Islamic Constitution and equality of all citizens are a term in contradiction...


In this article, I show a problematic contradiction in the constitutions of Islamic countries. This stems from the fact that Islamic countries adopt, in their state constitutions, Islam as a religion of the state, and, at the same time, establish, or try to establish, equality under the state’s law amongst all its citizens.

What Islamic constitutions claim

The newly written Libyan constitution establishes Islam as the religion of the state in its first article, and establishes equality amongst the state’s citizens in its 6th article.

This inclusion of Islam as a religion of the state and that all citizens in an Islamic country are equal under the law is not a recent phenomena that came with the newly designed constitutions of Iraq and Libya. It is an old phenomenon that appeared and took hold in all countries that had Muslim-majority populations. Here are two articles from the Jordanian constitution:

Article 2: Islam is the religion of the State and Arabic is its official language.

Article 6: (i) Jordanians shall be equal before the law. There shall be no discrimination between them as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion. (ii) The Government shall ensure work and education within the limits of its possibilities, and it shall ensure a state of tranquillity and equal opportunities to all Jordanians.

Critical Analysis

A constitution that establishes a specific religion (Islam in our case) and the equality of its citizens at the same time is establishing a contradiction that cannot be resolved (it can only be resolved by dropping Islam out of the constitution altogether). First, establishing Islam as a religion of the state is no more than affirmative discrimination against all other religions. Why can’t other religions enjoy the same status as Islam and be religions of the state also? After all such states claim establishing the equality of all citizens of the state. If this is the case, then why their religions (any other than Islam) are not considered the religions of the state too? Are not such constitutions establishing affirmative discrimination against all other belief systems that are considered “a religion” by one group of people or another in that state?

Second, such constitutions of Islamic countries are not discriminating in a “theoretical” fashion against other religions. They are, in fact, discriminating against the adherents of all other religions. For example, the Sunni form of Islam is taught in all levels of schools in Jordan (Elementary, Middle, and High Schools). Teachers who teach “Sunni Islam” are state employees. They are paid by the state like other teachers, who teach Mathematics or Science. No other religion is taught in those same schools. For instance, no teacher of the Christian religion is employed by the state to teach the Bible and the Christian teachings in state schools. Isn’t such a behavior by the state an affirmative discrimination against the Christian community in Jordan? The reader can generalize this example of Jordan to other venues of practice in Jordan, and to other practices in other Islamic countries.

The above contradiction in the Constitutions of Islamic countries translates into numerous practices of discrimination against non-Muslims. For example, in Egypt, those who leave Islam and become Christians cannot change their names, IDs or passports to reflect this change. They are also hunted down by Muslims in an attempt to kill since apostasy in Islam carry death penalty. The same does not apply when someone, say a Christian, becomes a Muslim. No one is allowed to harm him/her. They can change their names and IDs to reflect the change in their religion.

Islamic constitutions, thus, establish state-directed legal discrimination its non-Muslim citizens, and speaking of equality of all citizens in such states is not only a contradiction, but also a shameless farce.

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