Is there a secular Arab country

Church and StateThe place of religion in Arab constitutions

The figures are clear: since 1990, 102 state constitutions have been rewritten worldwide. In these newly formulated basic laws, the word religion appears in 40 cases. The proportion of constitutions that recognize a religion as a source of law is comparatively low. The number of constitutions that define a state religion is even smaller. There are only 16 - which, however, and that is what is special, largely come from one cultural group.

"Of these 16, 15 are Muslim countries and one Buddhist country, Cambodia, which also recognizes a state religion, and in this case it is Buddhism."

Mirjam Künkler, Professor of Political Science and Oriental Studies at Princeton University in the USA. While in western countries religion only has a symbolic meaning in constitutions - if at all -, in some countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East it is gaining an astonishing significance.

"When the state falls apart, and of course that is the case in the whole Arab region, from Libya to Syria and so on, then people seek refuge in religion ..."

... Mark Farha, Professor of Political Science at Georgetown University in Qatar, ...

"... there is of course a problem with this, these autocratic rulers who were in power before, in general, if you are honest, of course they have more of a secular right than the current regimes that come afterwards."

Phenomenon: denominationalism

A phenomenon that political scientists discuss under the term confessionalism. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the political unity of many Arab states, which was undoubtedly enforced with brutal violence, has been disintegrating into regional state structures, each with its own political principles - Islam plays a special role in all cases. On the other hand, there are Islamic countries whose constitutions do not mention Islam or other religions as a source of law. Political scientists therefore recognize them in principle as democracies. These include Turkey and Indonesia, Albania, Senegal and Mali - comparatively few countries. In all other countries, the state religion of Islam hinders burgeoning democratization movements - according to Mirjam Künkler from Princeton University.

"You can often see that members of parliament with a strong Islamic influence try to interpret the constitutional status of the religion in such a way that one introduces limitations as to the identity of the president, it is often the case that the president has to be a Muslim, and often it is also that way, that the judges in the highest courts of the state must be Muslim or a majority of them must be Muslim, there is often also discrimination on the basis of the sexes, that women are not granted access to certain positions. "

The Islamic priority clause in state constitutions plays a special role in this. It stipulates that no law may be passed that contradicts Islamic law. Nevertheless, one shouldn't fall into clichéd thinking, says Mirjam Künkler. The struggle of many Arab states to find a compromise between liberal constitutions - that of the United States, for example - and constitutions with a clear Islamic dominance can be observed with some fascination. The results are confusing.

"On the one hand, you can see that, from a purely legal point of view, de jure citizens should have more and more rights worldwide, on the other hand, you can also see that in those constitutions that recognize a state religion and which also recognize religion as a source of law, quite often in There are other clauses in the same constitution that restrict these fundamental rights.Whether you look at the Egyptian constitution, or the Iranian or Libyan one that is basically being drafted, it is so that often freedom of expression or assembly can be restricted due to Islamic ones Legal principles. "

Live in peace and prosperity

Where the constitutional journey of Islamic countries is going - and with it their political development - no one can seriously say. What is certain is that the pure teaching of Islam cannot last in the long term against the background of global economic systems. The cultural influences from the west are too strong. Mark Farha, a political scientist at Georgetown University in Qatar, doubts the sole blissful effect of Western values.

"This is a problem for the Arab world: is democracy as we know it a solution to all problems?"

There are no quick solutions; the socio-political tensions are too complex for that. However, there may not be quick solutions because Islam lacks a few centuries of development compared to Christianity. Perhaps the Arab region is experiencing a phase like the one Europe went through during the wars of religion. Mark Farha is not particularly optimistic.

"I think right now we are going through a phase where this is only going to get worse because there is a struggle for existence to some extent for these countries and for these groups, and the fundamental ideological ideas and reasons for this conflict are not really dealt with And there is also the fact that outside forces, we are talking about a global and regional conflict, exploit these identities in order to play them off against each other, i.e. to play the Sunnis against the Shiites, and to play the Shiites against the Sunnis is a plan that is really there in Washington and elsewhere. "

For the many millions of people in the crisis regions of Arabia, the main concern is a life in peace and prosperity. For Mark Farha, implementing this constitutionally requires one thing above all: tolerance.

"Because we have a different worldview about religion, do we want to try to convert each other, or do we want to accept a state constitution where everyone enjoys the same rights? Rousseau put it well, he said we must be tolerant of everyone except for the intolerant! "