|3/08/2005: Commission Releases Religion & Human Rights Survey on Constitutions of 44 Muslim Counties|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released on its Web site today a new survey, The Religion-State Relationship and the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief: A Comparative Textual Analysis of the Constitutions of Predominantly Muslim Countries. The study, prepared by Commission staff, examines the text of Muslim constitutions from 44 nations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The study demonstrates that predominantly Muslim countries-including those where Islam is the religion of the state-encompass a variety of constitutional arrangements addressing the role of Islam, the scope of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, and equality of rights and freedoms, including for women.
"The Commission believes that this study - the first of its kind - will be helpful to citizens, legal experts, policymakers, and diplomats throughout the world searching for models of constitutional text within the Muslim world that relate to international human rights standards," said USCIRF Chair Preeta D. Bansal.
Several current developments in constitutional drafting are spurring renewed analysis of the existing constitutional landscape of the Muslim world. In 2004, Afghanistan adopted a new permanent constitution, and Iraq's Governing Council approved an interim constitutional document (the "Transitional Administrative Law" or TAL). Iraq's elected national assembly is expected to draft a permanent constitution in 2005. In Sudan, a new interim constitution is anticipated as a product of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. The interlocking roles of religion and human rights will be key issues in Iraq and Sudan.
The Commission's study found:
"The Commission's study shows that positive models of constitutional text exist in the Muslim world," added Bansal. "This finding is crucial for demonstrating that freedom of religion or belief, as well as other international human rights norms, can coexist in the Muslim world, and should guide the people of Iraq and Sudan as these countries undertake the drafting of new constitutions."
Because constitutional text does not always translate into practice, the Commission invites policy and legal experts to further research the interpretation and application of these constitutional provisions and their practical impact in Muslim countries, especially with regard to the protection of internationally recognized human rights.
The study will be published in the summer 2005 volume of the Georgetown Journal of International Law.