US Report on Religious Freedom In Egypt Riles Muslims and Copts
By: Imad Khalil et al. Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm (Egypt).
The International Religious Freedom Report issued by the US State Department gave mixed grades to the Egyptian political arena. The report stated that religious freedom in Egypt is "very poor," and that the Egyptian government remains inactive in bringing the perpetrators of sectarian violence to justice.
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Following a State Department report saying religious freedom in Egypt is "very poor," both Christian and Muslim leaders were united in seeing it as an attempt to interfere in their domestic affairs. Nevertheless, reports Imad Khalil, some Copts are concerned about violence toward their community.Publisher: Al-Masry Al-Youm (Egypt)
Religious Freedoms shake the Egyptian Landscape: Muslim Brotherhood Rejects the "US interference", while Coptic Leaders demand to "end discrimination"
Author: Imad Khalil et al.
First Published: August 1, 2012
Posted on: August 1 2012
Translated by: Sahar Ghoussoub
Categories : Egypt
While the Muslim Brotherhood confirmed that it will stand firm "against any US intervention," Coptic and clerical leaders have demanded that state officials solve the problems faced by Copts. They demanded that a law be issued to unite all places of worship, end what they consider "all forms of sectarian discrimination,” and bring all perpetrators of attacks on churches to justice. Similarly, the report was a source of contention among political experts.
Mustafa Ghonemy, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau, said that the State Department's report was nothing new from Washington, "which seeks to interfere in Egypt's domestic affairs. We strongly reject such interference in any form whatsoever." Ghonemy added to Al-Masry al-Youm: The Muslim Brotherhood is keen to preserve freedoms for all factions, achieve equality in rights and duties of the various sects of society, and respect all minorities.
"All Egyptians are first-class citizens. There are no second-class citizens. We reject any form of interference in the work of President Mohammed Morsi or Prime Minister Hesham Kandil. We shall stand firm against any interference," said Ghonemy.
In a related development, Bishop Morcos of Shubra al-Khaima, chairman of the Holy Synod's Information Committee, commented on the report: "The church rejects any form of interference in Egyptian affairs. However, we demand the state to preserve the Copts' rights, adopt a law [to unite all houses of worship], and to resolve the problem of [the acts of] some religious extremists against the Copts." The Bishop also stressed the need to prevent any attacks against Copts and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Andrea Zaki, vice president of the Anglican Communion, also commented: "Our position is clear on the reports coming from outside Egypt. We have our reservations concerning this matter. However, this does not suggest that the Copts' situation is sound, especially in light of some Salafist leaders' statements about citizenship."
For his part, Rafiq Jreish, the spokesman for the Catholic Church, said: "The church rejects foreign interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs. We have already informed the US Secretary of State that the Copts do not need the US help and demanded that they stay out of Egypt."
On the other hand, Handros Aweidah of the Maspero Youth Union welcomed the report and demanded that the government achieve justice and improve the Copts' situation.
Furthermore, Amr Hashem Rabih, a researcher at [the state-run] Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, criticized the report, stressing the existence of positive momentum towards human rights in Egypt. "This report is a replica of the same exact reports issued by the US State Department every year. It is an attempt to twist the arm of Egyptian officials to take more heed of the security system and the Christians' protection," he said.
Rabih added: "There is no doubt that there has been progress in the condition of human rights and public freedoms in Egypt after the fall of Mubarak. The right to demonstrate, protest and hold strikes has become secured. The security apparatus no longer cracks down hard on protesters, as was the case during Mubarak's reign.
“Favoritism and bribery have been reduced and there are talks of granting Copts permanent high-level positions in the state, such as the position of vice president or advisers."
However, Emad Gad, a member of the Supreme Commission of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, disagreed with Rabih saying that: "Most of the report's statements regarding the religious situation in Egypt are absolutely true. Up until now, the perpetrators of the crimes against the Two Saints' Churches, whether in Imbaba or Atfih, have not been brought to justice and have yet to be arrested. This facilitates the recurrence of such crimes."
For her part, Georgette Kulayni, a member of the National Council for Human Rights, stressed the need to identify the sources of the information relied upon [in the report]. "We must know whether or not the information was based on international human rights data. The issue of freedom is beyond the limits of any country. Since Egypt is a member of international organizations, it can criticize or be criticized by any other member state in these organizations," she said.
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