Sectarian tensions

Coptic delegations and human rights organizations met with members of the National Democratic Party (NDP) to present documents calling for unified laws on building houses of worship and to discuss issues of citizenship and equality.

Media Secretary for the NDP Alieddin Hilal, met with a Coptic delegation headed by Naguib Gobrael, head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization, and Nabil Abdel Malek, head of the Canadian-Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, at the NDP’s headquarters two days ago.

The delegation presented a document to be handed over to President Mubarak and leaders of the NDP. The delegation also called for an expedition of the unified law on building houses of worship and for greater religious freedom and representation for Copts.

However, due to time constraints, “it will be difficult to include a document on citizenship for discussion at the National Democratic Party’s sixth annual convention,” said Hilal.

At the beginning of their meeting, Gobrael said he came to discuss problems faced by the Copts in Egypt, stating “The NDP must adopt the unified law on houses of worship as a solution to daily sectarian tensions.”

“We do not want a quota for Copts. We want Copts to be represented by proportional lists.” There is clear discrimination against Copts, he said, adding that there are 23 universities, none of which have a Coptic president.

The recent constitutional amendment stated in its first article that the regime is based on citizenship, Hilal replied. Article 40 also states that all citizens are equal, regardless of color or religion, he added, stating that citizenship encompassed much more than just the issue of creed. “President Mubarak is occupied with citizenship issues, but a new issue cannot be listed on the convention’s agenda only hours before it is held,” he said, further explaining that the law on building houses of worship was still being examined.

In the course of the meeting, Nabil Abdel Malek said Egypt had to respond to calls from the international community. This statement outraged Hilal, who replied, “Do not threaten [us] with external pressure. Nobody can twist Egypt’s arm. We implement our own policy.”

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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