Freedom Of Religion In Egypt
The Egyptian 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 Shari'a (Islamic law) is the primary source of legislation.
Although there were some positive steps in support of religious freedom, the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government declined overall during the period covered by this report. Members of non-Muslim religious minorities officially recognized by the Government generally worship without harassment and maintain links with coreligionists in other countries. However, members of religious groups that are not recognized by the Government, particularly the Baha'i Faith, experience personal and collective hardship. See Egyptian identification card controversy.
A 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 is under appeal. Separate court rulings provided for 13 Christian born converts to Islam to obtain identity documents indicating their conversion back to Christianity and allowed some Baha'is to obtain civil documents. However, the courts included requirements effectively identifying the Christian converts and Baha'is as apostates, potentially exposing them, if implemented, to risk of significant discrimination by both governmental and societal agents. In addition, a lower court held that the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion does not apply to Baha'is.
Furthermore, governmental authorities detained some converts from Islam to Christianity, some religious freedom advocates, and some Christian children of parents who converted to Islam. The Government again failed to redress laws and governmental practices that discriminate against Christians, effectively allowing their discriminatory effects and their modeling effect on society to become further entrenched. According to some observers, police responses to some incidents of sectarian violence were slow.
There continued to be religious discrimination and sectarian tension in society during the period covered by this report. There were several violent incidents in Upper Egypt, including an attack by Bedouins on the Abu Fana monastery, arson attacks on Christian-owned shops in Armant, and an attack on a Coptic Church and Coptic-owned shops in Esna. Muhammad Higazy, who converted from Islam to Christianity, received death threats and went into hiding with his wife after his case received wide attention in the Arabic language media.
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