Friday, January 19, 2007

Egypt's Coptic Church Demands Amending Article-2

An article published today in al-Masry al-Youm newspaper reported on the mounting pressure by Egypt's Orthodox [Coptic] Church demanding the amendment of Article-2 of the constitution.

Article-2 states: "Islam is the Religion of the State. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia)."

Speaking on behalf of the Church Anba (Bishop) Morqos is requesting that the language of the Article be changed to state: "a principal source legislation" rather than "the principal source of legislation," which was amended to that particular language in May 1980 by the late president Anwar el-Sadat in order to appease Muslim fundamentalists.

Anba Morqos indicated that this requested amendment "would guarantee the application of other sources of legislation, and not only Islamic Jurisprudence as the principal source."

Morqos also clarified that "laws and principles of citizenship must be those that we agree on, and not those that are forced upon us." He indicated that Egyptian Christians are not a small minority, but rather represent 15-18% of the population based on the most recent census, and besides that they [Copts] "are [Egypt's] sons and its owners."

The Bishop has also requested on behalf of the church that the State enforces a constitutional guarantee of articles that criminalize the contempt and disdain for religions, and that the application of this law should apply to all religions, so it would benefit the adherents of all currently present religions.


  1. I think it is a very important point, for the public memory at least, the discussion that Article 2 was amended in 1980. I would hope for some reference to document the reason for the change which you state here.

    Secondly, How old is Article 2? Is there any evidence of the original discussion during its creation? Who were the authors and are they still living? This is all very interesting.

    Edo River rising

  2. The Constitution dates from 1971. Earlier constitutions did not have a provision comparable to Art. 2 of the current one. The 1980 amendment was a result of Sadat's increasing tendency towards Islam, which in turn was originally used by him as a tool to marginalise Nasserists. Ironically, he was assassinated by the same political Islamists he had patronised in the 70s.

    As for Bilo's translation of Art. 2, it is not quite correct. It is not "the Islamic Shari'a", but "the PRINCIPLES of the Islamic Shari'a" that is the basis of legislation. Quite a difference, actually. A difference many Islamists neglect.

    Btw, "amending" is a very American way to put it. In practically all countries except for the US, constitutions can simply be changed if need be, of course only by a sufficient majority in Parliament. ;-)


  3. Johanna,
    Actually the translation of Article-2 is what is published on the government's website.

    The article of al-Masri al-Youm states (in Arabic) that the Anba is requesting the elimination of the "Alef" and "Lam" from both words of "al-Masdar al-Ra'isyy" [the source--the principal] which would change it essentially to "principal source."

  4. Johanna,
    Here is the Arabic version of Article-2:

    الاسلام دين الدولة، واللغة العربية لغتها الرسمية، ومبادئ الشريعة الاسلامية المصدر الرئيسى للتشريع.

    You are correct, it used "the principles of Shari'ah" as the source of legislation. The newspaper did not include that wording though and the english translation at the government's website neglected to use the words "principles of Shari'ah."

  5. Hi Bilo,
    I really appreciate your blog as it is a very good source of information about what is happening in Egypt regarding issuing ID cards to the Baha'is.
    I found another article under the hot topics issued in the same al-Masri al-Youm re same,it is in Arabic you can find it in
    Nawal, Canada

  6. Nawal,
    Thank you for alerting me to this link. It reports on the subject matter which was published in Al-Qahera article posted here on 17 January. That same information was also published by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the article you refer to is based on that report.

    In short, the information in it is quite the same as in the 17 January post of the blog.

  7. Reading the gov. web site, naturally I was attracted to the use of the word "unity". I could imagine that unity from the point of view of say the Mufti of Cairo,a doesn't mean diversity. Diversity could be seen as a threat to unity as vaguely described in the Constitution.

    BTW I assume that the Muslim Brotherhood is just one of several groups of Islamist fundamentalists, and that collectively these groups are represented in the Parliment, in a minority oppositon position, similar to the Israeli fundamentalist groups, tiny in number but can tip the scales of power if the opposition is rather evenly matched with the gov. party. Thus the gov. in both cases will give them small perks to keep them on their side, but nothing major.

    If this issue now before us becomes a measurement of loyalty to the gov by the fundamentalists...more problems could be on the near horizon for this year.

  8. i have no idea what is all this hussle that is going on concerning this article , especially that it is not in function , the gov`nt is secular and alas it is proud of it. so plz christian bros. and sis. mind ur own business and speak of things that affect u directly we r not yet an islamic gov but we are going to be inshaallah and u have to know that when this day comes , u r going to be in a far better situation cos the real islamic teachings are those which respected u and had merci on u during and after the roman time so think carefullay before saying anything cos we r the majourity and respect u so much as a minority. assalamu 3alikom we ra7matullah we barakato.

  9. The tyranny of the majority is when out of their good graces they may endow minorities with freedom that they can withhold at their own will. The situation of the Copts in Egypt is a question of enforcement of their rights. The situation of the Baha'is in Egypt is that they have been denied those rights. Justice means that the laws protect minorities and governments enforce such protection. Alas, Egypt has strayed from this path and has chosen to use Islam as a repression tool that tarnishes this pure Faith rather than to use Islam to infuse Egypt with its compassionate spirit. The outcome is more damaging to Egypt than it is to its minorities!

  10. It is true that many countries change their constitution frequently in the name of progress. Regardless of their constitution, governments must follow the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights! They cannot deny one group of people the rights of citizenship if they meet the conditions of citizenship! If they commit a crime, they should be charged for it. What crime did Egyptian Baha'is commit that denies them their citizenship rights according to Egyptian law? What crime is it to believe in a Faith that promotes understanding and compassion?

    If the same standards apply in other countries whose majority is Christian or Hindu, for example, then they would deny millions of Muslims their citizenship rights, which would be appalling! Christians do not accept Islam as a divine religion, much the same as Muslims do not accept the Baha'i Faith as a divine religion. To accord followers of religions their citizenship rights does not imply acceptance of the divinity of these religions!

  11. As we prepare for the court session for Emad and Nacy Raouf Hendy on Tuesday, let us be hopeful and remember the Sacred Words of His Holiness Baha'u'llah in Gleanings:

    "Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility."

  12. Samir, I have been reading this passage a few times recently, because I am trying to work with the "Virtues Cards" I bought from the Kavelins and Popovs company in the US. However I have had a minor setback in implimenting them here in Japan. I wonder if any Bahais have tried to use these cards in Egypt or other ME countries yet?
    Edo River rising

  13. Dear Edo River rising:

    I live in the United States. Thanks for the information about the "Virtues Cards". I was unaware of them.

    I enjoy reading your comments!

  14. In response to Hadeer's comment:
    You are correct in that the pure teachings of Islam are benevolent and peaceful. We all need to remeber though that what is important here is the actual application of these teachings in ACTION, and not merely words. We simply need to look around us and observe what reality IS, rather than make etherial statements.

  15. Agreed!!! Actions do speak lowder than words... I rember being raised Catholic in a Catholic School I was constantly tormented by classmates because I wore glasses and I wasn't the most graceful of walkers. NOBODY of the teachers or leaders did NOTHING to stop the activites of the class bullies... Seems to me the teachings of Jesus must have been lost by the leaders....Similarily I see the behavior of some of these Mullahs being directed to the Bahais of Both IRAN and Egypt...

    I wonder how some of these people can live with themselves being SUCH HYPOCRITES!!!!

    the only advice I can give my Fellow Bahais you might need to learn martial arts and really deepen on the Bahai writings...

    GOOD LUCK!!!


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