Al-Azhar, Egypt’s premier Islamic institution, has issued a document on basic freedoms to serve as the basis of the new constitution, Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb announced on Tuesday.
The document lists freedom of belief, opinion, expression, scientific research, and art and literary creativity, which Tayyeb said reflect Al-Azhar’s vision for society.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Tayyeb said that all citizens have the right to freedom of belief, and that all citizens must take into account the feelings of others. He added that equality must be based on a solid foundation of citizenship, partnership, equal opportunity, rights and duties.
He stressed that freedom of belief goes against tendencies to label people as infidels, the condemnation of beliefs, and a propensity to doubt the intentions of the faithful.
Tayyeb said the document included freedoms of opinion and expression, and that such freedoms should apply to the media, as well as to political parties and civil society organizations.
The document also guarantees the right to obtain the information necessary to express an opinion, while respecting the beliefs and rituals of the three Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism). Tayyeb said this was necessary to preserve the nation’s fabric and national security, as well as to prevent sectarian strife.
The Grand Sheikh also stressed the importance of artistic freedom, which he said also allows for constructive criticism of society, while taking into account ethical values and religious sensitivities.