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Surprise: Egypt’s Draft Constitution ‘Not Consistent with International Human Rights Law’


On Wednesday, the Egyptian government unveiled a new draft of its constitution, and the role of sharia in it appears to be a fairly solid victory for Islamists. The L.A. Times explains:

The proposal has echoes of Egypt’s 1971 constitution, but the new document is a testament to a changing political era in which a nation once run by Western-leaning military men is now, after an uprising and months of tumultuous politics, increasingly in the hands of Islamists. That prospect is recasting alliances and weakening the influence of the United States and other Western powers.

The draft states that Egypt is “a democratic regime” guided by the principles of sharia, or Islamic law. But the wording in some articles, such as those dealing with equality for men and women, are either explicitly tied to strict Islamic precepts or open to interpretation. Human rights groups fear such ambiguity will allow Islamists, especially ultraconservative Salafis, to exploit the language to advance a more religion-centric state.

Article 36 stipulates that “the state shall take all measures to establish the equality of women and men in the areas of political, cultural, economic, and social life, as well as all other areas, insofar as this does not conflict with the rulings of Islamic sharia.”

For what it’s worth, international human-rights groups have registered their disapproval of the document, with Human Rights Watch finding it “not consistent with international human rights law.” This is at best the third-most-important inconsistency here, though, more important being the inconsistency of Article 36 itself, and the inconsistency between sharia and any pretense to the equality of women.