Egypt’s Draft Constitution Part 1: State and Society

Constituent Assembly AFP.jpg

The following is Daily News Egypt’s translation of the first part of the draft constitution, featuring articles relating to State and Society. Several articles within this chapter of the draft constitution continue to be a source of conflict or concern. 

Salafi forces are already campaigning against the draft constitution, primarily due to their inability to sway the Constituent Assembly to re-word Article 2. Salafi politicians pushed for the article to read, "the rules of Shari’a are the main source of legislation," as opposed to "the principles of Shari’a." Salafi members of the Assembly were also unsuccessful in attempts to change Article 5’s “Sovereignty is for the people alone” to “Sovereignty is for God alone.” Shifting gears, they are now calling for their followers to vote against the draft constitution in the upcoming referendum.

Salafi efforts seeing to it that Al Azhar would have the final say on what constitutes Shar’ia were also unsuccessful, but instead led to the inclusion of Article 4 which states that the religious body will play an advisory role in matters relating to Islamic law. 

Article 2 has been supplemented by Article 3, stating that Christians and Jews will use their own religious laws as the main source of legislation in personal and religious matters. While this may allay some of Egypt’s Christian minority’s concerns, the inclusion of this clause does not bode well for other minorities, such as Egypt’s Baha’i community. These concerns are compounded by Article 8 in the Rights and Freedoms Chapter, which guarantees the right to build houses of worship, but only for the three monotheistic religions.  

Article 9 states that the family is the basis of society, and its foundations are religion, morality and patriotism. This article suffers from a recurring theme seen throughout the entire constitution – vague and subjective statements that could be abused for specific purposes. The constitution does not clearly state what these concepts of ‘morality’ are – making it an easily exploited article.

Article 11 is also cause for concern as far as Egypt’s ethnic minorities are concerned as it defines Egyptian culture and society in Arab terms – without taking into account the existence of minorities such as Egypt’s Bedouins and Nubians – who have long suffered problems of exclusion – issues which are not addressed in the draft constitution.

Part I: State and Society

Article 1

The Arab Republic of Egypt is an independent sovereign state and is united and indivisible, its system is democratic.

The Egyptian people are a part of the Arab and Islamic nations, are proud of belonging to the Nile Basin and Africa, their connections to Asia, and actively participate in Human Civilisation.

Article 2

Islam is the state religion, its official language Arabic, and the principles of Islamic Shari’a are the main source of legislation.

Article 3

For Egyptian Christians and Jews, the principles of their religious laws are the main source of legislation in personal and religious matters as well as in the selection of their spiritual leaders.

Article 4

Al-Azhar is an independent Islamic body and it alone addresses its internal affairs. Its scope covers the Muslim nation and the entire world. It spreads religious studies and the call to Islam. The state guarantees sufficient funds for it to achieve its goals. The law determines the method for selecting Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, who shall be independent and cannot be removed from office.

The opinion of Al-Azhar’s Council of Grand Scholars shall be taken in matters related to Islamic Shari’a.

Article 5

Sovereignty belongs to the people who exercise and protect it, safeguard national unity, and authority is derived from them, all in the manner set out in the constitution.

Article 6

The democratic system is built on the principles of citizenship, citizenship that makes all citizens equal in rights and duties, political and partisan plurality, the rule of law, respect for human rights, guaranteeing rights and freedoms, peaceful transfer of power, separation of powers and balancing between them, all in the manner set out in the constitution.

Political parties may not be established on basis of discriminating between citizens on grounds of sex, origin or religion.

Article 7

Egyptian society is based on justice, equality, freedom, mercy, social solidarity, camaraderie between its members regarding protecting their lives, honour and money, and achieving sufficiency for all citizens.

Article 8

The state shall ensure security, tranquillity and equal opportunities for all citizens without discrimination.

Article 9

Family is the basis of society and its foundations are religion, morality and patriotism.

The state and society ensure the authentic character of the Egyptian family, its cohesion, stability, and protecting its traditions and moral values.

Article 10

The state is obliged to sponsor and protectethics and public morals, empower authentic Egyptian traditions, take into account a high level of nurturing, religious and patriotic values, scientific facts, Arab culture, the historical and cultural heritage of the people, as regulated by the law.

Article 11

The state protects the cultural, civilizational and linguistic unity of Egyptian society, and works towards Arabisation of sciences and knowledge.

Article 12

The creation of a civilian ranks is prohibited.

Article 13

The national economy aims to: achieve sustainable and balanced development, protectproduction and increaseincome, ensure social justice, solidarity and welfare, safeguard the rights of workers, ensure a fair distribution of wealth, raise the standard of living, eradicatepoverty and unemployment, increase employment opportunities, achieve a partnership between capital and labour in bearing the cost of development, ensure equitable sharing of the revenues, link pay to production, lessen the disparities between incomes through introducing a maximum wage and guaranteeing a minimum wage, all to ensure a decent life for every citizen.

Article 14

Agriculture is main component of the national economy. The state is obliged to protect and develop farmland, crops, plant species, animal breeds, and fish resources, achieve self-sufficiency, meet the needs of agricultural production, and provide good management and marketing, and support agricultural industries and crafts.

The law regulates the use of farmland in a manner that achieves social justice and protects farmers and agricultural workers from exploitation.

Article 15

All natural resources belong to the people, who are entitled to the returns. The state is obliged to maintainsuch resources and use them properly while ensuring the needs of national defence and economy are met and the rights of future generations are preserved. All money without owners belongs to the state.

No concessions or obligations on the part of the state allowing for the use of state lands, natural resources, or public utilities may be granted to other parties except by law.

Article 16

The Nile River and groundwater resources are a national wealth and may not be converted into private property. The state is obliged topreserve, protect and develop them and prevent any attacks on them. The law regulates the means of utilising them.

Article 17

The state is obliged to protect its beaches, seas, and lakes, maintain its antiquities and natural reserves, and remove any infringements that take place upon them.

Article 18

The state guarantees and protects the different forms of legitimate ownership be they public, cooperative, privateor religious endowments as regulated by the law.

Article 19

Public funds are inviolable, and protecting them is national duty on the parts of both the state and society.

Article 20

The state shall sponsor and support cooperatives of all forms, ensure their independence, and regulate craft industries, encourage them in a manner that leads to the advancement of production and the increase of income.

Article 21

Employees share in the management and profits of projects, and are committed to the development of production, preserving its tools, implementing its plans in their production unites as regulated by the law. They are represented by fifty percent in the membership of elected boards of directors in the public sector, and eighty percent in the membership of boards of directors in cooperatives, agricultural and industrial societies.

Article 22

Beneficiaries of service projects of public service shall participate in their management and oversight as regulated by the law.

Article 23

Private property is inviolable, and performs its social duty in serving the national economy without misapplication, exploitation or monopoly. It may not be placed under sequestration except in cases defined by law and with a court order. It may not be confiscated except for the public good and for a fair compensation that is to be paid in advance. The right to inheritance is guaranteed, all as regulated by the law.

Article 24

The state is obliged to revive and encourage the religious endowmnets system.

The law regulates religious endowments, determines the procedures for founding and managing them, investing them, and distributing their returns on beneficiaries as per the terms of the endowers.

Article 25

The system of taxes and public costs is based on social justices and paying them is a duty. Imposing, cancelling, exempting or assigning more than them shall be regulated by the law.

Article 26

Nationalisation is prohibited except for the public good, through a law, and in return for fair compensation.

Article 27

Mass confiscation of funds is prohibited, and specific confiscation is barred except by court order.

Photo Credit: AFP

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