Reports

Right’s violation of religious minorities in Egypt

Some religious minorities in Egypt suffer from lack of official recognition by State institutions, resulting in the denial of a range of fundamental constitutional rights, most notably the freedoms of religion, belief, opinion and expression, and their followers being subject to surveillance and prosecution on the grounds that their activity is illegal. Egypt enjoys a clear religious diversity. In addition to the recognized Muslim, Christian and Jewish majority, there are other unrecognized minorities, including Bahá’ís and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some Muslim minorities, such as Shia, Qurans and Ahmadis, whose existence is not recognized by official and religious institutions.Facts of minorities’ official violation by lawThe protection that exists in the Constitution is that of the recognized divine religions (mainly Muslim and Christian). Egypt’s government has demonstrated patterns of discrimination and exclusion towards religious and ethnic minorities. Bahá’i and non-Sunni Muslim groups including Shi’a, Ahmadis and Quranists continue to be unrecognized, making it difficult for them to practice their religion freely. Bedouin communities in North Sinai face mass displacement, widespread violence and a growing humanitarian crisis, with little of government protection, compensation or emergency support. Meanwhile, after three constitutional referendums, Major incidents of violence against the minority group have also occurred: – Religious institutions in Egypt, such as Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Afta, issued several official fatwa against the Baháí, and considered their followers to be apostles. In 1960, a presidential law was passed to shut down Baha’i forums and centers, stop their activities and confiscate their property. Baha’is still denied recognition by the state, and is targeted for expressing their views. They have also found themselves the targets of blasphemy cases over the past five years. Following the revolution, in February 2011, a group of Muslim youth set fire to Baha’i homes in Sohag that had been burned down two years before, forcing Baha’i residents to flee. In January 2013, Education Minister Ibrahim Ghoneim, former Vice President of Suez Canal University, said that Bahai was not permitted to enroll in public schools. “The Constitution only recognizes the three Abraham religions. Thus their children do not have the right to register in government schools”.- Egypt also suspended the official recognition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses after accusations of supporting Zionism spread.-While the Quranic (Ahmadiyya) trend emerged in Egypt in the late 1970s, according to its followers, the Koran is the only source of sharia and religious reference, and there is no need for other sources, like prophetic talks and Sunna. Dr. Ahmed Sabhi Mansour is the godfather of this stream. Because of this, he was dismissed from Al-Azhar University in 1987 and imprisoned two months at the end of the same year for denial of the other source of Sharia. In a related context, an official fatwa was issued regarding the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community considering it a destructive movement and a malicious colonial game unrelated to Islam.-Reports describe how Christians still struggle for permission to build churches, face communal violence and unfair informal dispute resolution mechanisms that often result in the displacement of community members from their homes. -Since the beginning of the 20th century Nubians have experienced severe neglect and exploitation under the Egyptian government, descending them into a dystopian society. Nubians have faced displacement and loss of homes several times due to the construction of the Aswan tank and the High dam on the Nile River. A lot of them were forced out of their homes and were cast-off to the harsh, arid, and undeveloped region of Nasr al-Nuba.The portrayal of Nubians or black characters in Egyptian films and soap-operas clearly highlights the mindset of the people. For decades the Nubians have been made into a caricature on TV and in films. -In March 2014, Alexandria Security Directorate chief Amin Ezz El-Din said in a televised telephone interview that a police taskforce would be formed to arrest a group of Alexandria-based atheists who declared their beliefs on Facebook. He said police officers would “legalize” arrest procedures against contentious activists. -Egypt’s Shia is continuously prevented from freely practicing their beliefs. On June 24, 2013, four Egyptian Shia Muslims were killed in a mob attack in the village of Abu Musalam in the governorate of Giza. Eyewitnesses said the mob beat the victims and dragged them through the streets. They said police did nothing to stop the attack, in which at least 30 individuals were badly injured, in addition to the four who were killed. The police was just watching the public lynching and didn’t’ stop the killers. Consequences of persecution on minoritiesThe lack of recognition of a religious community results in the absence of legal personality, and thus the authorities do not permit the existence of houses of worship, nor do they recognize the religious presidency of a religious community. Their followers also lose the right to have official papers written in which their religion, true beliefs or ability to express themselves freely without security prosecution. Therefore, Minorities and nonbelievers face discriminatory obstacles in obtaining IDs and vital documents, such as marriage and death certificates. As a result, followers of unrecognized religious minorities are subjected to campaigns of security harassment, surveillance and summons that may amount to referral to trial for contempt of divine religions and threats to social peace.Ultimately, these policies and practices violate the right of individuals to freedom of belief, and result in the denial of a wide range of civil and social rights and liberties for these minorities. As per the international low of human rights, States shall, in their respective territories, protect the existence of minorities, their national or ethnic identity, and their cultural, religious, and linguistic identity, and create the conditions for the strengthening of this identity. States shall adopt legislative and other appropriate measures to achieve these ends. Therefore, international community is called to urge the Egyptian regime to respect the international law and protect the religious minorities in its territory.

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