Challenges to Religious Freedom in Egypt

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an OSI grantee, recently highlighted violent incidents and religious restrictions that show continued tension between the Muslim and Coptic Christian communities in Egypt. EIPR’s Quarterly Report on Freedom of Religion and Belief in Egypt, covering April through June 2009, documents six incidents of sectarian violence, as well as the security agencies’ use of arbitrary and wide-scale arrests, unlawful incarceration, and administrative detention under the Emergency Law to address religious disputes. EIPR is one of the few local organizations working on freedom of religion and belief in the region.

In addition to the incidents above, two small explosions occurred outside a Coptic Orthodox archbishopric in Cairo, and security agencies forcibly closed two buildings that Christians used to hold prayers in two other districts. According to the report, the Samalut public prosecution office also investigated a Coptic man for "holding religious rites with no permit in his house" in the village of Dabbous. Other violations by security agencies included blocking two websites belonging to the Salafi school, which advocates a literal interpretation of Islam, and imposing an arbitrary travel ban on a man who was detained in 2007 for adhering to the "Qur'ani" school, which questions the veracity of the Prophet's tradition.