Human rights figures call for end to sectarianism through legislation

A number of human rights figures demanded the proposition of freedom of religion legislation at a seminar organized yesterday by the Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance (CEWLA).

Event participants urged the Egyptian government to confront heightened sectarian tensions through providing a public space for enlightened voices that support freedom of belief.

During the seminar, the former secretary for the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), Ahmed Kamal Abul Maged, expressed readiness to mediate a recent dispute between Mohamed Salim al-Awwa, a prominent Islamic thinker, and Father Bishoy, secretary for the Coptic Ecclesiastical Council, which was triggered by remarks exchanged between the two in the media over the issue of converts to both religions.

Abul Maged held the government responsible for the sectarian feud that stemmed from the Kamilia Shehata and Wafaa Qustantine cases, both Christian females who are believed by the Coptic community to have been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam–whereas Muslims claim that the two wished to convert to Islam but were prevented from doing so, and subsequently detained, by the church. Abul Maged also accused the government of delaying the enactment of the long-debated unified law on places of worship.

Gamal Eid, a rights activist, demanded the removal of the second article of the Egyptian Constitution, which says that Islam is the country’s official religion. He said there was discrimination against Copts and claimed that al-Azhar is hiding extremists in its quarters.

Meanwhile, the ecclesiastical council’s youth secretary, Anba Moussa, declared the end of the church’s dispute with al-Awwa, who retracted his recent claims that churches in Egypt are repositories of large weapons caches.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.


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