Religious Minorities in the Middle East


Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has responded to a Written Question tabled by Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh, who asked what steps the Foreign Office is taking to ensure the safety and rights of religious minorities in the Middle East. In his reply, the Minister stated that the Foreign Office regularly urges governments across the Middle East to uphold the rights of all religious minorities, and closely monitors the situation of minority religious groups.

After mentioning the Foreign Office’s recent representations to the Egyptian and Syrian Governments to protect minorities, the Minister stated that across the Middle East the situation is one of “exceptional seriousness” for many religious minorities.

 The Associated Press

Egyptian Christian teacher convicted of blasphemy

LUXOR, Egypt (AP) — An Egyptian court has convicted a Coptic Christian teacher of blasphemy but didn't hand down a prison sentence and only imposed a fine on her.

The court on Tuesday ruled that elementary schoolteacher Dimyana Abdel-Nour had insulted Islam. It ordered that she pay a fine of 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,000). Abdel-Nour was not in the courtroom for the verdict.

The case in the ancient southern city of Luxor began when three parents said their 10-year-olds complained at home, saying their teacher showed disgust when she spoke of Islam in class.

Angry Islamists protested the verdict outside the courthouse.

Egypt has witnessed a surge in blasphemy charges in recent months, widely seen as a reflection of the growing power of Islamists.

Blasphemy became a criminal offense under Egypt's new, Islamist-backed constitution.


Egypt Question


 Asked By Baroness Cox 

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the situation of religious minorities in Egypt since the Arab Spring.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, Egypt has witnessed an upsurge in sectarian violence during the transition period. Foreign Office Ministers have been clear throughout the events in Egypt that have taken place since the revolution that the freedom of religious belief needs to be protected and that the ability to worship in peace is a vital component of a democratic society. We continue to urge the Egyptian authorities to promote religious tolerance and to revisit policies that discriminate against anyone on the basis of their religion. We are also in contact with representatives of the Coptic Church and other religious groups.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his sympathetic reply. Is he aware that since the downfall of President Mubarak there have been attacks on Sufi shrines, the marginalisation of the Baha’is, hostility towards Muslim secularists and a massive escalation of assaults on Christian communities, including the Coptic cathedral, when security forces stood by doing nothing to deter the violence? In what specific ways have Her Majesty’s Government encouraged the Egyptian Government to create an environment of social cohesion, reduce tensions and promote mutual respect between adherents of different faiths so that they can live together as equal citizens in a nation that recognises their rights and values their citizenship?


APPG on International Religious Freedom Parliamentary Monitoring June 11th‏


Ø  Lord Wallace has responded to an Oral Question tabled by Crossbench Peer and member of the APPG on International Religious Freedom, Baroness Cox, who asked what assessment the Government have made of the situation of religious minorities in Egypt since the Arab Spring.

In his reply, Lord Wallace stated that since the upsurge in sectarian violence, the Foreign Office have been clear about the need to protect freedom of religious belief as the ability to worship in peace is a “vital component of a democratic society.” After stating that the Government will continue to urge the Egyptian authorities to “promote religious tolerance” and “revisit policies that discriminate against anyone on the basis of their religion,” Lord Wallace highlighted the Government’s contact with representatives of the Coptic Church and other religious groups in Egypt.




June 10, 2013


Egypt Breaks Faith on Religious Freedom

By Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon

In June 2012, more than 16 months following the Tahrir Square revolution and the end of Hosni Mubarak’s reign, Egypt went to the polls and elected Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi as its new president.

For many, this historic election was a hopeful step toward democracy and respect for human rights. Yet today, one year later, hope is flagging amid woeful neglect of pivotal rights, including religious freedom.

Members of the US Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on which we serve, saw this firsthand in February of this year. Upon arriving in Cairo, our delegation met with the US ambassador, high-level Egyptian officials, human rights defenders, women’s rights advocates, Muslim religious leaders and members of minority religious communities.

During this visit, USCIRF confirmed that Egypt is failing to meet international religious-freedom standards. In our 2013 annual report, released on April 30, we elaborated on our findings.

Among our concerns are Egypt’s new constitution, a code forbidding blasphemy, an impunity problem, restrictions on building places of worship and problems regarding religious identification and conversion.

While Cairo’s constitution affirms “freedom of belief,” it mentions only the right to practice religious “rites” and establish places of worship. It appears to limit even this narrow freedom to Egypt’s three “divine” religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, excluding Baha’is, atheists and agnostics, among others.


Egypt's President Approves 17 Year-old Church Building Permit

(AINA) -- President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree yesterday allowing the building of a new church in city of New Nubaria, in Beheirah province, the first such decree of his presidency. The 300 square meter church will be called Church of Apostles Peter and Paul. The Coptic Orthodox church applied for permission to build a church in Nobaria 17 years ago.

The Church's spokesman thanked the President for his decree, while Copts had a different reaction raising suspicion as to its timing.


Egypt: Hundreds march for President Mohammad Mursi protest

Protesters claim to have garnered more than two million signatures

Cairo: Hundreds of people marched on Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday calling for Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammad Mursi to resign and demanding early elections, AFP correspondents and local media reported.

The demonstration was called by a number of opposition groups, including the Al Dustur party of former United Nations atomic watchdog chief Mohammad Al Baradei and the April 6 movement which spearheaded the 2011 uprising to oust then president Husni Mubarak.


Egyptian Christian Rights Groups Request EU Investigate Egypt

By Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) -- Acting on behalf of the European Union of Coptic Organizations for Human Rights (EUCOHR), The Coptic Dutch Association submitted yesterday an official memorandum to the European Parliament to open an international investigation into Dr. Mohamed Morsi, President of the Republic, and the Egyptian Interior Ministry because into the unlawful imprisonment of Christians.

This action was prompted by an Egyptian court in the Upper Egyptian town of Beba ordering the detention of the parents and cousin of a Coptic man, Ebram Andrawes, who allegedly disappeared with a 22-year-old Muslim girl, Rana El Shazly, at the end of February after she converted to Christianity, got married and fled to Turkey.


Egypt Investment Collapsing as Citizens Turn Into Vigilantes

By Tarek El-Tablawy, Mariam Fam and Salma El Wardany

Egypt Arms With Bootleg Guns as Vigilante Justice Replaces Law 

In a dimly lit Cairo workshop, Hussein spins a metal pipe on a lathe, sending sparks flying. In a few minutes, it’ll become the barrel of a gun. Sometime after that it will join the growing arsenal of illegal weapons on the streets of Egypt.

Artisans who make machine parts by day are turning into bootleg gunmakers at night, says Hussein, 54, who asked not to be identified by his full name for fear of prosecution. He only sells to a middleman because “trust the wrong person and you’re going to jail.” He can make as much as 3,000 pounds ($435) per gun -- about 20 percent of what a legally licensed one costs.

“Fear is big business nowadays,” Hussein said. “People buy the guns because they’re afraid. People buy the guns because they want to scare others. We’re in a jungle now.”

Egypt’s foreign reserves give cause for concern

Egypt foreign reserves lost value at an accelerated rate last month, even as a cash injection from abroad raised the fund’s net worth for the first time since October.

Egypt’s foreign currency reserves stood at $14.42bn at the end of April – up from a 10-year low of $13.4bn at the end of March. The cash and gold reserves, critical for financing imports, were boosted by $2bn in cash deposits by oil-rich neighbouring Libya, according to central bank information cited on Wednesday by the state-owned Ahram newspaper’s website.

The Egyptian stock market’s benchmark EGX30 index advanced half a per cent on the news.

Administrator has sent a message to members with the following characteristics:

The White House Office of the Press Secretary sent CopticWorld a message from President Obama for the occassion of Easter to forward to all of our members:

This weekend, Michelle and I extend our best wishes to members of the Orthodox Christian community here in America and around the world as they observe Holy Friday and the Feast of the Resurrection. For millions of Orthodox Christians, this is a joyful time. But it’s also a reminder of the sacrifice Christ made so that we might have eternal life. His decision to choose love in the face of hate; hope in the face of despair is an example we should always strive to follow. But it’s especially important to remember this year, as members of the Orthodox community have been confronted with persecution and violence, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. For centuries, the region and the world has been enriched by the contributions of Orthodox communities in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Syr ia, and Iraq. As a nation, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting universal human rights including the freedom of religion. And in this season of hope and restoration, we celebrate the transformational power of sacrificial love.


Egypt’s president reaching compromise with senior judges to scrap contentious law

By Associated Press

CAIRO — The Egyptian president’s office indicated Sunday a compromise has been reached with the judiciary to defuse an uproar over a proposed law that would have forced out thousands of the country’s most senior judges.

Just three days earlier, the country’s Islamist-led parliament pushed ahead with the disputed bill that would have lowered the retirement age for judges from 70 to 60. That would affect nearly a quarter of Egypt’s 13,000 judges and prosecution officials.

Sky News 

One Boston marathon bombing suspect has been shot dead and another is on the loose, police have said.

It follows a shootout in Watertown between the two suspects and dozens of armed officers after a policeman was shot dead at Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, nine miles from Boston city centre.

Boston Police commissioner Ed Davis said: "What we are looking for right now is a suspect consistent with the description of suspect number two - the white-capped individual who was involved in Monday's bombing of the Boston Marathon.


Egyptian activists tell govt religious identification 'None of your business'


Photo of an Egyptian identity card that reads: "woman - and that's all (instead of 'religion') - single."

In Egypt, identity cards feature a citizen’s name, picture, profession… and religion! A group of young Egyptian activists feels that this last bit of information is irrelevant, and have launched a Facebook campaign against what they see as government intrusiveness.


IMF team leaves Egypt without broad backing from opposition for government’s economic plan

The IMF said in a statement that its delegation met with a range of political figures and Cabinet officials during the nearly two week-long visit that ended late Monday. In previous, shorter trips, the IMF has only focused on meeting with government officials.

The country’s political polarization has further delayed reaching agreement around the deal.

Finance Minister El-Morsi Hegazi, who will meet with officials in Washington D.C. this weekend for annual IMF and World Bank meetings, said the government’s meetings with the international lender were “fruitful.”

 Egypt's Christian Pope blasts Islamist president


CAIRO (AP) — The leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church on Tuesday blasted the country's Islamist president over his handling of recent deadly sectarian violence, including an attack on the main cathedral in Cairo.
The remarks by Pope Tawadros II underscore rising Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt. They were his first direct criticism of President Mohammed Morsi since he was enthroned in November as the spiritual leader of Egypt's Orthodox Christians. They are also likely to fuel political turmoil that has been roiling the country since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak two years ago.


Egypt calls in favors as credit crunch hits key imports

A man is reflected on a door of an exchange bureau in central Cairo, March 25, 2013. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

By Julia Payne, Sarah McFarlane and Yasmine Saleh

LONDON/CAIRO | Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:35pm EDT

LONDON/CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt has hit breaking point in its ability to pay for imports of oil, wheat and other basic commodities, forcing it to call in diplomatic favors or seek easy payment terms from suppliers who hope for future advantage in return.


Egypt mourns Mohamed Yousri Salama

Political figures from across political spectrum offer condolences on death of Mohamed Yousri Salama who died on Sunday aged 39

Mohamed Yousri Salama, one of the Constitution Party founders


Political activist and scholar Mohamed Yousri Salama has died aged 39 from a stomach condition.


Salama was spokesperson for the Salafist Nour Party when it emerged as a significant political force after the January 25 Revolution.

He resigned from the party in August 2011 less than three months before it came second to the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt's first post-revolution parliamentary elections.

I cannot remain the spokesman for a party that does not represent my views, Salama said at the time.


Egypt women's council slams Islamist rejection of UN rights document

Head of Egypt's Women's Rights Council criticises Muslim Brotherhood's negative stance regarding controversial UN declaration on women's rights

Egypt's official women's rights council says Islamists who reject a UN blueprint to combat violence against women and girls are promoting the idea that Islam favors violence against women. 

Last week, 131 countries at the United Nations approved the non-binding document to combat violence against women and girls. Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood strongly objected to the document, saying it clashed with Islamic principles and sought to destroy the family.


Egypt is not lost to Islamists: RAND report  

The think tank's most recent report on Egypt is to be launched today in the US Congress  

After analysing post-revolution voting in Egypt, RAND, a US think tank, reports that Islamists are losing ground and recommends the US not interfere in Egyptian politics.


'Voting Patterns in Post-Mubarak Egypt,' issued by RAND, a non-profit organisation that provides research and analysis to US policymakers, analyses four major votes that followed the 25 January revolution and identifies areas within Egypt where Islamists run strongest and, conversely, where non-Islamists are most competitive.

In a press briefing in the US Congress RAND will announce the publication of their new report.

The report reveals that Islamists showed their strongest performance in Upper Egypt, North Sinai and the "sparsely populated" governorates in the west, while non-Islamist parties proved popular in Cairo, Port Said, South Sinai and the Red Sea governorates.

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