Government ‘withholding information about law on places of worship’

Amir Ramzy, a member of the cabinet-appointed National Justice Committee, has said that the government is withholding information about the unified law on places of worship expected to be issued within days.

The committee is responsible for combating sectarian strife in Egypt.
Ramzy told Al-Masry Al-Youm the has government refused to show the committee the final draft of the long-awaited law.
"I asked the legal adviser to the cabinet [to inform the commission about] the recent cabinet discussions on the unified law on places of worship and legalizing unlicensed churches, but he refused to give me any details," Ramzy said.
Copts, who make up to 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 81 million, have been calling for such a law, which would ease the discrimination they face in building churches.  
Coptic Pope Shenouda III previously rejected a draft law prepared by the National Council for Human Rights when it was presented to him in June. He had reservations regarding nine articles.
The pope objected to the stipulation that building or restoring places of worship should be by prior permission from the competent authorities and the leadership of the respective religious denomination.
He also rejected the stipulation that places of worship be proportional in number to the size of the respective religious population in a given area.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf created the committee, which is comprised of Muslims and Christians, in response to the deadly church attack in the working class Cairo district of Imbaba in May. 
Members of the committee said this month that they issued two recommendations for the government in order to avoid what they called a “predictable sectarian crisis” after Muslims in Aswan, in Upper Egypt, forcefully prevented a church renovation.
The incident lead to Copts protesting on 9 October at Maspero in Cairo, to which the military responded violently, killing 27 protestors.
Ramzy said the cabinet deals with the National Justice Committee as if it were a hostile party, and not as a helpful and cabinet-affiliated body.

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