CAIRO (TheBlaze/AP) — Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood says Islamic Shariah law must be the basis of Egypt’s new constitution, and legislation must be based on Islamic penal code.
The Brotherhood said in a statement Wednesday that a country ruled by Shariah would not become a theocracy. These comments are important to monitor, considering that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi comes from the Brotherhood. Additionally, fears about Islamists’ intentions continue to rage.
The statement appeared to be an attempt to clarify the group’s position toward the country’s most contentious issue — the extent of Islamic influence in governance and legislation.
The 100-member Islamist-led panel tasked with drafting the new document has been facing heavy criticism, mostly from liberals who fear Islamization of Egypt through its work.
Earlier this month, an op-ed by The New York Times’ Roger Cohen, the paper’s former foreign correspondent and editor, laid out his fears over a troubling line in the most recent version of the Egyptian constitution. Cohen called the issues pertaining to the document “critical” and said that, because it’s not often that constitutions are amended and changed, any problematic language must be grappled with before the proclamation is adopted.
Among the lines that has minority groups and women up in arms is article 68 of the constitution. It reads, “The state shall take all measures to establish the equality of women and men in the areas of political, cultural, economic and social life, as well as all other areas, insofar as this does not conflict with the rulings of Islamic Shariah.”
It is the latter part of this statement that has sparked some outrage and worry. While equality is called for in the opening lines of the article, the section also proclaims that it can only happen so long as it “does not conflict with the rulings of Islamic Shariah.”
This is problematic — especially if Islamists are in control, making the laws and ensuring their enforcement. If shariah is made to be malleable to theocratic goals and supportive of restrictive measures impacting women and minority groups, then the former portion of the article is null.
The constitution would be a key definer of Egypt’s government and society after last year’s ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. The latest comments make it clear: The Muslim Brotherhood wants Islamic law to dominate the nation’s constitutional constructs.