Article no. 2 of the Constitution and changes in relation to religion and the state.

Since 1923, the Egyptian Constitutions have varied in their approach towards religion and the state.

Article no. 149 of the 1923 Constitution stated that "Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic is its official language".

Then in 1956 in the Nasser era this religious reference was omitted

Egypt's permanent Constitution issued at the beginning of Sadat's rule in 1971 brought back the religious reference used in the 1923 Constitution. And it went further in adding that "Islam is the Religion of the State. Arabic is its official language, and a principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia)".

President Sadat then amended it once more in 1980 to "the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence"

Former President Hosni Mubarak maintained this amended text. When he introduced new constitutional amendments in 2007, he included an introduction to the concept of citizenship in Article no. 1 of the Constitution, considered by some as a trying to make a clear contrast between citizenship and Sharia Law.

Today, the Supreme Military Council maintains the text of the second article as is, with the temporary constitutional announcement issued on 20 March 2011.

Those who want the reviewing of this article of the constitution claim that it excludes the rights of non-Muslims and represents a barrier to the development of a civil state, as a civil state should bear no religion. Therefore they suggest either adding a paragraph allowing non-Muslims to resort to their respective jurisprudences or cancelling the article altogether to set the basis for the concept of Egyptian citizenship which does not distinguish between religion, colour or race 1

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Those who oppose the amendment of the second article believe that the Islamic Sharia will guarantee the rights of non-Muslims. Islam they say does not permit a religious authoritarian state as in the Catholic church in the middle ages or with the clerical rule in Iran. The source of legislation in the state, they claim, must be based on the religion of the majority of the Egyptian people, namely Islam.

 


1– Citizenship by Sameh Fawzy, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 2007, p. 42