Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Islamic barbarism towards Egyptian copts addressed at U.S. Helsinki Commission


The Situation Faced by the Coptic Christian Community in Egypt
Statement to the U.S. Helsinki Commission
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael H. Posner

November 15, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for conducting this important hearing on the situation faced by Coptic Christian community in Egypt, and for inviting me to testify.
As you know, this is a time of substantial transition in Egypt as Egyptians strive to move their country towards democracy. This is not an easy process and it will not happen overnight. Egypt is only starting on a path from the temporary stewardship of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), through parliamentary elections that will begin in two weeks, then the process of drafting of a new constitution and finally presidential elections. As they move toward these milestones, millions of Egyptians hope to see the emergence of a democratic civilian government that respects the universal rights of all of its citizens.

As part of this vision, it is vital that there be a place in the new Egypt for all citizens, including all religious minorities, of which the Coptic Christian community is the largest. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear their deep concern about violence against Coptic Christians, most recently during the October 9 tragedy in front of the Egyptian radio and television building in the Maspiro area of Cairo. At least 25 people died and more than 300 were injured. We have urged the Egyptian government to investigate this violence, including allegations that the military and police used excessive force that was the cause of most of the demonstrator deaths. We also have urged that those responsible for these deaths and injuries be held accountable.

While the focus of my testimony is on the situation of the Copts, I would like to point out that other religious minorities also suffer official discrimination. While non-Muslim religious minorities officially recognized by the government – namely Christians and the tiny Jewish community – generally worship without harassment, members of the Bahai Faith, which the government does not recognize, face personal and collective discrimination. The government also sometimes arrests, detains, and harasses Muslims such as Shia, Ahmadiya, and Quranist, converts from Islam to Christianity, and members of other religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. The Government continues to refuse to recognize conversions of Muslims to Christianity or other religions, which constitutes a prohibition in practice.

I would like to set this testimony on the Copts in a broader context. Last week Secretary Clinton gave an important policy address in which she outlined our overall policy on democratization in the Middle East and beyond. She described the US government’s principled engagement in the Middle East. We support the aspirations of citizens to live in societies that guarantee freedom, including freedom of expression, assembly and religion. We also believe strongly in systems that allow citizens a say in how they are governed and that will provide economic opportunities for all. These are the demands that we heard in Tahrir Square, where Copts and Muslims joined hands to protest and to pray in the weeks leading up to the downfall of the Mubarak regime. We have heard similar demands echoing throughout the Middle East and even far beyond that region in the ensuing months.

Secretary Clinton also has spoken out consistently about the importance of religious freedom and religious tolerance, both of which are fundamental to human dignity and peaceful transitions to democracy. Religious freedom is a human right, guaranteed by international human rights law. At the release of the State Department’s report on International Religious Freedom in September, Secretary Clinton emphasized the role that religious freedom and tolerance play in building stable and harmonious societies. She said:
“Hatred and intolerance are destabilizing. When governments crack down on religious expression, when politicians or public figures try to use religion as a wedge issue, or when societies fail to take steps to denounce religious bigotry and curb discrimination based on religious identity, they embolden extremists and fuel sectarian strife. And the reverse is also true: When governments respect religious freedom, when they work with civil society to promote mutual respect, or when they prosecute acts of violence against members of religious minorities, they can help turn down the temperature. They can foster a public aversion to hateful speech without compromising the right to free expression. And in doing so, they create a climate of tolerance that helps make a country more stable, more secure, and more prosperous.”
This is the basis for our belief that in order to succeed and prosper, Egypt, and its neighbors, must protect the rights of all citizens and all minorities, including its Coptic population. The corollary is also true: successful democratic transitions are the best way to safeguard those rights.

Mr. Chairman, the Copts in Egypt have faced discrimination for many years. Christians face personal and collective discrimination, especially in government employment and the ability to build, renovate, and repair places of worship.
Although they represent about 10% of the population and play an important role in Egypt’s economy, Copts have suffered from widespread discrimination and remain underrepresented in prominent positions in Egyptian politics and society.
The headlines – and the trend lines – continue to tell a disturbing story.

I was in Egypt just days after the January 2010 attack on the Nag Hammadi Church in Upper Egypt, when gunmen shot and killed seven people as worshippers were leaving a midnight Christmas mass. At that time, I called for an end to impunity for such crimes and full accountability for those who attacked this holy place. One suspect, Hamam al-Kamouny was tried under the emergency law in a state security court, convicted on January 16 and executed on October 10. The other two defendants, Qoraishi Abul Haggag and Hendawi El-Sayyed, were acquitted by the court, angering many Coptic activists. Yesterday, November 14, Egypt’s official news agency announced that Abol-Haggag and El-Sayyed are to be retried on December 19 under the Higher Emergency State Security Court, for crimes including premeditated murder and terrorism with the use of force and violence. We applaud the pursuit of accountability in this case, although we would prefer that these types of crimes be dealt with in civilian courts with full due process of law.

Almost exactly a year after the Nag Hammadi attack, on January 1, 2011, a bomb exploded at the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria, killing 23 people and wounding around 100. There are no suspects in custody for that crime, although the Government of Egypt reports that its investigation is ongoing.

These two incidents, and others like them, took place before the fall of President Mubarak on February 11. We have since received reports of an increase in sectarian violence and tensions, including at least 67 people killed in religious clashes – most of them Coptic Christians. This brings the total number of reported deaths this year to more than 90. There have been at least six recent major incidents of violence against Copts:
- On February 23, the Army used live ammunition, including rocket propelled -grenades, against unarmed Copts during a land dispute at a monastery. A monk, one of the six shot, later died. To our knowledge, no one has been held accountable for these attacks.

- On March 4, in the village of Sol, a large group of Muslim villagers destroyed the Church of Saint Mina and St. George after the army failed to stop them. To our knowledge, there has been no investigation and no one has been charged despite videos of the perpetrators.

- On March 8, 13 people were killed when Muslims and Copts clashed in the Mukkatum area of Cairo. Some of the Copts had been protesting the slow government response to the destruction of the church in Sol. One Coptic bishop claimed that though news reports listed seven Christians and six Muslims. To our knowledge, there has been no investigation and no one has been charged in the deaths.

- On May 8 in Imbaba, a poor neighborhood of Cairo, two churches were attacked and one burned during sectarian riots. The clashes resulted in 23 deaths and 232 injuries. That month, the official media reported that the government referred 48 suspects to trial. Approximately half of these suspects have been arrested, including a prominent Salafist leader, while half remain at large. The High State Security Court in Giza has adjourned the trial until December 4, when it expects to hear testimony from the remaining witnesses.

- On September 30, in Merinab village in Edfu, Aswan governorate, an estimated crowd of 3,000 Muslims looted and burned the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, in addition to some Copt-owned homes and businesses, following reported incitement by village imams. Local media reported that a Ministry of Justice fact-finding committee traveled to Aswan on October 12, in the aftermath of the Maspiro violence, to investigate the church burning. The status of this investigation is unclear.

- And finally, on October 9 in Cairo, violence erupted in front of the Egyptian television building known as Maspiro, at a demonstration by Copts protesting the government’s failure to investigate the burning of the church in Merinab in Aswan governorate. At least twenty-five people were killed and more than 300 injured.

On October 11, Secretary Clinton addressed the October 9 violence at Maspiro and called for an immediate, credible, and transparent investigation of all who were responsible for the violence, with full due process of law. The White House issued a statement urging Egyptians to move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt and reaffirming our belief that the rights of minorities – including Copts – must be respected, and that all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom.

The government of Egypt has stated publicly that they are conducting two investigations. The Egyptian Armed Forces are reviewing the conduct of Military Police, who eyewitnesses and video evidence suggest ran over and shot at demonstrators. The Ministry of Justice has been tasked by the Egyptian Cabinet with a full investigation of the incident. Separately, military prosecutors are investigating about 30 demonstrators, including one prominent blogger, who were detained during the violence. They are accused of inciting violence, stealing firearms, and attacking security forces. They will be tried in military courts.

On November 2, a fact-finding committee established by the National Council for Human Rights issued an initial report on the Maspiro violence. (NCHR is a quasi-governmental watchdog body, but the committee was led by respected human rights advocates). The report found that the march by Copts and their Muslim allies began peacefully at Shubra and moved toward Maspiro in downtown Cairo. According to the report and several corroborating accounts, as the marchers approached Maspiro, they were attacked by civilians throwing rocks and chanting Muslim extremist slogans. According to the same sources, military police then confronted the marchers and attempted to keep them from reaching the building. The MPs used shields and batons, and fired blanks. Marchers began fighting back against the violent civilians and military police. The NCHR report acknowledged that 12 or more civilians were killed when they were run over by military vehicles. The committee said it could not determine who fired the bullets that killed at least seven demonstrators.
During the height of the clashes, state TV anchor Rasha Magdy called on “honorable Egyptians” to defend the Army against “attacks by violent demonstrators.” Twenty-one prominent Egyptian human right organizations criticized the “inflammatory role played by the official state media,” charging that a “direct link can be traced between the outright incitement against demonstrators by state media and the events at Maspiro.”

On October 13, the head of Egypt’s military justice system, Adel al-Morsi, said that the military would lead the official investigation into the events. According to Human Rights Watch and local media, the military has arrested approximately 30 individuals. The government has said it will try suspects in military courts, since the crimes involved attacks on military personnel and equipment.
The Coptic community is concerned, as we are, about the severity and frequency of sectarian attacks against their community, and while they recognize that the government has nothing to do with most of these attacks, they are greatly concerned about the need to hold perpetrators accountable. I want to make clear that most of these clashes have involved both Copts and Muslims, and members of both communities have been the perpetrators and victims of the violence. It also is important to emphasize that many Muslims have stood up to defend members of the Coptic community against extremist violence.

The United States Government condemns this sectarian violence and continues to urge the Government of Egypt to take all necessary and available measures to reduce these tensions.
In raising our concerns about the Coptic community, we are also aware and very supportive of the positive steps the Egyptian government has taken on behalf of the Copts. On March 8, by order of the Prime Minister, Coptic priest Mitaus Wahba was released from prison where he was serving a five year sentence for officiating at a wedding of a Christian convert from Islam.
On April 14, the SCAF fulfilled its commitment to rebuild a church in Sol that had been destroyed on March 4 by mob violence. And as I noted earlier, the government also took steps in response to the May 8 Imbaba violence; in addition to re-opening dozens of churches, the government is prosecuting 48 individuals charged with murder, attempted murder, and a variety of other crimes. The trial is scheduled to resume on December 4.
The government also has pledged to adopt a Unified Places of Worship Law, which would guarantee all faiths the ability to construct and maintain places of worship. The Cabinet sent the draft law to the military council in October. We urge the SCAF to endorse this provision as soon as possible. The Government of Egypt has promised to consider this measure for several years, including twice in the last five months. Numerous cases of sectarian violence in recent years have stemmed from disputes over church construction. The prompt adoption of this provision now would send a very strong signal of the government’s commitment to protect religious freedom. It would recognize the right of all Egyptians to freely build places of worship they need to conduct religious activities. As the government reviews this proposal it should take into account the concerns expressed over earlier drafts that the suggested multi-stage process of applying for permits to construct and repair churches is too convoluted, cedes too much authority to governors to grant permits, and imposes onerous restrictions on the number and location of houses of worship.
Finally, in the aftermath of the Maspiro violence, we welcome steps that are being taken by the Government of Egypt to reduce discrimination in the penal codes. On October 15, the SCAF issued a decree amending Egypt’s penal code to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, language, faith, or race. The decree also delineated prison sentences and specific fines for acts of discrimination, as well as failure to prevent discrimination. These included more severe penalties for government officials found to be complicit in discrimination.
The new penal code provisions bolster the Egyptian constitution’s ban on discrimination. Article 7 of the March 31, 2011, constitutional declaration states that “all citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, language, religion, or creed.” We urge the government to enforce these and other anti-discrimination laws and hold violators accountable so that all minorities, including Copts, can enjoy equal protection.
Like Egyptian Muslims, Egyptian Copts are concerned about their country’s future and their own place in it. In addition to security from sectarian violence and equal treatment under the law, they want equal representation in parliament and a proportional voice on the committee that will draft Egypt’s new constitution. Like moderate Egyptian Muslims, the vast majority of whom support religious freedom, Copts and other religious minorities consider themselves full partners in a new Egypt.
As Secretary Clinton said last week, “If – over time – the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest, and Egyptians will have missed a historic opportunity.” The door to real democratic change is only beginning to open. We hope Egyptians will walk through it together to a more peaceful and prosperous future.
Thank you.

Petition Opposing Shariah Law in American




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As a public interest law firm, Liberty Counsel is taking aggressive action to stop the threat of Shariah Law -- both in the courtroom and the court of public opinion. Recently, Hutton Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, cancelled an important national conference on the impact of Shariah law on the U.S. Constitution. In response to this unjustifiable act, Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver -- one of the scheduled speakers -- sent a "Demand Letter" challenging Hutton Hotels' decision to censor the conference.

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Where is the support for Egypt’s Copts?

Where is the support for Egypt’s Copts?
http://www.jewishtribune.ca/TribuneV2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5050&Itemid=53
Written by Jack Chivo Monday,
14 November 2011
VANCOUVER – News reports about continuing attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt are disturbing, yet aside from under-reported rallies by Copts in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, there appear to have been no supporting protests from ‘human rights’ organizations or churches anywhere, and the media appear uninterested.

Indeed, over the past several weeks, there has been more media coverage of the ‘Occupy’ movement in North America and the trial of Michael Jackson’s physician, than of the fate of about 10 million Christians in Egypt. The Copts, whose presence in Egypt predates that of its Arab Muslim population, have been treated as second-class citizens and subjected to repeated murderous attacks, humiliation and degradation at the hands of the Muslim majority.

On Oct. 9, Copts demonstrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, to protest the destruction of an ancient church by a Muslim mob. The protestors were met with deadly force: 35 Christians were killed and hundreds more injured. According to the New York Times, "the military and riot police…appeared to be working in tandem with the Muslims (civilians), who were lashing out at the Christian Copts.” The British Telegraph reported that military armoured vehicles charged the demonstrators at full speed and crushed many to death.

What a contrast to the restraint shown by Egyptian security forces during the anti-Mubarak demonstrations held in Tahrir Square, most notably when CBS reporter Lara Logan was gang-raped while hundreds of people watched.

The Oct. 9 protest was triggered by a violent attack on St. George's Church in the village of Al Marinab in Edfu province. The church was more than 100 years old and in a state of ruin after decades of neglect. Under Sharia (Islamic) law, Christians must receive approval from the government to build, or repair, churches. It took many years before they were granted permission to do the necessary work on St. George’s Church. As the work was being done, hundreds of Muslims attacked. According to reports, they removed the cross and set the church on fire while the district security chief and his men cheered. This was the fourth Christian church in Egypt destroyed by arson since March.

Immediately afterward, several Christian homes in the neighbourhood were also looted and demolished.

Copts are the original people of Egypt. They were there during the time of the Pharaohs, the Roman occupation, Cleopatra’s reign and the conquest by the Byzantine Empire. From the beginning of the Common Era to the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Copts represented about 90 per cent of the population, and Jews, Greeks and Romans were minorities. According to ancient religious texts, the Copts (as they were subsequently called) were converted to Christianity by St. Mark sometime around 42 CE.

When Arabs invaded and conquered Egypt in 641, they imposed a special tax, called jizya, on non-Muslims, who were declared dhimmis – second-class citizens – under Sharia law. According to Wikipedia, the literal translation of the word dhimmi is “one whose responsibilities (and rights) have been taken (away).” Copts suffered for 1,200 years under degrading laws and harsh conditions, which pushed them into abject poverty.

After Viceroy Muhammad Ali Pasha abolished the jizya in the early 19th century, Copts were permitted to join the army, and they gradually moved towards middle-class status, as they were given more freedom to worship, study, practice commerce, own land and become professionals.

By the early 1950s, many were successful and wealthy, but this ended after the 1952 military coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser. The country returned to a harsh application of laws governing the dhimmi status of non-Muslims and millions of Copts emigrated as a result.

One example of the anti-Christian attitude prevalent in modern-day Egypt was the 2009 slaughter of every pig in the country – estimated to number between 300,000 to 500,000 – under the pretense of preventing swine flu. The scientifically unsound and unnecessary action destroyed the livelihood of farmers, butchers, restaurant owners, meat distributors, and other small merchants. Christian protests against the elimination of this dietary staple were met with police and mob violence.

The world’s human-rights ‘fighters’ stood silent then, as they do now.

Jack Chivo is a retired journalist who lives in West Vancouver.
Last Updated ( Monday, 14 November 2011 )

Monday, November 14, 2011

Michael Coren on muslims killing Coptic Christians

Michael Coren on muslims killing Coptic Christians
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2awoDi4uaM
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Friday, November 11, 2011

U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Egypt

From: Helsinki Commission News [mailto:news@csce.gov]
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2011 10:39 AM
To: Roudik, Peter
Subject: U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Egpyt

[http://csce.gov/_images/headers/print_pressreleases.gif]

Hon. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release

www.csce.gov
November 10, 2011


U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD HEARING ON EGPYT





WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) announced today the following hearing:



“From Arab Spring to Coptic Winter: Sectarian Violence and the Struggle for Democratic Transition in Egypt”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2:00 p.m.

Room 210 Cannon House Office Building



Please join the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for a heaing that explores the nexus between sectarian violence and democracy.

On Sunday October 9, 2011, 25 people were killed and more than 300 injured when the Egyptian military attacked a peaceful group of Coptic Christians protesting the burning of a church in Aswan. In what has been deemed the “Massacre at Maspero,” referring to the location of the demonstration, witnesses say the army fired on the demonstrators with live ammunition and plowed into the crowd with armored vehicles. The military denied the use of live ammunition and claimed that their soldiers were attacked by an armed mob. The military has arrested at least 28 people, almost all Copts, including prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, and brought them before military prosecutors. The hearing will focus on violence perpetrated against the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the implications of the events for that community and the current Egyptian leadership, and prospects for the consolidation of democracy in Egypt.



Witnesses Scheduled to Appear:



Mr. Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Department of State

Ms. Dina Guirguis, Egyptian democracy activist and attorney and member of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association (EARLA)

Mr. Samuel Tadros, Research Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute

Dr. Michele Dunne, Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council



###



The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.
Media Contact: Shelly Han
202.225.1901
# # #

http://csce.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContentRecords.ViewDetail&ContentRecord_id=1035&ContentType=P&ContentRecordType=P

Coptic Christians protest infront of un in ny against violence in Egypt ,Egypt Christians abroad tell US persecution is “crime against humanity”





Egypt Christians abroad tell US persecution is “crime against humanity”
CAIRO: Egyptian Coptic Christians living in the United States have sent a letter to American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, imploring her to take more action against what they termed a “crime against humanity” facing the Christian population in Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the letter, sent on Wednesday to the State Department, head of the American Coptic Association Monir Dawoud warned the United States government that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organized and popular Islamic group, is “attempting to annihilate Christians” and other minority groups int he country.
It came as Clinton appeared ready to give support to Egyptians as they head to the polls in less than three weeks to elect a new parliament that will be responsible for developing and writing a new constitution in the country, some 11 months after a popular uprising ousted the former government.
Dawoud called for international protection of Christians in the country as well as an “Egyptian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” that guarantees the rights of all minorities, the disabled, women and children.
“The constitution should be made before any parliament elections to decide the type of government and President beside giving chances to the new political parties to be at the level of competition with the Brotherhood’s party and so allowing all citizens to be represented,” Dawoud wrote. “We demand that your aid to Egypt should be conditioned on the justice towards Christians and minorities.”
The controversial leader, who many Coptic Christians in Egypt say does not speak on their behalf, also accused the Brotherhood of wanting to change the American Constitution based on the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book.
“A planned destruction to America is going on,” he said. “The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is deadly serious about waging what it calls “civilization jihad” against the United States and other freedom-loving nations in order to secure their submission to the Islamic totalitarian political-military-legal doctrine called Sharia. The MB’s goal in this country is to replace our great Constitution with theirs, namely the Koran. And they regard this task as one commanded by none other than Allah.”
The head of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in the Giza governorate in Egypt, Amr Derrag, said that his party – an offshoot of the Brotherhood – wants to guarantee all rights of Egyptians, whether they be Coptic or women.
“Christians were part of the revolution and they deserve the full rights of the Egyptian society,” he told Bikyamasr.com at his home on Thursday, denying any “plan” to force out the country’s Christian population.
However, Dawoud’s letter is likely to get some traction in Congress, where repeated calls to stem the popularity of the Brotherhood have been heard.
A staffer for a leading Republican Congressman told Bikyamasr.com that “many representatives in Washington believe, whether true or not, that the Christians in Egypt are facing a genocide of some kind,” adding that this is the result of “the PR campaign being made by the Christian community here in the US.”
Dawoud hit home on this fact in his letter, calling on Washington to curtail aid to the country and put stipulations on Congressional aid to Egypt until the situation facing the Coptic community is rectified.
“We demand that your aid to Egypt should be conditioned on the justice towards Christians and minorities,” he said. “What we are facing today is a Crime against not only the Christian minority in Egypt, but against Humanity, against all what United States stand for, against the constitution that the founders of America have shed their blood for. We appreciate your speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves and defending those who cannot defend themselves, the Christians of Egypt who are facing persecution, impending massacres and ethnic cleansing.”

http://bikyamasr.com/48069/egypt-christians-abroad-tell-us-persecution-is-crime-against-humanity/Coptic Christians protest infront of un in ny against violence in Egypt
Morris sadek leads coptic protest infornt UN November 2011
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wdoEnxlAXs

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Coptic Christians protest outside White House against violence in Egypt



















Coptic Christians protest outside White House against violence in Egypt
“It is like a horrible nightmare. We watch on TV and see our people being run over by tanks,” said Mary Wassef, 66, who took a bus with friends from her church in northern New Jersey. “This is my church and my homeland. But now they want to force all Christians to convert or leave. If you hang a cross in your car, they pull you out and smash you to pieces.”

Christians in Egypt are a deeply rooted minority of about 10 million in a largely Muslim society of 81 million. Long-simmering tensions between the two groups have escalated since January, when a popular uprising in Cairo led to the fall of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak but left the country in a state of political turmoil.

Many Christians in the Egyptian American diaspora of about half a million, scattered across a dozen states, have expressed concern that radical Islamist groups are seeking to dominate the post-revolutionary scene and to turn Egypt into a Sunni theocracy. Some placards at the rally Wednesday warned of an “Islamic jihad” against Christians.

The demonstrators also expressed fear that the Egyptian army, a longtime bulwark of Mubarak’s power, is becoming a repressive force against Christians. Many held up bloody photos of crushed torsos and limbs, which they said had been deliberately run over by tanks Oct. 9. Hundreds chanted “shame on the army” and called for the ouster of its national commander, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.

“We Christians have faced Islamic oppression for 1,400 years, but now it is getting much more ugly,” said Ghada Nasr, 35, a small business owner from Newark, Del., whose parents live in Egypt. “The army should be protecting people, not crushing them. Our religion is peaceful, but it is time for us to act.”

Traditionally, leaders of the Coptic church in Egypt have tried to avoid provoking Egyptian authorities. The rally Wednesday was peaceful, and protesters interspersed chants for justice with hymns calling for God’s mercy in Arabic, English and ancient Coptic. Organizers said the presence of numerous senior Coptic priests — several gray-bearded, one in a wheelchair — had the blessing of their orthodox pope in Cairo.

“We need an Egyptian Martin Luther King to lead our people to freedom,” said George Ibrahim, 66, a retired civil engineer who emigrated from Egypt in the 1940s and lives in Ashburn. Unlike Copts in Egypt, who have long been ostracized, many of those who came to the United States are well established, successful professionals. In the greater Washington area, many work for the federal government.

A major demand of the demonstrators was that the Obama administration, which has continued the long U.S. alliance with Egypt and provides it with hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid each year, pressure Cairo by conditioning further assistance to improvements in human rights and religious freedom.

“If we are calling them an ally, then we should not be paying with U.S. taxpayers’ money for bullets and weapons that are being used to oppress Christians,” said Michael Ruzek, 30, a medical doctor from New Jersey who attended the rally. Protesters placed a row of black wooden coffins along the sidewalk in front of the White House.

An advocacy group called Coptic Solidarity, which helped organize the rally, also called for an impartial investigation into the Oct. 9 violence, prosecution of official perpetrators, and full enactment of a bill that Congress passed in July that would create a U.S. envoy to the Middle East for religious minorities.

The circumstances of the Oct. 9 clashes in Cairo, in which Christian and Muslim protesters were involved in hours of battles with police and troops, remain confused. The day after the incident, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that President Obama was “deeply concerned” about the violence and “believes that the rights of minorities, including Copts, must be respected,” but he stopped short of blaming the government and called for “restraint on all sides.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/coptic-christians-protest-outside-white-house-against-abuses-in-egypt/2011/10/19/gIQAxRvByL_story.html

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 12, 2011- Religious Violence in Egypt.ts


Coptic Christians Need Protection -- Will the U.S. Help Them? >
www.foxnews.com
Coptic Christians in Egypt, the largest contingent of Christians in the country, are under severe attack — so much so that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced just recently that Egypt made the list of “Countries of Particular Concern.”..
Coptic Christians Need Protection -- Will the U.S. Help Them?
www.foxnews.com
Coptic Christians in Egypt, the largest contingent of Christians in the country, are under severe attack — so much so that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced just recently that Egypt made the list of “Countries of Particular Concern.”..
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/05/20/coptic-christians-need-protection-help/?cmpid=cmty_fb_Gigya_Coptic_Christians_Need_Protection_--_Will_the_U.S._Help_Them%3F

REP ALBO SIRES
October 12, 2011- Religious Violence in Egypt.ts
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RpwFU8EnUQs

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Video of deadly Egypt riots as Christians clash with police, Muslims





Egypt's Military Vows to Get Tough After Clashes


Raw Video: Deadly Sectarian Violence in Cairo


CBC News: Deadly violence in Egypt - October 10, 2011


Deadly violence in Egypt CNN


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAidvI8XS-8

Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the situation in Egypt

9 May 2011
Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement on the situation in Egypt:

“The Government of Canada strongly condemns the violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt.

“Canada is a tolerant, multicultural country with a proud tradition of defending religious minorities around the world. We stand behind the Coptic Christian community and their right to practice their faith in safety and security, free of persecution. This is a universal human right and one which our Government is committed to defending.

“Recognizing that religious pluralism is inextricably linked to democratic development, our Government has committed to creating a special Office of Religious Freedom to monitor and help ensure religious minorities can practice their faith without fear of violence and repression.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I express my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones during these events. Our thoughts and prayers are with all Egyptians as they face the difficult challenges ahead.”

An Appeal for Immediate Intervention from the International Community to Protect Egyptian Copts

Voice of the Copts
A non profit human rights organization working to free the oppressed and persecuted Coptic Christians of Egypt.

In light of the current attack upon Copts protesting in Cairo where 36 Copts were murdered and many more injured by Egyptian military forces together with Muslim militants, Voice of the Copts is appealing to the international community for immediate help.

Beginning at 3:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, Oct 9, in Shubra district of Cairo, more than 100,000 Copts and some Muslims marched peacefully together for more than two miles toward Tahrir Square shouting slogans in protest of theMuslim burning of Marinab Coptic Church in Edfo in Upper Egypt a few days earlier.

During an orderly approach by Coptsto the Maspiro area, Muslim groups began throwing stones and malotov cocktails at the crowd of protesters. The military began shooting live bullets into the protesters and then drove speeding armored cars and tanks directly into the crowd. Meanwhile, Copts were unable to get to safety because they were held back by Muslim militant criminals released from jails earlier this yearby the former Mubarak regime at the beginning of the revolution.

The apparent cooperation between Egyptian military forces and Muslim groups who gathered to protect army personnel as requested by National Public TV prior to the start of the Copts' protest, reveals the true nature of Egypt's interim regime. Lingering attachments to the Mubarak regime combined with Islamic interests spells the beginning of the end for Copts and freedom and justice. Equality under the law is now impossible with what seems to be the real aim of those in power -- to annihilate the Copts of Egypt.

Voice of the Copts would like to thank the Muslim citizens who stood in solidarity with the Copts demanding freedom of religion, justice and equality.

Furthermore, Coptic clergy, especially Father Filipert and Father Meytias, are now being intimidated by death threats which indicate that military rulers are plotting to silence them due to their activities among the Coptic population. As a consequence of this and from this point on, we, as Voice of the Copts, deem any murder or accidental death of any Coptic clergy to be nothing less than an assassination carried out by the state.

Voice of the Copts calls for immediate action to be taken by Western governments to protect Egyptian citizens from the violent acts of the Egyptian state military and police force who ignore the law and defy their given responsibility to protect all citizens equally. Military leaders, putting their own greed before the interests of the country and, by doing so, promote Islamic interests, damage any hope of democracy. Field Marshall Tantawi and his henchmen must immediately step down from governing Egypt's post-revolutionary efforts.

revenge from israel islamic army killing copts

By: Nabil Bissada



On Sunday October 9, 2011 more than 150,000 Coptic -Christians of Egypt (with the authorization of the Islamic Egyptian government) gathered in a peaceful protest because of the attacks against the Coptic and their churches by Islamic Egyptian army. Protest took place in Cairo the Egyptian capital.



The Islamic Egyptian Army and their allies have never won a war against Israel. Now the Egyptian army has adopted Nazis tactics against Christian Egyptians.



The Islamic Egyptian army is supported by The Muslims Brotherhood and other Muslims organizations. They are using terror tactics, which include the use of guns, tanks and explosives bullets to destroy the Copts.



The Islamic Egyptian Army has killed in excess of 55 peaceful Copts protesters and wounded over 300. That numbers includes men, women and children.



The Islamic Egyptian Army is using the government run media to conceal their actions.



The Copts are more than 25% of the popular in Egypt. The Islamic Egyptian government are consider them as a 3rd class citizen.( Muslims Egyptian, Muslims from out, the Copts)



We ask The United Nations, United States of America, The European Union, Israel, Russia, and all others country who believe in human rights and freedom of religion to protect over 25 Millions Coptic native of Egypt who are living under threat and siege to push them to convert to Islam religion or to leave Egypt.



The National American Coptic Assembly & the Coptic Nation announced sad days for the genocide and Nazis for the Holocaust against the Copts in Egypt.

Inside Cairo's Riots: The Egyptian Junta's True Colors

Written by Time Mag
11 October 2011

Coptic mourners chanted slogans against the military: "Tantawi you traitor, the blood of Copts is not cheap,"


Clouds of tear gas released and protesters crushed and killed by military vehicles
that reportedly rammed into them

The dead were buried on Monday, more than two dozen Christian Egyptian protesters mowed down by their own military, an army that had won praise back in February for refusing to turn its weapons on demonstrators. After Sunday night's violence, which left 24 dead and more than 270 wounded, according to the Egyptian Health Ministry, the Arab Spring seems a long time ago.

A military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi is now in charge of Egypt, and it is resurrecting many of the tactics of deposed President Hosni Mubarak to instill fear and keep the citizenry in line, like using state TV to spread sectarian suspicion and conspiratorial talk of "foreign hands" sowing internal discord.
Sunday's march in Cairo by Coptic Christians — with a fair smattering of sympathetic Muslim participation as well — started out as a peaceful protest against the recent burning of a church by ultraconservative Muslims and the perceived lackadaisical response by the ruling military junta to a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak's ouster. Events rapidly devolved into chaos, with live ammunition fired, clouds of tear gas released and protesters crushed and killed by military vehicles that reportedly rammed into them. Some protesters responded by throwing rocks. (See pictures of the Coptic Christians' march in Cairo.)

State TV had another narrative: a violent mob of Christians sparked the melee by attacking the military, killing several soldiers. Breathless anchors urged "honorable" citizens to head down along the Nile to the national media building at Maspero to help soldiers defend themselves and public property. The clashes reignited on Monday, when Christians pelted security forces with rocks outside the Cairo hospital where the bodies of victims were taken the previous night. The Coptic church on Monday disputed state TV's claims, saying there was no evidence that Christian protesters shot at soldiers. Church officials called for a three-day fast to protest the events.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Essam el-Erian condemns the violence, telling TIME that this is a critical period for the country, a "time for solidarity, to implement a state of law, and to make reconciliation between all sections of society."

Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10% of the country's 80 million or so people, have watched warily as Salafists and other ultraconservative Muslims, long kept underfoot by Mubarak, have begun exercising their political rights — and influence — in the wake of the February revolution. At 8 million or so, Egypt's Copts are easily one of the biggest Christian communities in the Middle East, but unlike the much smaller Christian population in Lebanon, for example, they lack political muscle. (Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East with a Christian head of state mandated by political consensus.) (See TIME's exclusive pictures of the turmoil in Egypt.)

It's a trying period for the Middle East's dwindling Christian communities as secular pan-Arab, anti-Islamist regimes fall by the wayside and leave political vacuums in their place. The precedent of Iraq looms large. There were some 800,000 Christians in the country before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein. Since then, hundreds of thousands have fled the war-ravaged state. In majority-Sunni Syria, the minority Christians have largely sided with Bashar Assad's brutal regime in public, fearful of what may follow it, although many prominent Christians are also part of the opposition. "This is a dangerous period, one that will determine in which direction the country is going," says Emad Gad, a Copt and leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic party. "Are we taking the first steps toward creating a real state or are we going toward sectarian conflict and war?"

Sunday's violence in Cairo has significance beyond the country's religious divisions. This is a wider conflict in which Egyptians of all religions are turning against a military regime that just eight months ago was hailed for ensuring a peaceful transfer of power after Mubarak was forced from office. The fruits of Egypt's revolution have yet to be savored by millions who hoped a quick revolution would bring even quicker economic, social and political benefits. The economy has slumped, and the generals — who initially pledged to hand back power to a civilian administration in six months — seem increasingly comfortable at the helm. Their recently announced electoral timetable would keep them in charge until presidential elections in 2013, much to the ire of many. "I don't think we'll have elections at all," Gad says, echoing a sentiment relayed on Twitter and other social media. "I think that the army let the violence happen so that it could cancel the elections and remain in power."

The Brotherhood's el-Erian warns against any delay to the elections. "We cannot move forward without elections," he tells TIME. "We can overcome all of these trials with solidarity and national consensus ... The people are waiting for elections and to have a new system."

As the exuberance of Arab Spring becomes a faraway memory in the Middle East, a counterrevolution is gaining ground, exploiting the sectarianism that power brokers in the region have long used to keep their populations at bay. Will Egyptians and other Arabs see through it? Or will they be sucked into its vortex? What happens next on Cairo's streets will be critical.

Egypt’s Coptic church says repeated attacks on Christians go unpunished

Washington Post
10 Oct 2011

State TV, appealed on “honorable” Egyptians to protect the army against attacks by the Christian protesters outside the TV building. Soon afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords and firebombs began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians. Troops and riot police did not intervene to stop the attacks on Christians.


Egyptian relatives of Copts who were killed by the Egyptian army
late Sunday, react after seeing their bodies outside the morgue
of the Copts’ hospital in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Oct. 10, 2011.

CAIRO — Egypt’s Coptic church blasted authorities Monday for allowing repeated attacks on Christians with impunity as the death toll from a night of rioting rose to 26, most of them Christians who were trying to stage a peaceful protest in Cairo over an attack on a church.

The spiritual leader of the Coptic Christian minority, Pope Shenouda III, declared three days of mourning, praying and fasting for the victims starting on Tuesday and also presided over funerals for some of the Christians killed. Sunday’s sectarian violence was the worst in Egypt since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February.

“Strangers got in the middle of our sons and committed mistakes to be blamed on our sons,” the Coptic church said in a statement. It lamented “problems that occur repeatedly and go unpunished.”

The clashes Sunday night raged over a large section of downtown Cairo and drew in Christians, Muslims and security forces. They began when about 1,000 Christian protesters tried to stage a peaceful sit-in outside the state television building along the Nile in downtown Cairo. The protesters said they were attacked by “thugs” with sticks and the violence then spiraled out of control after a speeding military vehicle jumped up onto a sidewalk and rammed into some of the Christians.

There is no precise breakdown of how many Christians and Muslims were among the victims, but the 26 are believed to be mostly Christian. Officials said at least three soldiers were among the dead. Nearly 500 people were injured. Egypt’s official news agency said dozens have been arrested.

Much smaller skirmishes broke out again Monday outside the Coptic hospital where many of the Christian victims were taken the night before. Several hundred Christians pelted police with rocks outside while the screams of grieving women rang out from inside the hospital. Some of the hundreds of men gathered outside held wooden crosses and empty coffins were lined up outside the hospital.

There were no word on casualties from the new clashes.

In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama is deeply concerned about the violence in Egypt and called for restraint on all sides.

“As the Egyptian people shape their future, the United States continues to believe that the rights of minorities - including Copts - must be respected, and that all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom,” a White House statement said. “These tragic events should not stand in the way of timely elections and a continued transition to democracy that is peaceful, just and inclusive.”

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, blame the ruling military council that took power after the uprising for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak’s ouster. The chaotic power transition has left a security vacuum, and the Coptic Christian minority is particularly worried about a show of force by ultraconservative Islamists, known as Salafis.

In recent weeks, riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angry over church construction. One riot broke out near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand by ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis that a cross and bells be removed from the building.

Aswan’s governor, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, further raised tensions by suggesting to the media that the church construction was illegal.

Christian protesters are demanding the ouster of the governor, reconstruction of the church, compensation for people whose houses were set on fire and prosecution of those behind the riots and attacks on the church.

The European Union strongly condemned the violence.

“It is about time that the Egyptian leadership understands the importance of religious plurality and tolerance,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. “It’s very important that the Egyptian authorities reaffirm freedom of worship in Egypt,” added British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf warned in a televised address that the riots were another setback on the country’s already fraught transition to civilian rule after three decades of Mubarak’s authoritarian government.

“These events have taken us back several steps,” Sharaf said. He blamed foreign meddling for the troubles, claiming it was part of a “dirty conspiracy.” Similar explanations for the troubles in Egypt are often heard from the military rulers who took power from Mubarak, perhaps at attempt to deflect accusations that they are bungling the management of the country.

“Instead of moving forward to build a modern state on democratic principles, we are back to seeking stability and searching for hidden hands — domestic and foreign — that meddle with the country’s security and safety,” Sharaf said.

Sunday’s violence will likely prompt the military to further tighten its grip on power.

The ruling military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, defense minister of 20 years under Mubarak’s former regime, took over after the 18-day popular uprising forced Mubarak to step down. The military initially pledged to hand back power to a civilian administration in six months, but that deadline has passed, with parliamentary elections now scheduled to start in late November. According to a timetable floated by the generals, presidential elections could be held late next year.

Already, the military council said it had no intention to lift the widely hated emergency laws in place since Mubarak first took office in 1981.

Tension has been growing between the military and the youth groups that engineered the uprising, with activists blaming the generals for mishandling the transition period, human rights violations and driving a wedge between them and ordinary Egyptians.

“The army incites sedition to remain in power,” said Mariam Ayoub, a relative of a slain Christian protester, Michael Mosaad, as she stood outside the Coptic hospital. “They tell all of us that this is what happens without emergency laws.”

State television said authorities stepped up security at vital installations in anticipation of renewed unrest, deploying additional troops outside parliament and the Cabinet. Riot police were also stationed outside the Coptic hospital. Funeral services were planned in the afternoon at the main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.

The clashes on Sunday night did not appear to be exclusively sectarian.

State TV, which has been growing increasingly loyal to the military, appealed on “honorable” Egyptians to protect the army against attacks as news spread of clashes between the Christian protesters and the troops outside the TV building. Soon afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords and firebombs began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians. Troops and riot police did not intervene to stop the attacks on Christians.

Throughout the night, the station cast the Christian protesters as a violent mob attacking the army and public property. At one point, Information Minister Osama Heikal went on the air to deny that the station’s coverage had a sectarian slant, but acknowledged that its presenters acted “emotionally.”

The military council ordered the Cabinet to investigate the violence and pledged measures to safeguard Egypt’s security

http://www.copts.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3350&Itemid=1

Egyptian Army, Police Kill 35 Coptic Christian Protestors

Egyptian Army, Police Kill 35 Coptic Christian Protestors
(AINA) -- For the second time in five days military and police forces forcibly dispersed Coptic protesters. 35 Copts were killed today and over 300 injured. The numbers could rise dramatically as many bodies are still unidentified and disfigured beyond recognition.

The dead and injured have been transported to the Coptic Hospital in Cairo. Bodies of 4 Copts were found in buildings and taken to the public morgue, reported al-Ahram Daily.

There were discrepancies between reports from the official State-owned TV and independent TV stations. Al-Hayat confirmed that army armored vehicles went into Maspero "in a strange way" and ran over the protesters. A video clip of the armored vehicles running amok through the 150,000 protesters was shown on Al-Arabia TV. Egyptian State-run TV said that Coptic protesters killed 3 soldiers and injured 20. They gave no numbers for the fallen or injured Copts. They also said that the Copts had weapons. This was refuted by Coptic priests and activists. Nader Shoukry, Coptic activist and journalist, said "We only had wooden crosses."
"Today occurred a massacre of the Copts," said Coptic priest, Father Filopateer Gamil in a telephone conversation with CTV Coptic Channel. "I was an eyewitness to all what happened."

According to witnesses, the army forces were waiting for the Copic rally to arrive at Maspero, near the state television building. "They arranged a trap for us," said Father Filopateer. "As soon as we arrived they surrounded us and started shooting live ammunition randomly at us. Then the armored vehicles arrived and ran over protesters."

Father Filopateer said he saw army police and affiliated thugs torching police cars, to later blame it on the Copts. He believes that the assault on the Copt was preplanned.

Copts announced a few days ago that they would stage a rally to protest the torching of the church in the village of Elmarinab in Edfu, Aswan (AINA 10-1-2011), as well as the brutal attack on the Coptic rally in Maspiro on October 4 (AINA 10-9-2011). Rallies were to be staged in Cairo, Aswan, Minya, Beni-Suef, Assiut, Suez and Alexandria.

"When we announced this peaceful rally we made it understood that it will be from 5-8pm and no sit-in and no blocking of traffic," said Ihab Aziz, Coptic-American activist, who was one of the organizers.

Aziz said that the procession started today at the Christian populated district of Shubra and went to Maspero, in front of the TV building, on the river Nile. On their way, some Muslims fired live ammunition over their heads to terrorize them and some bricks were hurled at them. By the time they arrived to Maspero there were nearly 150,000 protesters. "The army and police were waiting for us about 200 meters away from the Maspero TV building," said Aziz. "They started firing at us before two army armored vehicles came at great speed and drove into the crowds, going backwards and forwards, mowing people under their wheels." He said he saw at least 20 dead Copts around him.

"The most horrible scene was when one of the vehicles ran over a Copt's head, causing his brain to explode and blood was all over the place," recalled Aziz. he held out his hand, showing two bullets in his palm. "We got a clear message today that we are no first class citizens."

The same description of events was confirmed by Nader Shoukry. He said that when the Copts were trapped by the army forces, some threw themselves in the Nile and some just fainted seeing other people being run-over in front of their eyes. Copts ran to hide in the neighboring buildings, but the police dragged them out and assaulted them.

Dr. Naguib Gabriel, who was at the procession, was shot in the leg.

Michael Munier, head of El Hayat (Life) Party, said that what happened to the Copts today was a massacre. He asked why do the authorities kill the Copts who were protesting peacefully for their rights, while at the same time when Salafists blocked the trains in Qena for 10 days protesting against a Copt being nominated for governor of Qena, no one touched them?

"People are being prosecuted, including former President Mubarak, in courts presently because they killed demonstrators on January 28. Now the military police is doing the same to the Copts," said Shoukry.

A curfew has been announced tonight in several Cairo streets.

Mary Abdelmassih

http://www.copts.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3347&Itemid=1

Sunday, October 9, 2011

19 dead in worst Cairo riots since Mubarak ouster



.
19 dead in worst Cairo riots since Mubarak ouster

http://news.yahoo.com/19-dead-worst-cairo-riots-since-mubarak-ouster-215419049.html ..CAIRO (AP) — Massive clashes raged Sunday in downtown Cairo, drawing Christians angry over a recent church attack, hard-line Muslims and Egyptian security forces. At least 19 people were killed and more than 150 injured in the worst sectarian violence since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence lasted late into the night, bringing out a deployment of more than 1,000 security forces and armored vehicles to defend the state television building along the Nile, where the trouble began.

The clashes spread to nearby Tahrir Square, drawing thousands of people to the vast plaza that served as the epicenter of the protests that ousted Mubarak. On Sunday night, they battled each other with rocks and firebombs, some tearing up pavement for ammunition and others collecting stones in boxes.

At one point, an armored security van sped into the crowd, striking a half-dozen protesters and throwing some into the air.

Christians blame Egypt's ruling military council for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since the ouster of Mubarak. The Coptic Christian minority makes up about 10 percent of the country of more than 80 million people.

As Egypt undergoes a chaotic power transition and security vacuum in the wake of this year's uprising, Christians are particularly worried about the increasing show of force by the ultraconservative Islamists.

The Christian protesters said their demonstration began as a peaceful attempt to sit in at the television building. But then, they said, they came under attack by thugs in plainclothes who rained stones down on them and fired pellets.

"The protest was peaceful. We wanted to hold a sit-in, as usual," said Essam Khalili, a protester wearing a white shirt with a cross drawn on it. "Thugs attacked us and a military vehicle jumped over a sidewalk and ran over at least 10 people. I saw them."

Wael Roufail, another protester, corroborated the account.

"I saw the vehicle running over the protesters. Then they opened fired at us," he said.

Khalili said protesters set fire to army vehicles when they saw them hitting the protesters.

Television footage showed a military vehicle plowing into the crowd and also showed Coptic protesters attacking a soldier, while a priest tried to protect him. One soldier collapsed in tears as ambulances rushed to the scene to take away the injured.

A government-funded newspaper, Al-Akhbar, reported that some of the protesters snatched weapons from the soldiers and turned them on the military. Others pelted soldiers with rock and bottles.

At one point, a group of youths with at least one riot policeman among them were seen dragging a protester by his legs for a long distance.

The protest began in the Shubra district of northern Cairo, then headed to the state television building along the Nile where men in plainclothes attacked about a thousand Christian protesters as they chanted denunciations of the military rulers.

"The people want to topple the field marshal!" the protesters yelled, referring to the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Some Muslim protesters later joined in the chant.

Later in the evening, a crowd of ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis turned up to challenge the Christian crowds, shouting, "Speak up! An Islamic state until death!"

Armed with sticks, the Muslim assailants chased the Christian protesters from the TV building, banging metal street signs to scare them off. It was not immediately clear who the attackers were.

Gunshots rang out at the scene, where lines of riot police with shields tried to hold back hundreds of Christian protesters chanting, "This is our country!"

Security forces eventually fired tear gas to disperse the protesters. The clashes then moved to nearby Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising against Mubarak. The army closed off streets around the area.

The clashes left streets littered with shattered glass, stones, ash and soot from burned vehicles. Hundreds of curious onlookers gathered at one of the bridges over the Nile to watch the unrest.

After hours of intense clashes, chants of "Muslims, Christians one hand, one hand!" rang out in a call for a truce. The stone-throwing died down briefly, but then began to rage again.

In the past weeks, riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angry over church construction. One riot broke out near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand by local Salafi Muslims that a cross and bells be removed from the building.

Aswan's governor, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, further raised tensions by suggesting to the media that the church construction was illegal.

Protesters said the Copts are demanding the ouster of the governor, reconstruction of the church, compensation for people whose houses were set on fire and prosecution of those behind the riots and attacks on the church.

Last week, the military used force to disperse a similar protest in front of the state television building. Christians were angered by the treatment of the protesters and vowed to renew their demonstrations until their demands are met.

..

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Morris Sadek: “My enemy is the God of Islam”

Egypt » Morris Sadek: “My enemy is the God of Islam”

Morris Sadek: “My enemy is the God of Islam
http://bikyamasr.com/42699/morris-sadek-my-enemy-is-the-god-of-islam/
CAIRO: Morris Sadek, one of the most hated men in Egypt. A controversial figure for his fiery statements against Islam and Muslims and for his demands of international protection on Egypt’s Coptic minority.

His name was recently mentioned in the declaration of the symbolic Coptic state in the United States. He conducted a number of talks and meetings with Congressional representatives, asking for US intervention in Egypt.

As a result of his work, his Egyptian citizenship has been withdrawn. He denounces the Egyptian and Arab uprisings and supports the Bashar al-Asaad regime in Syria.

Sadek lives with his family in the US as a religious refugee.

Bikyamasr.com interviewed Sadek via email.

First, you protested outside the White House to force international protection over Egypt?

International protection means forming a legal plan that goes along with the United Nations’ international declaration for minorities and presenting it to the Egyptian government to be applied. Egypt uses foreign referees for its football matches and thus accepts. Egypt sent troops to Kosovo to protect the Muslim minority there. Therefore we are persing a decision by Congress to protect Copts after they have been slaughtered, blown to pieces outside of their churches, their daughter’s kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, their houses of worship set on fire, and complicating the procedures to build new ones, adding to that a complicit legal system that slacks in investigating crimes committed against Copts as well as excluding them from government jobs and not putting a quota for Copts in the parliament and insisting that Islam is the religion of the State and ignoring *25 million people who believe in Christianity and having the Arabic language, the language of the invaders, as the official language and *ignoring the Coptic language.

Muslims insist on keeping Sharia, or Islamic law, as a source of legislation and Copts refuse things such as cutting a thief’s hand and whippings. It [Sharia] also diminishes women and considers them cursed and unclean. Therefore, we want an American envoy to make sure that the following happens in Egypt:

Enhancing religious freedoms for minorities such as Copts, Baha’is and Shiites. Also, to monitor religious prejudices, provide social and economic security and to work with the government to prevent laws that lean towards religious prejudices.

News reports were talking about the declaration of a Coptic state in the US, please shed light on that and did you ask people to immigrate and join you?

The idea of a Coptic State came after the March referendum that approved keeping Sharia as the main source of legislation, ignoring the Coptic people who reject Islam and Sharia and the idea behind establishing a Coptic state in Egypt is to have Coptic courts; they were cancelled by former president Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1956; Coptic religious schools and universities like al-Azhar; involving Copts in all governmental institutions with a percentage not less than 25 percent, including the police academy and the army and perhaps establishing a parallel Coptic Government working hand in hand with the central government to protect Copts rights.

Egyptian Copts have welcomed the idea of a Coptic state in Egypt, and as for the ignorant Copts, agents of the Arabic invasion who disagree with us, I can say we despise you and Muslims who refuse it are afraid that Copts will be masters in their own country, therefore Muslims’ opinions have no weight internationally. We are not asking for immigration or division, we only ask for the sharing of power and the founders of the Coptic nation are working on taking the next constitutional and legal steps necessary. We have already chosen the flag and the national anthem.

Your Egyptian nationality has been recently withdrawn, how did you feel about that and will you fight the decision?

I felt I was hit by lighting when I heard the news. The Egyptian nationality is my flesh and bones and the bones and the graves of my ancestors are in Egypt. Nationality is not just a piece of paper and I defend my Coptic community’s rights in Egypt and my weapons are words. I have repeatedly attacked former president Hosni Mubarak and prayed to God to revenge us yet he didn’t withdraw my citizenship. The current ruling power, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, had caused a scandal upon itself after many American newspapers reported the news that I lost my citizenship because of my opinions. The British never did it, but the Arab invaders did. However, I am fighting the decision and presented an appeal in front of the high administrative court.

What do you say to those accusing you of trading the Coptic cause for personal gain and fame?

I am a law man. I have a license to practice law from Egypt and a consulting license from the US and wrote many legal books that high courts in Egypt read and consult. These books will give me enduring fame, but I don’t need fame because it doesn’t help and as for financial issues, I have started a human rights organization in Egypt and have refused American funds before and all I ask for is freedom for my people.

You have declared your support to the Syrian regime and President Bashar al-Asad. Why?

Al-Assad is facing the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups killing in the name of Allah, therefore he is fighting them and in Egypt we faced the same threats before and fought against it.

Asaad didn’t kill Christians or Muslims and never burned a church or bomb a car parked in front of one. There are many Christian ministers and ambassadors in Syria and Muslims and Christians are given equal employment and Christians could open a church without permission and if Asaad’s regime is gone, so will the Syrian Christians, like what happened to the Copts in Egypt. This is ultimately what Saudi Arabia and Qatar wants. They were behind the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya so the Muslim Brotherhood gain power all over the Middle East.

So this is how you view the Egyptian revolution?

I don’t see a revolution, I see chaos, economy collapsing and the fall of tourism and loud voices that brought Egypt back to the middle-ages. I see Saudi flags flapping in my country and idiots calling for war and others cutting off an ear of a Coptic man and other violent incidents happening in front of the Egyptian army. I see Hamas invading my country, digging tunnels and the revolutionists are not closing these tunnels and ridding our land from this Hamasian invasion. It’s very sad.

You are reputedly accused of defaming Muslims and Islam and in some cases you are called an extremist. How do you respond to this?

I don’t defame any religion and I love all Muslims and I have Muslim friends and I have never carried a gun or bomb or incited young people to blow themselves up and kill innocent people to please their alleged God and win virgins and so on from these superstitions. I am a thinker and I use my head and my pen and I read and educate myself. The life of freedom we lead in the US made me study and read, so if studying and voicing one’s opinion is extremism, then I am one.

My enemy is the God of Islam that overstepped on my legislations and my faith and said that those who believe that Jesus is the son of God are infidels and rejects the crucifixion. Islam defames women and those who believe in other religions and Jesus, glory to him, forgave people on the cross, including women, and said that who doesn’t have a sin, throw the first stone.

* The Christian community in Egypt, by most estimates is between 7 and 10 million people.

BM

Friday, September 16, 2011

Egypt Overlooked in State Department’s Religious Freedom Report

http://www.persecution.org/2011/09/16/egypt-overlooked-in-state-departments-religious-freedom-report/

Egypt Overlooked in State Department’s Religious Freedom Report
Washington, D.C. (September 16, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) commends the Obama administration’s designation of eight nations as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) – a classification appointed to countries that severely violate religious freedom – in the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom released on Tuesday. However, the report failed to designate Egypt as a CPC despite the increase of violence targeting religious minorities and the killings of more than fifty Christians in 2011.

On April 28, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, had recommended for the first time that the State Department designate Egypt as a CPC. “Instances of severe religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by the government have increased dramatically,” said USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo. “Since President Mubarak’s resignation from office in February, such violence continues unabated without the government’s bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

Attacks against Egyptian Christians in 2011 include, but are not limited to:

• The bombing outside the Church of the Two Saints on New Year’s morning that killed 23 worshippers leaving a midnight mass celebration in Alexandria.
• The destruction of a church by a Muslim mob following reports of a romantic relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman in the village of Sol on March 5.
• The killing of nine Coptic Christians by a radical mob and the Egyptian military while Copts were protesting in the Mokattam Hills in Cairo on March 9.
• The killing of twelve Christians and Muslims by an Islamist group that attacked St. Mina Church and Virgin Mary Church in the Imbaba district of Cairo on May 7. One church was burned to the ground and numerous Christian-owned apartments and shops were vandalized and looted.

Egyptian Christians are also concerned that religious freedom will decline further if Islamist-based parties win the majority seat in Egypt’s parliament in elections scheduled for November. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is the most organized and financed contender in the elections and has publicly stated their intention to institute forms of Sharia (Islamic law) in the country.

While the U.S. gives 1.3 billion dollars in foreign military assistance to the Egyptian government annually, a CPC designation can carry economic sanctions if the Egyptian government fails to address U.S. concerns. Several U.S. congressmen have voiced frustration to ICC over the “illogical” approach taken by the U.S. in continuing to give billions of dollars in aid to a government that is yet to be elected and that may not be interested in honoring previous agreements made between the U.S. and Egypt, like maintaining a peace treaty with Israel.

“Egypt should be classified as a CPC,” Coptic scholar Magdi Khalil told ICC. “Further monitoring of persecution, like the special envoy to promote religious freedom in the Middle East known as [house bill] H.R. 440, would be pushed forward quicker and taken more seriously if Egypt was a CPC.”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In light of increasing attacks on Christian communities and the Egyptian government’s failure to enhance security and institute nondiscriminatory reforms to protect religious minorities, we urge the Obama administration to strongly consider designating Egypt as a CPC. A CPC designation will give the U.S. additional leverage to place sanctions on existing military and emergency economic aid and to direct a portion of that aid to enhance security for religious minorities and fund civil society groups who are adamant about promoting religious freedom."

This entry was posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011 at 10:10 am and is filed under Africa, Countries, Egypt, ICC News, Islam, News, Press Releases, Priority News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

International Religious Freedom » July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report » Near East and North Africa » Egypt


International Religious Freedom » July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report » Near East and North Africa » Egypt

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010_5/168262.htm
constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites, although the government places restrictions on these rights in practice. Islam is the official state religion, and the principles of Sharia (Islamic law) are the primary sources of legislation.

The government's respect for religious freedom remained poor during the reporting period. Non-Muslim religious minorities officially recognized by the government generally worship without harassment; however, Christians and members of the Bahai Faith, which the government does not recognize, face personal and collective discrimination, especially in government employment and the ability to build, renovate, and repair places of worship. The government also sometimes arrested, detained, and harassed Muslims such as Shia, Ahmadiya, and Quranist, converts from Islam to Christianity, and members of other religious groups whose beliefs and/or practices it deemed as deviating from mainstream Islamic beliefs and whose activities it alleged jeopardized communal harmony. Government authorities often refused to provide converts with new identity documents indicating their chosen faith. The government failed to prosecute perpetrators of violence against Coptic Christians in a number of cases. The government continued to favor informal reconciliation sessions following sectarian attacks, which sometimes prevented the criminal prosecution for crimes against Copts and contributed to a climate of impunity that encouraged further assaults. The government again failed to redress laws relating to church construction and renovation, as well as practices, especially in government hiring, that discriminate against Christians. This allowed their discriminatory effects on society to become further entrenched. In positive steps, the government continued prosecution of four alleged perpetrators of a sectarian attack against Copts in Naga Hammadi and spoke out at the highest levels against sectarian violence.

Sectarian tensions increased during the period covered by this report. On January 1, 2011, just after the end of the reporting period, a bomb attack at the Coptic Orthodox "Church of the Two Saints" in Alexandria killed at least 22 and injured 96. On November 24 a riot that began over church-building in the Giza neighborhood of Omraniya led to the death of two Copts, reportedly by security forces. Approximately 68 others, including 18 police, were injured. Inflammatory religious rhetoric increased during the reporting period, both in the media and during street demonstrations.

The ambassador, senior administration officials, and members of Congress continued to raise U.S. concerns about religious discrimination with senior government officials and directly with the public. Specifically, embassy officers and other U.S. Department of State officials raised concerns with the government about sectarian violence, ongoing discrimination that Christians face in building and maintaining church properties, the government's use of informal reconciliation instead of criminal prosecutions, and its treatment of Muslim citizens who hold heterodox beliefs or convert to other religions. The Department continues to sponsor programs in Egypt to promote religious tolerance and freedom.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 370,308 square miles and a population of 86 million, almost 90 percent of whom are Sunni Muslims. Shia Muslims constitute significantly less than 1 percent of the population. Estimates of the percentage of Christians range from 8 to 12 percent (6 to 10 million), the majority belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The country's Jewish community numbers approximately 125 persons, mostly senior citizens.

Other Christian communities include the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic (Armenian, Chaldean, Greek, Melkite, Roman, and Syrian Catholic), Maronite, and Orthodox (Greek and Syrian) churches that range in size from several thousand to hundreds of thousands. A Protestant community, established in the mid-19th century, includes 16 Protestant denominations: Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Open Brethren, Revival of Holiness (Nahdat al-Qadaasa), Faith (Al-Eyman), Church of God, Christian Model Church (Al-Mithaal Al-Masihi), Apostolic, Grace (An-Ni'ma), Pentecostal, Apostolic Grace, Church of Christ, Gospel Missionary (Al-Kiraaza bil Ingil), and the Message Church of Holland (Ar-Risaala). There are also followers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was granted legal status in the 1960s. There are 1,000 to 1,500 Jehovah's Witnesses and small numbers of Mormons, but the government does not recognize either group. The number of Bahais is estimated at 2,000 persons.

Christians reside throughout the country, although the percentage of Christians is higher in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country) and in some sections of Cairo and Alexandria.

There are many foreign religious groups, especially Roman Catholics and Protestants, who have had a presence in the country for more than a century. These groups engage in education, social, and development work.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

Please refer to Appendix C in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the status of the government's acceptance of international legal standards http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/appendices/index.htm.

Article 46 of the constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites, although, in practice, the government places restrictions on these rights. Islam is the official state religion, and Islamic law is the principal source of legislation. A January 2008 lower court ruling interpreted the constitution's guarantee of religious freedom as inapplicable to Muslim citizens who wish to convert to another religion. This ruling, which is not binding in other courts, remained under appeal at the end of the reporting period, although on April 27, 2010, an appellate court announced that it would not decide the appeal until the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on a series of cases related to article 46. Courts ruled in previous years that the constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion does not apply to Bahais.

In its January 2008 decision in the case of Muhammad Ahmad Abduh Higazy v. the Minister of Interior et al., the Cairo Administrative Court noted that the country ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) with a reservation that the covenant shall be ratified to the extent that it does not conflict with Islamic law, including the covenant's article 18 which provides for freedom of religion.

Although there are no statutory prohibitions on conversion, the government does not recognize conversions of Muslims to Christianity or other religions. This and resistance to such conversions by local officials -- through refusal to recognize conversions legally -- constitutes a prohibition in practice. The security services reportedly maintain regular and sometimes hostile surveillance of Muslim-born citizens who are suspected of having converted to Christianity. Moreover, in January 2008 the Cairo Administrative Court, a court of first impression, ruled that freedom to convert does not extend to Muslim citizens. The court stated that the freedom to practice religious rites is subject to limits, especially those entailed by the maintenance of public order, public morals, and conformity to the provisions and principles of Islam, which forbid Muslims to convert. The court stated that "public order" is defined as the official religion being Islam, that most of the population professes Islam, and that Islamic law is the primary source of legislation. The ruling remained under appeal at the end of the reporting period. The Cairo Administrative Court ruled in June 2009 to deny Maher al-Gohary, a Muslim-born convert to Christianity, an identity document indicating his chosen faith.

While there is no legal ban on proselytizing Muslims, the government restricts such efforts. Neither the constitution nor the civil and penal codes prohibit proselytizing, but police have detained or otherwise harassed those accused of proselytizing on charges of ridiculing or insulting the three "heavenly religions" -- Islam, Christianity, or Judaism -- or inciting sectarian strife. The government generally tolerates foreign religious workers on condition that they do not proselytize Muslims. For more than 15 years the government has refused reentry, denied residency renewal requests, or expelled expatriates they suspected of engaging in unapproved religious activities.

The application of family law, including marriage, divorce, alimony, child custody, and burial, is based on an individual's religion. In the practice of family law, the government recognizes only Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Muslim families are subject to Islamic law, Christian families to canon law, and Jewish families to Jewish law. In cases of family law disputes involving a marriage between a Christian woman and a Muslim man, the courts apply Islamic law. The government does not recognize the marriages of citizens adhering to religions other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.

Under Islamic law as practiced in the country, Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslim men. A non-Muslim male must therefore convert to Islam to marry Muslim women, although non-Muslim women need not convert to marry Muslim men. Also, a non-Muslim woman who converts to Islam must divorce if her husband is not Muslim. In some cases, upon the wife's conversion, local security authorities reportedly have asked the non-Muslim husband if he is willing to convert to Islam; if he chooses not to convert, divorce proceedings may begin immediately, and custody of children is awarded to the mother.

Inheritance laws for all citizens are based on the government's interpretation of Islamic law. Muslim female heirs receive half the amount of a male heir's inheritance. Christian widows of Muslims have no automatic inheritance rights, but may be provided for in testamentary documents. Converts from Islam to Christianity lose all rights of inheritance. Because the government offers no legal means for such converts to amend their civil records to reflect their new religious status, the converts' loss of inheritance rights may not be indicated on civil documents.

In the absence of legal means to register their change in religious status, some converts resort to soliciting illicit identity papers. Authorities periodically detain and charge converts and those assisting them with violating laws that prohibit the falsification of documents. The minor children of such converts, and in some cases adult children who were minors when their parents converted, may automatically become classified as Muslims by the government irrespective of the religion of the other parent. This practice is in accordance with the government's interpretation of Islamic law, which dictates "no jurisdiction of a non-Muslim over a Muslim."

Civil statutes and religious laws, both Islamic and Coptic, prevent Coptic men and Muslim women from marrying. When a male Christian and a female Muslim marry outside the country, their marriage is not legally recognized in the country. Additionally, the woman could be arrested and charged with apostasy, and any children from such a marriage could be taken and assigned to the physical custody of a male Muslim guardian, as determined by the government's interpretation of Islamic law.

The law provides for "khul'" divorce, which allows a Muslim woman to obtain a divorce without her husband's consent, provided that she is willing to forego all of her financial rights, including alimony, dowry, and other benefits. Many women have complained that after being granted khul', the required child support is not paid.

In July 2010 the Supreme Constitutional Court suspended the implementation of a May 2010 Supreme Administrative Court ruling that the Coptic Orthodox Church must permit divorced adherents to remarry. The Coptic Orthodox Church characterized the May decision as an infringement on its authority. Execution of the ruling remained suspended at the end of the reporting period pending further review. According to government policy and previous practice, the application of family law, including marriage and divorce, is based on an individual's religion, whereby Orthodox Copts are subject to Coptic Orthodox Church law. The Coptic Orthodox Church permits divorce only in cases of adultery or the conversion of one spouse to another religion, or to another Christian denomination.

The Ministry of Education bans wearing the hijab (Islamic headscarf) in primary schools and allows it only in preparatory and secondary schools upon written request from a girl's parent.

In September 2010 professors filed suit against Hossam Kemal, President of Cairo University, for failing to carry out a court order overturning his earlier decision to ban university staff from working or giving lectures on campus while wearing the niqab (Islamic full face veil).

In September 2010 Ain Shams University and Fayoum University announced that female professors wearing the niqab would not be allowed into the classroom.

Constitutional amendments approved by referendum in 2007 have unclear implications for religious freedom. The amended article 1 of the constitution states that the country's political system is based on the principle of citizenship. The amended article 5 prohibits the formation of political parties or the conduct of political activities on a religious basis. Government supporters argued that these changes would separate religion from politics. Some critics, including the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, argued that the amendments are incompatible with the constitution's article 2, which states that the principles of Islamic law are the primary source for legislation.

Various ministries are legally authorized to ban or confiscate books and works of art upon obtaining a court order. The Council of Ministers may order the banning of works it deems offensive to public morals, detrimental to religion, or likely to cause a breach of the peace. The Islamic Research Center (IRC) of Al-Azhar has the legal authority to censor and, since 2004, to confiscate any publications dealing with the Qur'an and the authoritative Islamic traditions (Hadith). A 2003 Ministry of Justice decree authorizes Al-Azhar to confiscate publications, tapes, speeches, and artistic materials deemed inconsistent with Islamic law. There were no reports of the exercise of this authority during the reporting period.

In 2008 the Cairo Administrative Court ruled that the government must issue new identity cards and birth certificates to 13 Christian-born converts to Islam who converted back to Christianity; the documents must indicate that the holder is Christian and "previously embraced Islam." The court held the "recording of a conversion" from Islam to Christianity in the personal identity card does not "establish" the apostasy of the card holder. However, the court held that failure to convey the holder's apostasy would conflict with public order. Some human rights observers said that by identifying persons as apostates, the court ruling would serve as a warning mechanism to the society at large. The nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights warned the government that any such public reference could subject converts to social stigma and discrimination. The government has taken no action to implement the order. In 2009 the government stated that it was awaiting a Supreme Constitutional Court decision on more than 100 cases filed by other "reconverts," and by several nongovernmental entities that oppose the ruling, contending that article 2 of the constitution, which states that Islamic law is the primary source of legislation, denies Muslims the right to convert from Islam.

On March 30, 2010, the Alexandria Administrative Court dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of two boys born as Coptic Christians seeking recognition of their self-identification as Christian, despite their father's conversion to Islam in 2005. As a result, when the plaintiffs turned 16 in June 2010, they were only eligible to receive national identification cards designating that they are "Muslim." The court's dismissal of the lawsuit supported the discriminatory policy of forcibly changing the religious affiliation of children recorded on official documents when their father converts to Islam, even when the Christian mother retains custody. The court also dismissed a lawsuit filed to compel the government to identify the boys as "Christian" on official identity documents, ruling that Coptic Church-issued documents certifying that the boys were Christian had no legal standing.

All mosques must be licensed by the Ministry of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf). The government appoints and pays the salaries of the imams who lead prayers in mosques and monitors their sermons. It does not contribute to the funding of Christian churches. The Ministry of Islamic Endowments reported that there were 104,506 mosques and small dedicated prayer areas called "zawayas" nationwide as of April 2010. A 2004 decree by the minister of Islamic endowments removed from governors the authority to issue permits to build mosques and placed private mosques under the ministry's administrative control; however, up to 20,000 mosques and zawayas may remain unsupervised by the ministry.

The contemporary interpretation of the 1856 Ottoman Hamayouni Decree, still partially in force, requires non-Muslims to obtain a presidential decree to build new churches and synagogues. In addition, Ministry of Interior (MOI) regulations, issued in 1934 under the Al-Ezabi Decree, specify a set of 10 conditions that the government must consider before a presidential decree for construction of a new non-Muslim place of worship can be issued. The conditions include the requirement that the distance that a church may be no closer than 100 meters (340 feet) from a mosque and that approval of the neighboring Muslim community must be obtained before a permit to build a new church may be issued.

In 2005 the president issued Decree 291/2005, which delegated authority to the country's 26 governors to grant permits to Christian denominations that seek to expand or rebuild existing churches. The decree also stated that churches could undertake basic repairs and maintenance subject only to the provision of written notification to local authorities. Decree 291 noted that governors must examine all applications for rebuilding or expansion, which must be supported by unspecified documents, within 30 days of submission. According to the decree, "permits may not be refused except with a justified ruling." Decree 291 also cancelled a 1999 decree aimed at improving the permit process for church repair. (Presidential Decree 453 of 1999 had made the repair of all places of worship subject to a 1976 civil construction code. Although this decree made mosque and church repairs technically subject to the same laws, authorities enforced the laws more strictly for churches. The lack of implementation meant that the difficulties faced by Christians largely remained.)

Some communities, faced with refusal of their requests for permits, use private buildings and apartments for religious services or build without permits. Local authorities sometimes close down such unlicensed places of worship.

To obtain official recognition, a religious group must submit a request to the MOI's Religious Affairs Department, which determines whether the group would, in its view, pose a threat or upset national unity or social peace. The department also consults leading religious figures, particularly the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the sheikh of Al-Azhar. The registration is then referred to the president, who, if he concurs, issues a decree recognizing the new group, according to Law 15 of 1927. If a religious group bypasses the official registration process, participants are potentially subject to detention and could also face prosecution and punishment under article 98(F) of the penal code, which forbids the "denigration of religions." There were, however, no reports of the government prosecuting unregistered religious groups under these provisions. The government last recognized a new religious group in 1990.

Law 263 of 1960, still in force, bans Bahai institutions and community activities and strips Bahais of legal recognition. Despite the ban, Bahais are able to engage in community activities such as Naw-Ruz, the Bahai new year's celebration. During the Nasser era, the government confiscated all Bahai community properties, including Bahai centers, libraries, and cemeteries.

Government practices restrict the provision of national identity papers to some Bahais and members of other religious groups that are not officially recognized. The government requires all citizens to be categorized as Muslims, Christians, or Jews on national identity cards. Consequently, Bahais and other religious groups not associated with any of the three recognized religions have been compelled either to misrepresent themselves or to live without valid identity documents. However, some unmarried Bahais have secured identity cards with a "dash" in place of a stated religion. In 2008 the Cairo Administrative Court ruled in three cases brought by Bahais that the government must issue official identification documents containing a dash or other mark in the religion field. However, the court noted that one purpose of filling the religion field with a dash or other distinctive mark was to protect members of the "revealed religions" (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) from Bahai infiltration and to avoid potential dangers from such persons' conduct and relations with them. The ruling stated that anyone who adopts the Bahai Faith is an apostate and that the religion cannot be recorded in any civil status or other official document because it would conflict with public order. In April 2009 the MOI issued Decree 520 providing procedures for members of unrecognized religious groups to obtain national identity cards with dashes in the religious identification field. According to Bahai community members, throughout 2010 the government implemented the order and continued to issue national ID cards with a dash, as well as birth certificates for the children of married Bahais. However, the government refused to issue identification documents to married, divorced, and widowed Bahais, unless they would agree to specify their marital status as "unmarried," because the government does not recognize Bahai marriage, and there is no civil mechanism for marriage.

Those without valid identity cards also encounter difficulty registering their children in school, opening bank accounts, and establishing businesses. Police occasionally conduct random inspections of identity papers, and those found without identity cards can be detained until they produce the document.

The government has not granted legal recognition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), or Mormons, in Cairo. The LDS Church has maintained an organized congregation in the country for more than 30 years. The government has raised no objection.

The government banned Jehovah's Witnesses in 1960. Since then the government has, to varying degrees, subjected members of the Jehovah's Witnesses to harassment and surveillance. The Jehovah's Witnesses were legally registered in Cairo in 1951 and Alexandria in 1956, and their presence in the country dates to the 1930s. In January 2010 the Cairo Administrative Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Jehovah's Witnesses to compel the government to recognize it as a Christian denomination. The government attributes its refusal to grant the registration to the Jehovah's Witnesses to the opposition of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which during the reporting period condemned the group as heretical, as well as to its lingering Nasser-era suspicion of links between the Jehovah's Witnesses and the State of Israel.

In 1954 the government outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party that operates missionary, charitable, and political activities, on the grounds that the Constitution prohibits the formation of political parties based on religion. The Muslim Brotherhood was also viewed as a threat to National Democratic Party (NDP) rule. However, the government has tolerated Muslim Brotherhood operations with varying levels of interference. Muslim Brothers speak openly and publicly about their views and identify themselves as members of the organization, although they remain subject to arbitrary detention and pressure from the government.

The government at times prosecutes and otherwise harasses, including through detentions and the imposition of travel bans, members of religious groups whose practices are deemed to deviate from mainstream Islamic beliefs and whose activities are alleged to jeopardize communal harmony.

The government has advised journalists and cartoonists to avoid anti-Semitism. Government officials insist that anti-Semitic statements in the media are a reaction to Israeli government actions against Palestinians and do not reflect historical anti-Semitism; however, there are few public attempts to distinguish between anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment.

The quasi-governmental National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) is charged with strengthening protections, raising awareness, and ensuring the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom. It is also charged with monitoring enforcement and application of international agreements. Five of its 25 appointed members are Christians.

Local media, including state television and radio, regularly include Islamic programming. Christian television programs are shown weekly on state-owned Nile Cultural TV.

The government observes the following as national holidays: Eid Al-Fitr, Eid Al-Adha, the Islamic New Year, Mawlid al-Nabi (the birth of the Prophet Muhammad), and Coptic Christmas (January 7).

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Church and human rights leaders reported that six years after the promulgation of Decree 291/2005 many local officials continued to intentionally delay the process for obtaining permits to repair, rebuild, or expand existing churches. They charged that some local authorities refused to process applications without "supporting documents" that are virtually impossible to obtain (e.g., a presidential decree authorizing the existence of a church that had been established during the country's monarchical era). They also complained that some local authorities categorized routine repairs and maintenance (e.g., painting and plumbing repairs) as expansion/reconstruction projects that require formal permits rather than simple notification and maintained that some security forces blocked their churches from using permits that have been issued and denied them permits for repairs to church buildings. Such practices depended primarily on the attitudes of local security officials and the governorate leadership toward the church, and on their personal relationships with church representatives. As a result congregations experienced lengthy delays, years in many cases, while waiting for new building permits.

The government continued to detain, harass, and deny civil documents, including national identity cards, birth certificates, and marriage licenses, to citizens who convert from Islam to Christianity.

During the reporting period, the government refused the Jehovah's Witnesses' continued efforts to obtain legal registration.

While the government complied with court rulings by issuing identity documents with a "dash" for religion to Bahais, it continued to refuse to issue marriage certificates. This made it impossible for married members of the Bahai community to obtain identity documents recognizing their marital status. The government cited its nonrecognition of the Bahai Faith and the country's lack of a civil marriage mechanism as reasons for the denial.

During the reporting period, the approval process for church construction continued to be hindered by lengthy delays, often measured in years. Although government officials maintained that the president approved all requests for permits presented to him, independent critics charged that delays by the MOI and/or local authorities caused many requests to reach the president slowly or not at all. Some churches complained that local security officials blocked church repairs or improvements even when a permit had been issued. Others suggested unequal enforcement of the regulations pertaining to church and mosque projects. Many churches faced difficulty in obtaining permits from provincial officials.

According to statistics published in the Official Gazette, the president issued seven decrees during the six-month reporting period authorizing construction of four Protestant churches and three Coptic Orthodox churches. These churches include five in the Upper Egypt Governorate of Assiut, one in Bani Sweif, and one in the Delta city of Zagazig. No statistics were available on the number of permit requests made during the reporting period.

Local government officials have refused to issue a building permit for a new church in the Arbaeen District of Assiut for 13 years, despite a 1997 order from the president and approval from the MOI to issue the permit.

Local government officials in Assiut Governorate revoked a license to reconstruct the church belonging to the Church of the Brethren shortly after the license was granted in 2001, and construction has been halted for the past nine years. Church representatives reportedly began the application process in 1997, intending to replace their church building, the dilapidated condition of which they said posed safety hazards. Local police reportedly halted construction after the old building was razed in preparation for constructing the new one.

Since 2001 the MOI has prevented renovation of St. John the Baptist Church at Awlad Elias in Sadfa, near Assiut. At the end of the reporting period, the congregation continued to meet for worship in a tent erected in the small courtyard of the church. The governor of Assiut issued a decree for a permit to undertake renovations in 1999 that was renegotiated with State Security in 2001 to allow for enlargement. Church representatives initiated their request for a renovation permit in 1999.

Governmental authorities delayed or blocked renovation of other churches as well, including the Church of Mar Mina near Beni Suef and the Archangel Mikhail Coptic Church in Ezbet al-Nakhl.

In recent years, two converts from Islam to Christianity, Muhammad Ahmad Abduh Higazy and Maher Al-Gohary, have sought to have their conversion officially recognized in national identity documents by seeking recourse through the courts. In April 2010 an Administrative Court transferred a case filed by Higazy for change of religious affiliation to the Supreme Constitutional Court. The Administrative Court stopped proceedings until the Supreme Constitutional Court issues a decision on a separate appeal filed by Higazy regarding the constitutionality of article 47 of the Civil Status Law. Other converts have also filed claims regarding article 47. In January 2008 the Cairo Administrative Court ruled that the administrative agency of the Civil Status Department was not bound to examine Higazy's request to have his new religious affiliation, Christianity, recorded on his national identity card. In its ruling the court wrote that principles of Islamic law forbid Muslims from converting from Islam and such conversion would constitute a disparagement of the official state religion and an enticement for other Muslims to convert. The court asserted its duty to "protect public order from the crime of apostasy from Islam and to protect public morals, especially if the apostate petitions the administration to condone his misdeed and his corrupt caprice." The ruling maintained a government policy not to provide a legal means for converts from Islam to Christianity to amend their civil records to reflect their new religious status.

Maher Al-Gohary continued to appeal a June 13, 2009, decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Administrative Justice. The court ruled against Al-Gohary, a Muslim convert to Christianity, who sought government recognition of his conversion, including by changing the required religion space on his national identity card to indicate "Christian." The court stated that al-Gohary had demonstrated behavior that contradicted his claim to be a Christian, thereby "toying with religion." The court stated that, while the constitution's guarantee of freedom of belief is an internal matter and not subject to restrictions, the guarantee of freedom to practice religious rites, including freedom to embrace a different religion, may be limited through regulations that emphasize higher interests, especially those related to safeguarding public order and moral values. The court also stated that Egypt approved the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with its religious freedom guarantees, "taking into consideration the provisions of Islamic law and the absence of contradiction between these provisions and the covenant." The ruling indicated that in the event of a contradiction, Islamic law takes precedence. The court also stated that there is no law authorizing the Coptic Church to certify a citizen's change of religion from Islam to Christianity. Accordingly, the court recommended that Parliament rectify legislative shortcomings that constitute a failure to achieve effective protection for freedom of religion and prevent manipulation of religion for personal gain.

On December 28, 2010, the State Security Administrative Court overturned a Ministry of Interior travel ban on Maher al-Gohary. The Court reportedly found that the MOI's "security concerns," namely that Al-Gohary's case would be used by human rights organizations abroad to defame the country's reputation, unconvincing. MOI is expected to appeal, and at the end of the reporting period al-Gohary was still unable to obtain a passport.

In recent years there have been reports that the government harassed Christian clergy and other Christian leaders at the international airport in Cairo, confiscating address books, written materials, and various forms of recordable media while they passed through customs to board flights.

Government officials detained a U.S. citizen at Cairo International Airport as he was traveling to a youth event at a Christian center outside Cairo. The traveler had a valid Egyptian visa. Officials held the man for 24 hours before returning him to the United States. Also during the reporting period, an American religious worker who had lived for more than a decade in Egypt was refused entry when returning to the country.

An Egyptian citizen convert to Christianity and his UK citizen spouse were detained at Cairo International Airport upon arrival in November. The spouse was deported and the Egyptian detained for approximately three weeks before being released and allowed to depart the country.

Anti-Semitic sentiments appeared in both the government-owned and opposition press; however, there have been no violent anti-Semitic incidents in recent years.

Press articles and editorials in print and electronic media, which often criticize Israel and Israeli policy, occasionally also expressed anti-Semitic sentiment. Prior to the current reporting period, there were anti-Semitic editorial cartoons depicting demonic images of Israeli leaders, stereotypical images of Jews and Jewish symbols that generally referenced Israel or Zionism, and comparisons of Israeli leaders to Hitler and the Nazis. A number of privately owned, but government licensed, satellite television stations broadcast virulent anti-Semitic programming, which glorified or denied the Holocaust, over government-owned Nilesat. Beginning in October the government warned stations to eliminate "sectarian content" (content that reinforces sectarian hatred or could spark sectarian violence) and took a number of these channels off Nilesat. Following a court decision in November, five of these stations returned to Nilesat while others remained off the air.

The constitution provides for equal public rights and duties without discrimination based on religion or creed; however, the government discriminates against non-Muslims.

As of December 31, 2010, there were 10 Christians (seven appointed, three elected) in the 518-seat People's Assembly; six Christians (all appointed) in the 264-seat Shura Council; two Christians in the 32-member cabinet; and one Christian among Egypt's 28 governors. Christians, who represent between 8 and 12 percent of the population, hold fewer than 2 percent of the seats in the People's Assembly and Shura Council. There were few Christians in the upper ranks of the security services and armed forces. Public funds compensate Muslim imams but not Christian clergy.

Political parties nominate relatively few Christians to run in elections as candidates. Out of 839 candidates for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in the 2010 People's Assembly election, 10 were Copts. Approximately 24 Christians ran as opposition candidates and number of others ran as independents. Out of 92 candidates put forward by the NDP to run in the June 1 Shura Council election, 3 were Copts.

There were no Christians serving as presidents or deans of the country's 17 public universities. Of nearly 700 president, dean, or vice dean positions in the country's public university system, only one or two positions were filled by Christians.

The government discriminates against Christians and other religious minorities in public sector hiring and staff appointments to public universities and bars them from studying at Al-Azhar University, a publicly funded institution with approximately half a million students. In general the government bars non-Muslims from employment in public university training programs for Arabic language teachers because the curriculum involves study of the Qur'an. Media and activists claim that Christians make up a disproportionately small proportion of the police and security forces.

The 2009-2010 National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) annual report, issued in February 2010, highlighted increased sectarian tension and restrictions on Shias, while at the same time noting a "relative breakthrough" in issuing identity documents to Bahais. Following communal violence up to and including the January 2010 Naga Hammadi attack, NCHR noted that authorities used a "combination of customary procedure, reconciliation and mitigation, along with the legal procedures of detention, referral to the public prosecution. . . ." An NCHR Mission investigating one case of communal violence recommended "penalizing the aggressor in the incident [because] reconciliation meetings were futile if they provide impunity for the aggressor." However, unlike in previous years, the 2009-2010 annual report did not provide recommendations on religious freedom or any other area to the government.

Abuses of Religious Freedom

The government harassed Muslims who held views it deemed unorthodox including Quranist, Shia, and Ahmadiya Muslims. The Quranists are a small group of Muslims that the state considers unorthodox because they view the Qur'an to be the sole authority for Islam and reject some other traditional sources of Islamic law, including the Hadith.

In 2008 security officials in the governorate of Sharqiya arrested Quranist blogger Reda Abdel-Rahman. Police raided Abdel-Rahman's home and confiscated his personal computer, books, CDs, and cassette tapes before taking him to an unknown location. Despite multiple court rulings ordering his release, Abdel-Rahman was held until January 22, 2009. Security officials reportedly subjected him to physical and mental abuse in detention. As of the end of the reporting period, there had been no government response to investigate and potentially prosecute the officials.

In 2008 the public prosecutor ordered the release without charges of 25 members of the Islamic Al-Ahbash sect, including three Lebanese and a Kazakh, who had been arrested in 2007 on charges of membership in an illegal organization and contempt for religion. The expatriates were reportedly deported.

Between April and July 2009, government security forces arrested 200-300 Shias including prominent Shia cleric Hassan Shehata on charges of forming an organization for the purpose of propagating Shiite ideas that disparage Islam and Sunni confessions. Most of those arrested were released by fall 2009, and Shehata was released in March 2010. However, as of the end of the reporting period, seven Shias from this group were still being detained. The MOI has repeatedly renewed the detention orders, despite release orders from the Supreme State Security Court.

In 2009 security officials at Cairo International Airport detained Quranist Abdel Latif Said. The government released him, without charges, on November 25, 2009. On April 14, 2010, a Cairo Administrative Court ordered the government to lift any travel ban it had imposed on Said. Security officials at Cairo International Airport had also prevented Said from traveling earlier, on April 24, 2009, to the United States to attend a conference.

Beginning on March 15, 2010, government security officials arrested, over several days, 11 members of the country's Ahmadiya Muslim community; all were subsequently released, with the final six being freed on June 7. The Ahmadiyas were charged with the penal code offence of showing "contempt for religion" and vague emergency law charges of undermining social cohesion. They were never prosecuted. Authorities also detained a number of Ahmadiyas for questioning over periods up to three days in December.

In September and October 2010, the government detained approximately 100 Shia Muslims. Media and NGOs reported that the Supreme State Security Prosecutor accused 12 Shia from this group in mid-October of "contempt of religion," forming an underground organization to overthrow the ruling regime, and receiving foreign funds.

On December 13, Minister of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Hamdy Zakzouk called on security officials and imams, the vast majority of whom are paid by the government, to not permit celebrations of the Shia religious holiday of Ashura.

An estimated several thousand persons remained imprisoned during the reporting period because of alleged support for or membership in Islamist groups seeking to overthrow the government. The government stated that these persons were in detention because of membership in or activities on behalf of violent extremist groups, without regard to their religious affiliation. Internal security services monitor groups and individuals suspected of involvement in or planning for extremist activity. Internal security agencies regularly detain such persons, and the ongoing state of emergency allows them to renew periods of "administrative detention" indefinitely.

Although there are no legal restrictions on the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam, there were occasional reports that police persecuted converts from Islam to Christianity.

For approximately two years the MOI failed to comply with repeated court orders to release Emad Adib Atiya Suleiman, a Christian married to a convert to Christianity, from "administrative detention." The courts, including a 2008 ruling by the Supreme State Security Emergency Court, issued 15 orders to revoke a 2007 detention order for Suleiman that was based on reports of an alleged "romantic relationship between the aforementioned and a Muslim woman living in the same area." Suleiman was released on July 26, 2010.

In 2008 airport security officials arrested a convert from Islam to Christianity, along with her husband and their two sons, ages two and four, while they were trying to board a flight to Russia. Officials charged her with carrying a false identification document. The convert subsequently told U.S. officials that state security officials raped her multiple times and subjected her to other physical and mental abuse during her detention in January 2009 to pressure her to revert to Islam. Although her husband and sons were released after four days in custody, she was held until January 22, 2009, when a judge granted bail and ordered her release. Before granting bail, a judge reportedly told her he would have killed her if the law permitted. Upon her release she was reportedly thrown from a moving vehicle and subsequently went into hiding. Two employees of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Alexandria were arrested on suspicion of providing her forged identity documents.

In 2008 a male convert from Islam to Christianity claimed that agents of state security had detained him on multiple occasions over several years, including during the reporting period. The convert stated that authorities had subjected him to severe physical and mental abuse; he said the officers called him a "murtadd" (apostate), told him he was suffering as a result of his conversion, and pressured him to revert to Islam. The convert stated that during the reporting period state security officers beat his wife on the abdomen while she was pregnant, causing her to hemorrhage. He also showed officials scars purportedly inflicted by governmental interrogators in previous years, including long scars on his back and sides and numerous deep, circular scars on his shoulder, reportedly caused by state security officers holding burning cigarettes against his flesh for long periods of time.

The government took no action to implement a 2008 ruling of the Supreme Court of Administrative Justice that ordered the government to issue national identity documents to 13 converts to Christianity who were originally Christian but had converted to Islam. There were hundreds of pending cases that other such converts have brought with the same request. The ruling, which is not subject to appeal, overturned a 2007 ruling by a lower court that held that the MOI was not obligated to recognize the reconversion to Christianity by Christian-born converts to Islam (see Legal/Policy Framework).

The government took no action during the reporting period to provide Fathy Labib Youssef, another such "reconvert," an identity document indicating that he is Christian. In December 2008 the Alexandria Administrative Court ruled that refusal to issue the identity document was illegal.

As mentioned above, the government refuses to issue converts from Islam to Christianity identity documents indicating their chosen faith. Some converts who procured counterfeit or falsified identification documents denoting their chosen religion, or helped others to do so, have been arrested, tried, and convicted for these crimes. For example on April 13, 2009, police arrested convert to Christianity Raheal Henen Mussa, reportedly for possession of a false identification document. She was held for four days and then released into the custody of her parents.

In October 2009 a criminal court convicted Einas Refaat Mohamed Hassan, a convert from Islam to Christianity, of forgery for possessing a forged national identity card indicating her religion was Christianity. Hassan was released after serving a one-year prison sentence.

In June 2009 the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) referenced a 2007 report by Human Rights Watch which asserted that in 2007 there were 89 cases of Egyptian citizens whose religious affiliation had been changed in official documents to Islam against their will, after their fathers converted to Islam. The 2007 report also asserted that in violation of the law, the MOI refused to change their religious affiliation to Christianity when they reached the age of 15.

The government failed to investigate allegations of police misconduct and excessive use of force during the November 24 riot in the Giza neighborhood of Omraniya. Clashes between police and mostly Coptic rioters began over a church-building dispute and led to the deaths of two Copts. As many as 68 others, including 18 police, were reportedly injured. Human rights advocates have demanded an investigation into excessive use of force by security forces, including use of rubber bullets that witnesses claim caused the two deaths, and misconduct by police who threw rocks alongside civilians. Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III announced that the Coptic Church would file lawsuits against the government for actions that led to the two deaths. There were unconfirmed reports of police abuse against some of the 154 persons detained in connection with the riots.

Security forces on September 7 reportedly clashed with monks at the Coptic Orthodox monastery of St. Macarius of Alexandria in Wadi Rayan, Fayoum Governorate. Witnesses claim that police used tear gas, batons, and stones, and three monks were injured. Authorities confiscated limestone bricks that were to be used for building monks' cells, claiming the Coptic Church had not obtained authorization to build additions. The Monastery is located in a protected wilderness area and was periodically deserted prior to 1996.

The government continued in most cases to sponsor "reconciliation sessions" following communal violence and sectarian attacks instead of prosecuting perpetrators of crimes. Such "reconciliation sessions" generally precluded recourse to the judicial system for restitution. Following an attack on a Coptic Church facility in the Mediterranean coastal city of Marsa Matruh on March 13, 2010, 30 attackers were arrested, but no criminal charges were filed as the government had organized a reconciliation session. According to credible reports, the attack resulted in injuries to 19 Christians, four Muslims, and eight policemen who attempted to intervene. The Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies investigated and reported that the attack resulted in the destruction of only Coptic-owned properties including nine homes, three workshops, a warehouse, and 11 automobiles. The Institute's assessment and press reports indicated that the incident was settled through cash payments to some victims who suffered property damage, and the Coptic Church agreed to demolish the wall that blocked an access route to the neighboring mosque. Some reports indicated that the wall was built on recently acquired Copt property. The attack was reportedly encouraged by the imam of that mosque who, like most imams in the country, receives a salary from the Ministry of Islamic Endowments. The imam reportedly incited a crowd estimated in the low hundreds. According to the institute report, the attack lasted three hours; fire trucks and ambulances arrived four hours after the attack began, and security forces, although located nearby, responded after two hours. The institute report credited security forces with extinguishing the fires and preventing carnage. Victims alleged that homes were looted before being set on fire.

During the reporting period, the government did not investigate or prosecute the perpetrators of a March 2009 attack on the homes of seven Bahai families in the village of al-Shuraniya in Sohag Governorate. Muslim villagers, some of them related to the Bahai villagers, attacked Bahai houses with bricks and rocks until police dispersed them. On March 31, 2009, the attacks escalated when attackers returned and set fire to the homes, forcing the Bahais to flee.

Prior to this reporting period, some prominent government officials denied that sectarian tensions were among the root causes of violence that occurred between Christians and Muslims, pointing instead to criminal, family, tribal, or other disputes. This contributed to a failure to effectively address religious tensions and violence.

In June 2009 state security and police forces reportedly instigated a sectarian clash in Boshra, near Beni Suef, when they prevented Christians from praying in an unlicensed church.

By the end of the reporting period, the government had not prosecuted any of the Bedouin villagers who assaulted the Abu Fana monastery in 2008, nor those who concurrently kidnapped, physically abused, and reportedly attempted forcefully to convert several monks. The armed assault also resulted in the death of one Muslim man, as well as multiple injuries including gunshot wounds to monks and the destruction of the chapel, artifacts, and some of the monks' cells. Three monks abducted from the monastery were reportedly rescued by security services. Police were reportedly slow to respond to the attack, but have maintained a presence on the road leading to the monastery. The NCHR investigated the attack, which according to independent human rights groups originated in a land dispute. On August 20, 2009, the government released, without charges, two Copts arrested in connection with the death of a Muslim villager. Two Muslims detained in connection with the attack were also released on August 20. Reports claimed the two Coptic brothers were being detained to pressure Coptic authorities not to press for official prosecution of the perpetrators. Human rights advocates reported that this incident exemplified an increasingly prevalent pattern of governmental authorities detaining Copts following sectarian attacks and either holding them without charges or threatening false charges and a police record. They said the detentions serve as a tool to blackmail Coptic authorities to desist from demanding criminal prosecution of the perpetrators and to dissuade the victims and/or their families from seeking recourse in the judicial system for restitution of damages.

Jehovah's Witnesses leadership reported the continuation of government harassment and interrogation of their members during the reporting period, including confiscation of religious documents and a ban on importing Bibles and other religious material. State security authorities also reportedly monitored the homes, telephones, and meeting places of Jehovah's Witnesses. Their mail was also reportedly sometimes confiscated and intended recipients summoned for interrogation by security officials that reportedly included threats of increased harassment of coreligionists, abusive language, and psychological pressure. Security agents also reportedly sought to incite animosity against them, characterizing Jehovah's Witnesses to neighbors as security threats and Zionists. Authorities also reportedly followed visiting foreign members of Jehovah's Witnesses. While Jehovah's Witnesses continue to be allowed to meet in groups of up to 30 in private buildings, they remain prevented from building dedicated places of worship. Jehovah's Witnesses have reported varying degrees of government harassment and surveillance since 1960. Witnesses reported that government harassment they experienced in 2010 declined substantially from 2006-2008.

In 2008 a Giza criminal court sentenced Coptic priest Mita'us Wahba to five years in prison with "forced labor" for officiating at a wedding between a Copt and a Muslim convert to Christianity. The court found Father Wahba criminally liable for accepting an allegedly false identification document the convert presented. Wahba appealed but remained in prison at the end of the reporting period.

On November 5 authorities released blogger Abdel Karim Nabil Suleiman Amer, incarcerated since 2006 and convicted in 2007 of "denigrating Islam" and insulting the president, and immediately detained him again. He was released on November 16. According to Karim Amer's public statement November 24, prison officials beat him on three occasions during his detention. A state security officer also reportedly warned him not to blog upon his release. The government has not responded to calls for an investigation into abuse by security forces.

On July 22 the government released blogger Hany Nazir, who had been held without charge under the Emergency Law since 2008 following his blogging about allegedly sensitive religious issues.

In April 2009 government security forces demolished a building the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Marsa Matrouh had recently bought to serve as a parish social services center. According to media reports, security forces claimed a brick fence on the roof of the one-story building exceeded the height approved by local government. At the end of the reporting period, there were no reports of governmental intention to investigate the conduct of the security forces who carried out the demolition.

In March 2009 a local council in Maghagha, Minya governorate, demolished part of a 10-acre Coptic cemetery, destroying graves.

In 2008 local authorities demolished a Coptic social services building owned by the Coptic Church in Alexandria, alleging it had been built without a permit.

On March 30, 2010, an administrative court in Alexandria dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of twin boys born as Coptic Christians seeking recognition of their self-identification as Christians, despite their father's conversion to Islam in 2005. As a result, when the plaintiffs, Andrew and Mario Medhat Ramses, turned 16 in June 2010, they could only receive national identification cards designating them as "Muslim." The court's dismissal of the lawsuit supported the discriminatory policy of forcibly changing the religious affiliation of Christian children recorded on official documents when their father converts to Islam. In its opinion, the court stated that Coptic Church-issued documents certifying that the boys were Christian had no legal standing. In June 2009 the Court of Cassation ruled to grant the twins' mother, Kamilia Lotfy, a Coptic Christian, custody of her two sons, overturning a 2008 ruling by the Alexandria Appeals Court that had awarded custody to their father based upon his conversion to Islam. At the end of the reporting period the boys remained in their mother's custody.

On July 27, 2009, a Cairo family court awarded legal custody of Aser Usama Sabri, whose parents are Bahais, to the child's Muslim aunt. The ruling, which came in a lawsuit filed by the boy's grandfather, had no immediate practical effect as the boy and his parents live abroad.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

The government continued prosecution of three Muslim men implicated in the January 2010 Naga Hammadi attack. They were charged with premeditated murder. As of the end of the reporting period, the court had ruled on motions, heard testimony from numerous witnesses, reviewed crime scene data, and was scheduled to resume in January 2011 to issue verdicts.

Senior government officials issued strong statements condemning sectarianism and religious violence during the reporting period. Following the October 31 attack on the Saydat al-Najat Church in Baghdad and Al Qaeda threats against Copts, President Mubarak condemned sectarian violence and announced increased security measures for churches. Numerous ministers and religious leaders echoed these statements. On October 6 Mubarak publicly denounced sectarianism and called national unity "a red line I will allow no one to cross." The same day Sheikh Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayeb, and head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, issued a joint statement calling for peaceful coexistence. On October 9 Minister of Awqaf Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq warned imams working for the Ministry not to attack Copts in their sermons.

In October the government removed 12 privately-owned satellite television stations from government-owned Nilesat for spreading "sectarian incitement" and other charges. A number of these stations were well-known for virulent anti-Semitic and other extremist programming. In late November a court order allowed five stations to resume broadcasting.

Section III. Status of Societal Actions Affecting Enjoyment of Religious Freedom

Violent sectarian attacks, primarily directed at Copts, continued during the reporting period, although Christians and Muslims share a common culture and live as neighbors throughout the country. Communal tensions and sectarian incitement increased during the reporting period.

On January 1, 2011, a bomb attack at the Coptic Orthodox "Church of the Two Saints" in Alexandria killed at least 22 and injured 96.

On November 24 a demonstration in the Giza neighborhood of Omraniya led to clashes between police and mostly Coptic rioters. Two Copts were killed and up to 68 others, including 18 police, were reportedly injured. Eyewitnesses claim that rioters threw "Molotov cocktails" and stones, while police primarily used tear gas and rubber bullets. Videos of the riot show groups of police, joined by civilians, and rioters throwing rocks at each other. Rioters briefly blocked traffic on Cairo's ring road and also attacked the Giza Governorate headquarters building. Authorities detained approximately 154 persons in connection with the riot. The riot began when demonstrators, who had been at the site a number of days, attempted to prevent Giza officials and police from entering the construction site of a new community/social center. Giza officials claimed that Copts were building a church instead of a "services building" for which they had a permit. Before the riot Copts added domes and a small cross.

On November 15-16, in the village of Al-Nawahid, Qena Governorate, 12 houses and a store belonging to Coptic families were set on fire. The arson started after locals saw a Coptic teenage boy and Muslim teenage girl together. Police arrested 14 persons, including Muslims and Christians, who were released in the days following the violence. As of the end of the reporting period the government had reported no progress in investigating these crimes and had not arrested any suspects.

In late October one store and four houses belonging to Coptic families were set on fire in the village if Awlad Kalaf in Sohag Governorate. Security forces intervened to prevent further violence. As of the end of the reporting period the government had reported no progress in investigating these crimes and had not arrested any suspects.

Salafist-led demonstrations took place many Fridays from September to December in Alexandria, with crowds of up to 2,000 chanting violent anti-Coptic slogans and displaying signs with violent rhetoric. Demonstrators expressed anger at recent statements by Coptic Church leaders. Salafists also called for the release of women allegedly held in Coptic monasteries against their will. Smaller Salafist-led demonstrations took place in Cairo on a number of Fridays. Demonstrators echoed a call by the Al Azhar Scholars' Front (not directly affiliated with Al Azhar) in September for a boycott on Christian businesses.

Bishop Bishoy, the second highest official in the Coptic Orthodox Church, angered many Muslims in September when he stated that Muslims are "guests" in Egypt and that parts of the Qu'ran may have been added by followers of the Prophet Muhammad after his death. Earlier in September prominent Islamist and former secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Selim Al-Awwa, suggested that the Coptic Church was buying weapons and storing them in churches, as well as kidnapping Muslim women. These statements heightened sectarian tensions.

Throughout the reporting period, communal tensions in the media and during street demonstrations focused on the July 2010 disappearance in Minya Governate of Camilia Shehata Zakhir, the spouse of a Coptic priest. Egyptian lawyers filed suit accusing Al Azhar and the MOI of forcibly preventing Shehata from converting to Islam, though Al Azhar officials claim that Shehata never approached them. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights publicly criticized police for handing Shehata to the Coptic Church against her will. Some incendiary preachers and editorialists called for "storming" monasteries to find the woman.

The trial of four suspects continued during the period for their alleged role in the January 6, 2010, Christmas Eve shooting in Naga Hammadi, Qena Governorate that left seven persons dead (six Christians and one off-duty Muslim police officer) and 11 others wounded (nine Copts, two Muslims). The suspects remained in detention throughout the reporting period and were being tried before an emergency state security court on charges of premeditated murder. At the end of the reporting period, the court was scheduled to resume in January 2011 to issue verdicts.

The trial of a 20-year-old Coptic man who allegedly raped a 12-year-old Muslim girl in November 2009 in Farshout, Qena Governorate, continued during the reporting period. The court was scheduled to issue a verdict in February 2011.

As in previous years, there were occasional claims of Muslim men forcing Coptic women and girls to convert to Islam. Reports of such cases were disputed and often included inflammatory allegations and categorical denials of kidnapping and rape. In November 2009 an international Christian advocacy group published a report regarding alleged cases of forced conversion; however, well-respected local human rights groups were unable to verify such cases and found it extremely difficult to determine whether compulsion was used, as most cases involved a female Copt who converted to Islam when she married a male Muslim. Reports of such cases almost never appear in the local media.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

Religious freedom is an important part of the bilateral dialogue. The right of religious freedom has been raised with senior government officials by all levels of the U.S. government, including the ambassador, members of Congress, the Secretary of State, the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and other Department of State and embassy officials. The embassy maintains formal contacts with the Office of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The embassy also regularly discusses religious freedom matters with other government officials, including governors and members of parliament. The ambassador has made public statements supporting religious freedom, interfaith understanding, and efforts toward harmony and equality among citizens of all religious groups. Specifically the embassy and other Department of State officials raised concerns with the government about the ongoing discrimination that Christians face in building and maintaining church properties despite Decree 291 of 2005; official discrimination against Bahais; arrests and harassment of Muslim citizens whose religious views deviate from the majority; and the government's treatment of Muslim citizens who wish to convert. During the UN Human Rights Council periodic review of the government's human rights record in February 2010, the U.S. delegation made a number of interventions regarding religious freedom.

U.S. embassy officials maintain an active dialogue with leaders of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Bahai religious communities, human rights groups, and other activists. U.S. embassy officials investigate complaints of official religious discrimination brought to its attention. They also discuss religious freedom matters with a range of contacts, including academics, businessmen, and citizens outside the capital area. U.S. officials actively challenge anti-Semitic articles in the media through discussions with editors in chief and journalists.

U.S. programs and activities support initiatives in several areas directly related to religious freedom, including funding for programs of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services that work with Coptic and Muslim community groups, as well as support for NGOs that monitor the country's media for occurrences of sectarian bias.

The U.S. government is working to strengthen civil society, supporting secular channels and the broadening of a civic culture that promotes religious tolerance, and supporting projects that promote tolerance and mutual respect between different religious communities as a means to promote religious freedom.

The embassy supports development of educational materials that encourage tolerance, diversity, and understanding of others, in both Arabic-language and English-language curricula. The embassy also supported programs that promoted tolerance among young religious leaders, interfaith understanding in communities that have recently suffered from religious strife, and civic and political participation by marginalized youth.

Embassy officials also worked with the Supreme Council of Antiquities to promote the conservation of cultural antiquities, including Islamic, Christian, and Jewish historical sites.