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Church State Issues

Egypt weighs whether religion should be law

Oct 31, 2012

Arizona Republic

By Aya Batrawy Associated Press Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:14 PM

MECCA, Saudi Arabia -- The annual Muslim hajj comes at a time when several Arab nations are facing a similar issue on a political level after uprisings that toppled longtime leaders and brought Islamists to greater power: How much should a government be rooted in Islam?

Egypt in particular is struggling with that question.

Elections since the fall last year of Hosni Mubarak elevated Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, to president. The Brotherhood was vaulted to become the country’s strongest political force, along with even more conservative Islamists known as Salafis, who follow a strict Saudi-style interpretation of Islam.

As pilgrims were making their way around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure in Mecca that observant Muslims pray toward five times a day, and performing an elaborate set of rituals in Saudi Arabia over the past week, Egypt was in a bitter struggle over the writing of the new constitution.

Salafis are pressing for the document to explicitly root Egypt’s laws in Shariah. That has raised liberals’ fears that it will bring stricter implementation of Islamic law and empower Muslim clerics in a political role, limiting women’s rights and freedoms of worship and expression. The assembly writing the constitution is dominated by the Brotherhood and Salafis.

The Egyptians who performed the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites this year may be united in the importance they give to their faith in their lives. But it doesn’t mean they all agree on the mix of religion and politics.