The Egyptian constitution and the threat to freedom of expression
Activists fear vague language will allow for extreme interpretations of the law and give clerics too much political power
By Anny Shaw. Web only
Published online: 24 January 2013
While Egpytian president Mohamed Morsi says the new constitution will bring stability and democracy to Egypt, liberals and human-rights activists fear its vague language will allow for extreme interpretations of the law and give clerics the power to intervene in the political process. Article 44 states that “insult or abuse of all religious messengers and prophets shall be prohibited”, although what is deemed an insult is not clarified, while article 31 prohibits “insulting any human being”—a loose phrasing that activists say contradicts freedom of expression. Other clauses suggest state control over the arts.
Article 31: “Insulting or showing contempt toward any human being shall be prohibited.”
Article 44: “Insult or abuse of all religious messengers and profits shall be prohibited.”
Neither article clarifies what an “insult” is, which has raised concerns over restrictions on freedom of expression.
Article 10: “The State is keen to preserve the true nature of the Egyptian family, its cohesion and stability, and to protect its moral values, all as regulated by law.”
This suggests the State could have control over the content of works of art.
“The State shall advance science, literature and the arts, care for creators and inventors, protect their creations and innovations, and work to implement them for the benefit of society.” This rasies concerns that art not deemed to “benefit” society could be censored.
Article 4: “Al-Azhar [the highest authority of Sunni Islam] senior scholars are to be consulted in matters pertaining to Islamic law.”
While the old constitution also stated that Sharia law should form the basis of legislation, critics fear this new article could allow clerics stricter interpretations of the law
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