Egypt approves draft law on unified places of worship

During a meeting on Wednesday, the Egyptian government approved a unified law on the construction of places of worship. Under the law, governors will be authorized to license the building, demolishing, replacing, restoring, or modifying of places of worship, as well as associated expansions or repairs, so long as they follow certain conditions.

According to a government statement, the legislation will be put up for public discussion before final approval.

For decades, Egyptian Copts have been calling for a law to unify the standards and conditions of construction for both Muslim and non-Muslim places of worship. The law would replace the “Hamayouni Decree", which is a clause in Egyptian law regulating church construction and maintenance, and which dates from Ottoman rule. The decree stipulates the need to obtain prior approval from the chief executive – the president in modern times – to build a new church or to expand or restore an existing one.

Former President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled on 11 February, had delegated the authority to grant permits for building, expanding or renovating churches to governors. The governors, in turn, depended on reports made by the infamous State Security Investigation Service, which was dissolved in March.

Copts view the church-building restrictions as discriminatory, especially since there are no restrictions on mosque construction. During recent times, a number of sectarian clashes have centered on the expansion of churches or the building of new ones.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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