The Committee drafting a revised Egyptian Constitution has voted to revise Article 47, which guarantees the free exercise of religion for all citizens – not just the three Abrahamic faiths, as a draft in August had proposed. The draft will now be amended to include all religious minorities, including Shia Muslims and the Ba’hai, as well as Sunni Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Even the earlier draft came in strong contrast to the previous draft Constitution of 2012 (composed under President Morsi and Islamist influences) – one factor which led to the popular revolution which saw Morsi’s overthrow in July 2013.
The Committee’s spokesperson Mohamed Salmawy said the text would now read: “the state guarantees absolute freedom of religious practice”, and went on…”and that the state facilitates the construction of places of worship for all”. This refers to the fact that the Committee has adopted a transitional article that will remove existing restrictions on the building of new churches in the country, and the renovation of others.
Christians, who make up 10 to 15 per cent of Egypt’s 85 million population, currently need special presidential permits in order to build or renovate churches in Egypt.
Salmawy noted that most committee members agree that Islam grants absolute freedom for all religions, citing the Prophet Mohamed who said: “We are not entitled to open the hearts of others to know what their beliefs are.”