Leadership Council for Human Rights

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Egypt’s Secular Paradox

February 23, 2006
Odayssat, Egypt – The Washington Post today featured a story exploring the relationship between Egypt’s growing openness and its increasingly tense Muslim-Christian relations.
In it, Post reporter Daniel Williams chronicled a series of sectarian battles between Muslims and Christian Copts, writing, “Repeated instances of violence have brought to light a persistent paradox of Egyptian life: Although officially a secular state, Egypt is in many ways an Islamic entity in which non-Muslims are accommodated but not exactly on an equal footing.”

Most recently, a mob of Muslims in Odayssat invaded a Coptic neighborhood where a church had been operating under the guise of a ‘guest house.’ Under a recently amended Egyptian law, construction of a church requires a governor’s approval – previously, President Mubarak himself had to sign off on any such building requests. Church construction is a primary source of strife between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

While sectarian violence has long plagued Egypt, the new political landscape has changed the way such incidents play out. Williams reported:
“If the tensions are not new, the willingness of the Copts of Odayssat to stand up is. In part, their reaction to the police inspection exemplifies an increasingly common byproduct of Egypt's two-year-long wave of openness and dissent. Such ferment is putting the quarter-century leadership of President Hosni Mubarak to a test at a time when he is also under pressure from the United States to democratize.”
For the full story, click here.


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