Egypt ministry seeks to foster a 'culture of law'

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo


A picture taken on June 21st, 2016 shows the entrance of the State Council's building, Egypt's highest administrative court, in Cairo. The Egyptian Ministry of Culture’s Supreme Council of Culture held a symposium on the Culture of Law to Combat Terrorism on April 20th, 2017. [Waleed Abu al-Khair/Al-Mashareq]

Egypt must work harder to foster a "culture of law" that upholds law and order and supports good citizenship, as it is difficult for extremism to gain a foothold where these values flourish, political and judicial experts told Al-Mashareq.

With this goal in mind, the Ministry of Culture’s Supreme Council of Culture held an April 20th symposium on the Culture of Law to Combat Terrorism.

The topic is timely "given the spate of terrorist attacks Egypt is witnessing at this time", said Mona Makram Obeid, professor of political science at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.

Some believe the "culture of law" only refers to the actual law and its interpretations, she told Al-Mashareq, noting that this definition is too narrow.

"The culture of law encompasses the principle of strengthening the law to protect the individual and [enable him] to attain his rights," she said.

Protecting individual rights encourages a culture where aggression against others is not tolerated, which in turn strengthens and enhances citizenship, Obeid said, noting that a large number of youth attended the symposium.

"It is important to pay attention to the youth during this period and strengthen their sense of citizenship to inoculate them against terrorist ideas," she said.

Respect for the law

During the symposium, Court of Appeal president Counselor Khaled al-Qadi announced a new national strategy for the Culture of Law to Combat Terrorism.

It is important to clarify what is meant by the "culture of law", he told Al-Mashareq.

Many believe it concerns only members of the judiciary, he said, adding that it actually refers to social awareness through proper awareness of the law.

The culture of law "encourages citizens to respect the law as one of the constant values from which we should not deviate, much like all religious and social values that a citizen views as basic constants in life", he said.

Al-Qadi said his initiative aims to introduce this concept of citizenship to all age groups and segments of society by publishing and distributing leaflets and holding further seminars in all provinces and cities in Egypt.

Promoting respect for the law must be an integrated national effort if it is to bear fruit and motivate Egyptians to fulfill their civic duties, he said, adding that this is in their interest and the interest of their social and familial environments.

Reinforcing human rights

Helwan University student Naveen Zuhdi told Al-Mashareq she was surprised to see so many people -- and so many youth -- turn out for the symposium.

"The turnout for a seminar on law, which some youth may view as dull, indicates a real desire for knowledge in order to combat terrorism and for learning what means and mechanisms are required to win that battle," she said.

Egyptian society is not known for its strong respect for the law of the land, she said, which is "clearly evident in the lack of respect for laws, and viewing them as secondary".

"Some even believe laws were put in place to be a detriment to citizens and restrict their personal freedom, and this naturally leads to chaos and social instability," she said.

But fostering a culture of law will lead to "internal stability when citizens abide by their rights and duties, and stability will undoubtedly prevent terrorist ideas from infiltrating society", she added.

"It is necessary to educate the youth that adherence to the law does not conflict with human rights," she said. "On the contrary, it reinforces them, because it confronts terrorism, which aims primarily to deprive societies of freedom."

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