Tag Archives: Constitutional Design

Designing Constitutions in Muslim Countries: What Role for Islam?

Several new constitutions have been written in Muslim countries in the past decade; Afghanistan and Iraq wrote new constitutions after American-led invasions; Egypt wrote a new constitution after the ouster of Mubarak (and again after the military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Morsi) and Tunisia enacted a new constitution recently; several countries – such as Yemen and Libya have attempted to write permanent constitutions but ensuing chaos did not allow this to happen. Each of these constitution-making situations was very different and each country is a product of very different histories, cultures and socio-economic and societal foundations. Yet, one issue has been consistently highlighted: the status of Islam. To what degree will Islam be privileged in the constitution? Will new popularly elected governments be constrained by Islamic law? Will courts be able to set aside laws if incompatible with Sharia?

Many constitutions in the Muslim world contain clauses that recognize the Islamic character of the state. Yet, to date, there was little data on the landscape of Islam in constitutions. Separate research projects I collaborated on with Tom Ginsburg, Professor and Deputy Dean at the University of Chicago Law School and Moamen Gouda, Assistant Professor of Middle East Economics at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies sought to fill this gap. Our analysis showed that roughly half of all Muslim majority countries have some Islamic feature in their constitution. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution 1973, Discussion, Iran, Karachi, Pakistan, Politics

Dr Reeza Hameed: ‘Naya Qanoon’ and the 19th Amendment

The draft 19th Amendment reminds me of the story ‘Naya Qanoon’ (New Constitution) written by the late Saadat Manto, regarded by many as the finest writer of short stories in Urdu and as the greatest South Asian writer of the 20th century. Set in pre-independence Lahore of the 1930s the main protagonist of the story is a tongawalla called Mangu. One day, Mangu over-hears two of his customers discussing a new constitution that was to be introduced in a few days. Mangu hated the British, and was sick and tired of the humiliation and abuse that he had suffered under British rule. Mangu is excited by the prospect of freedom that he believed would be ushered in by the constitution. He imagined it would be something bright and full of promise and spends the next few days getting ready to celebrate the arrival of the new constitution.

On the appointed day, he discovers that nothing has changed and everything appeared as before. An Englishman with whom he had an argument on a previous occasion approaches him for hire. Emboldened by the prospect of change promised by the constitution, Mangu wants to put his customer in place and in a sharp voice quotes his customer more than his usual fare for the journey. The encounter with the Englishman ends up in an altercation with Mangu landing several blows on Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, France, Pakistan Horizon, Politics