Egypt: International Religious Freedom Report welcomed
The Alkalema Center for Human Rights has welcomed the US State Department’s International Religious Freedoms report, which documents further decline in religious freedoms in Egypt, following the December 22nd 2012 ratification of the new Egyptian constitution. While theoretically the constitution enshrines the right to religious freedom, these provisions are undermined by Egyptian laws, constitutional texts and the policies and practices of the Egyptian government.
Although the new constitution stipulates that “freedom of belief is inviolable” and that the state shall ensure the “freedom of religious practice and the establishment of houses of worship of the heavenly religious,” it does so under the condition that religion and religious activities are “regulated by law”.
The Report, which covers 2012, argues that although recognized and unrecognized religious minorities were able to worship without interference in most cases, where there were issues of concern the government “generally failed to prevent, investigate, or prosecute crimes against members of religious minority groups, especially Coptic Christians.” This is turn fostered a climate of “impunity” and resulted in many Christians leaving their homes.
The report goes on to say that there have been reported cases of Islamists committing “isolated acts of intimidation against some Christians in Upper Egypt, likely leading to fewer Christians voting in some villages in the constitutional referendum in December 2012."
The AIkalema Centre welcomes the publication of violations against religious minorities in Egypt after the rise of Islamist influence, and notes the diplomatic interaction between the Egyptian and US governments, but regrets the fact that the report does not document the many reported cases of the abduction of minors, the rise of forced marriages, and the phenomena of forced religious conversions.
The report also fails to mention the continual and systematic attacks perpetrated against churches and the demolition of Sufi and Shi’ite shrines whilst also overlooking the threats made against Copts activists and the many others who face trial for their religious beliefs.
Head of the Board of Trustees
Photo: Copts and their supporters in Cairo, protesting against violent sectarian attacks
Credit: Corey Oakely