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