading poor article .. but i meant not to just go w/ out commenting as it’ll be a complete loss

  • MA Lateef

    At the moment I am using Mirriam-Webster and Oxford dictionary to look for the meaning and significance of the terminology “Sharia’ah”, which is as under: according to the law, conformable to the Shara’a, Islamic law based on Qura’an (and Sunnah), Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Qura’an and the traditions of Prophet (p.b.u.h) Hadith and Sunnah prescribing both religious and secular duties and sometimes retributive penalties for law breaking. It has generally been supplemented by legislation adapted to the conditions of the day. Qura’an Hakeem is very unique and distinct scripture in the sense that, it provides guidance and counselling only to those who are sincere, honest, pure and genuine in seeking, and not to those who are negligent and disputants. One of the Hadeeth says: Verily the acts and deeds are regulated by intentions. Justice Muhammad Muneer (deceased) of Pakistan, in 1953 while ridiculing and belittling the Islamic law and jurisprudence posed a silly and non-sensical question to the Islamic scholars: Can you define the term “Muslim”!
    There are definitely two types of Islamic scholars one, Ulama e Haq and second Ulama e s’uoo; sanity demands that we must always focus on the former coterie neglecting those who can sell the Divine signs for paltry price. Consider the question: In view of the ‘past experience’ how can one trust the present regime (of Muhammad Mursi) that it will not misuse or abuse the power acquired through constitution based on SHARIA’AH? to me it sounds sinister, outrageous and ludicrous. The problem with our pseudo-intellectuals so called enlightened bigots rude and stern but timid and spineless secularists/atheist is, they do not believe in Qura’an and Sunnah as it should be, never read the Holy book and tried to understand it in its true perspective, they are actually “selective” in approach; they look Islam while wedding ceremony is taking place or burial of corpse who was supposed to be a traditional Muslim that’s it. I am confident and sure that ordinary Egyptian people LOVE Islam in all of its manifestations and are not cultural and social Muslims only. They are definitely in favor of Sahria’a their role models are great human beings and Muslims like Hadhrath Abu Bakr Siddique(R.A), Hadhrath Omer Farooq e Azam (R.A), Hadhrath Osman Ghani Zun-Noorain and Hadhrath Ali Kuurran Allah Wajhu and not Nasser, Sadaath or Mubarak.

  • Kathryn Jordan

    Your argument is rational and just. It is difficult to have a true democracy without the separation of church and state.

    • anthony perzigian

      Consuming a mix of politics and religion only causes heartburn and heartache. A civil society based on reason, critical thinking and science is the best blueprint for economic development and freedom.

  • Bashir Khan

    Thank you Mahmoud for giving us your reasons for opposing those elements of the draft constitution that you disagree with – many liberals are simply scaremongering or just making wild accusations instead of putting forward good arguments.
    The problem, however, is that in your country a majority of your fellow citizens would like the political system to reflect the Shariah in some way – you just can’t get away from that fact. So you have to think, what is the best way to incorporate it without allowing yourselves to be held hostage to a narrow interpretation of it?
    I’m sure moderate Islamists are well aware of the dangers of weird fatwas – so one way is to use a wide base, require unanimity or at least a consensus of scholars in order to avoid unusual interpretations, leaving the elected legislators free to choose legislation in the majority of circumstances according to common custom or internationally agreed principles.
    On the whole Al Azhar is a moderate, open institution and so is probably in the best position to be called upon to deal with those few matters that need scholarly input. You would just have to make sure that it doesn’t get dominated by any one group in the future, which would be, of itself, a good thing. In the UK, some Church of England bishops sit in the House of Lords – some people don’t like it, but it’s not a bad system for a largely religious country such as Egypt.

    • Mohammed Moiduddin

      I can’t believe so many liberals anti islam. Wow I thought Egypt was really a Muslim Country. It seems the Coptic people actually rule the country. SInce they can be president, why not let them. Just wish all the liberals would convert to christianity and leave egypt.

  • Mohammed Moiduddin

    When people openly attack Islam. Whether shariah or good people who are pro Islam Allah has shown in history the worst of disasters will fall on that country. I fear for Egypt the worst earthquake or plague that might wipe out the whole country. Oh well good riddance. Not worth salt water.

  • Mohammed Moiduddin

    If Prophet Muhammed came back we would all be considered Munafiq. Day of Judgement around the corner.

  • Mohammed Moiduddin

    I used to pray for Egypt, but the way people act, I now pray for Allah to punish everyone.

  • Mohammed Moiduddin

    I have more respect for Israel, at least they follow their religion, we are munafiq.

  • Volvoly Tampetti

    Shari’a rears it’s ugly head some more. Enjoy fools!


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