Draft constitution calls Egypt ‘civil state’

The 50-member constitutional committee has agreed to acknowledge Egypt as a civil state in the draft constitution’s preamble, committee spokesperson Mohamed Salmawy said in a press conference on Thursday.

According to the state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA), the decision was part of a long reconciliation process between committee members. Representatives of the hardline conservative Salfi Nour Party reportedly opposed including the phrase in the preamble, as they believed that would define the state as secular.

Salmawy also said the committee agreed that the article outlining how the principles of Sharia will be implemented will be defined by the Supreme Constitutional Court, not based on the contentious Article 219 in the suspended 2012 Constitution, drafted by a majority Islamist council.

This decision came through discussions between Al-Azhar and representatives of the Egyptian churches. However, Nour Party representative Galal al-Mourra disagreed with the move.

Mourra told Mada Masr that this decision was not in fact final, and negotiations were still taking place.

If the article is included in the preamble, Mourra declined to comment on whether his party would escalate their attempts to apply pressure in the committee.

“We are always guided by the national interest of Egypt in the current political turmoil the country is witnessing. This is a long-term strategic view,” he said.

The Coptic Orthodox Church’s representative in the committee, Bishop Boula, had threatened to withdraw if the article was not included.

“We were surprised with the removal of the phrase granting the civil nature of the state without consulting us. This is something that we cannot accept. We were also surprised to see the explanation of the principles of Sharia according to the definition of Article 219,” Boula had previously told state-owned news website EgyNews.

Al-Azhar representatives and the country’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam had previously had reservations on the inclusion of the word “civil” in the preamble, as they feared that the word could be misunderstood as secular.

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