Women’s rights advocates are extremely concerned that Sharia law will play a powerful role in Egypt’s new constitution.
Three articles of the more than 230-article draft mention Shariah directly.
Article 2 states that the “principles of Shariah” are the main source of legislation, the same phrasing as past constitutions.
The vague term “principles” previously gave lawmakers so much leeway that they could almost ignore tenets of Islamic law. As a result, Islamic law largely only governed rules on marriage, divorce and inheritance.
But at the insistence of Salafis, Article 219 was added, defining the principles of Shariah for the first time. It says the principles are based on “general evidence, fundamental rules of jurisprudence, and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community.”
The language is obscure, drawn from the terminology of religious scholars and largely incomprehensible to anyone else.
But “it is like a bombshell,” says Mohammed Hassanein Abdel-Al, constitutional law professor at Cairo’s Ain Shams University.
The article means that laws passed by parliament must adhere to specific tenets of Shariah that the four main schools of Sunni Islam agree on. That could include banning interest on loans, forbidding mixing of genders, requiring women to wear headscarves and allowing girls to marry when they reach puberty.
“The doors are wide open to restrict individuals’ freedoms,” Abdel-Al said.