Sunday, March 11, 2007

Egyptian Muslims for Human Rights

This is wonderful news:

100 of Egypt's elite –mostly Moslem- politicians, writers, professors, lawyers, etc... Signed a petition pleading with President Mubarak, the legislators, the political parties, NGOs, and the people of Egypt to interfer and amend article 2 of the constitution within the package of amendments being currently discussed in the parliament. Article 2 states that "Islamic Shariy'a is the main source of legislation". This article was introduced in its current form in 1980 by the late President Sadat who sought to counter leftists and communists by inflating the power of religious groups who later turned against him and killed him.

The petition was distributed by Egypt's Center for Human Rights (a local NGO). In the letter, the activists stated that declaring a particular religion for the state is against the supposedly neutral status of the state, which belongs to different religions not mentioned by the Egyptian constitution. This has resulted in rulings that denied some Egyptian citizens the right to state their beliefs, leaving them with the only option to change or lie about their beliefs to get official documents such as IDs.
The petition deserves to be quoted in full. Remember - these are mainstream Muslim intellectuals pleading for equal rights for non-Muslims in Egypt:
The 1980 amendment that declared Islamic Shariy'a to be the main source of legislation does not state any other sources for this purpose which makes it the only source. This has been used in reality by the Constitutional Court in related rulings, besides, legislations in any country are formed by a mix between elements inspired by its accumulated civilizations and responding to the needs of development of the society in space and time. No one argues that Islamic Civilization forms a main source in the cultural composition of Egyptians, however, it is not the only component otherwise it will erase the other contributions -such as Pharaonic, Coptic, and others- in forming the conscience, and culture of Egyptians.

As much as it is not possible to abstract the Islamic Civilization only in the legislations that this civilization has produced at a certain era, nor is it possible to abstract it by one of the many political trends that flourished in that era. Hence, it is imperative that the text [of the constitution] reflects that historical and contemporary fact, to avoid being accused of working to force the rulings of certain religion on those who do not believe in it in contradictions to all international treaties for human rights to which Egypt is a signatory, hence ignoring the presence of other religions and beliefs in the Egyptian society with different rulings, degrading the value of these beliefs and religions, and their followers. This fact has its reflection in social and political day-to-day life, and in court rulings, deepening the feelings of injustice and insignificance by other religions and beliefs' followers, and increasing the feelings of superiority and contempt to others by the other party.

The experience of a quarter of a century since the introduction of this amendment shows that this amendment was a factor -besides other factors- in the decline of the supposedly neutral role of the state towards its citizens, and in breaching the right of equality without regard to religion, which has become an incontestable reality no one can deny no matter how large or small this inequality is in all aspects of life be it social, cultural, political, economical (including Banking and Stock Exchange), and the spread of an environment of extremism, on the account of freedom of scientific research, innovation, artistic and literary creativity. Educational material, and government owned media outlets became a prime source for spreading religious xtremism to the extent that the ministry of endowment published a book pronouncing the followers of other religion to be infidels, and that their money and blood are fair game.

In order not to misunderstand the signatories of this petition, the undersigned emphasize the fact that Islam is the religion of the majority of citizens, and that the general values and principals of religions are some of the important sources of legislation, in a way that does not conflict with Egypt's international obligations according to international human rights treaties, nor should this conflict with the rights of citizenship, and all civil rights that doesn't depend on the individual's religion, and it is important that all government body be neutral towards the [different] religions and beliefs and their followers.

The undersigned appreciate the good intentions behind the proposal to add the "Principal of Citizenship" in article one of the constitution, they note that this amendment doesn't provide any tangible constitutional guarantees, especially in the presence of article 2 as it is, which makes amending this
article a necessity.

The undersigned include Dr. Refaat El-Saeed (Tajamoo Party), Hussein Abdel-Razik (General Secretary Tajamoo Party), Farida El-Naqash (editor of Ahaly newspaper), Bahyeldin Hassan (Cairo Center for Human Rights), Ahmed Higazy (poet), Sayed Al Qemni (thinker), Father Ikram Lmaey (Professor of comparative religions), Gamal El-Bana thinker and islamic missionary), Hafez AbouSeada (National Center for Human Rights) Ahmed Seif Al-Islam (manager of Hisham Mubarak for law), Dawood Abdel Sayed (movie director) Dr. Gaber Asfour (former head of supereme councel for antiquity) Mahmoud Amin El-Alem thinker), Mohamed Nouh Musician) Dr. Hala Mostafa (editor in chief of Democracy magazine), Dr. Fouad Abdel-Menaem Riyadh (National Council for Human Rights), Nigad El-Boray (Democracy Developement Group), Mohsen Lotfy ElSayed (chairman of Masr El-Om party - pending approval), Dr. Kasem Abdou (head of History Department), Sameh Fawzy (Writer & Political Analyst), Magdy Khalil (Political Activist), Adel Al-Gendy (Writer), Nabil Sharaf eldin, Maged Ateya, Nabil Zaki, Ahmed Samih(manager Andalus Center for Tolrerance Studies), Mohamed Zarea (manager of Arab Organization for Criminolgy Reform) Moataz Al Fogairy (program manager - Cairo Center), Gamal Eid (manager - Arab Network for Human Rights Studies), Hosam Bahgat (Manager - Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights).

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