Non-Muslims in leadership positions

Article 26 of the Constitutional Declaration specifies the conditions that presidential candidates need to meet. The most important of these conditions includes being an Egyptian national, born of Egyptian parents. The article also specifies that the candidate and both of the candidate’s parents should not have a foreign nationality, should not be married to a foreigner, and should be at least be 40 years old. However, it does not specify a particular religion for the candidate.

Article 2 of the Constitutional Declaration stipulates that “Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language, and principles of Islamic Sharia are the primary source of legislation.” Some people interpret the above clause as an implicit recognition of the entitlement of Muslims to positions such as presidency.

Proponents arguing in favour of the entitlement of non-Muslims to leadership positions say that there are no legal barriers preventing non-Muslims from being president. Differentiating between the official religion of the state and the system of government, they argue that the principle of citizenship, which grants equality to all Egyptians regardless of religion, is one of the most important principles of the Constitutional Declaration. Some proponents go as far as to argue for the abolition of Article 2 altogether.

On the other hand, those who oppose the view that non-Muslims may be presidents argue that Egypt is an Islamic state according to the constitution, and that Islamic Sharia is its principal source of legislation. They add that since Sharia prevents non-Muslims from being in charge of Muslims, it is evident that non-Muslims may not be presidents.

Nahwa Tatweer Al-Tashree' Al-Islami [Towards Development of Islamic Legislation], Abdullah Al-Na'eem, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Qadaya Al-Islah [Reform Issues] Series, 2005.