Dear all

I would, with great pleasure, like to inform you that The Egyptian Rep. in the UN Minorities Conference 2005 was "flattened" in Geneva yesterday 31/5/05.

I am glad to say 4 Copts were present including myself, all made 10 min. interventions each, all statements were prepared in advance to give the Egyptian government chance to respond, all very strong statements. Egyptian Government Representative response was poor, a long history lesson and that we are not Minority "which is wrong, the Russian Member replied to by saying any numerical Minority group which has grievances, which they believe is due to being Minority group, should be treated as such", also in reply to Egyptian Government Representative suggesting discussing Coptic problem through the "right channels and venues" meaning Egypt, the Chairman replied to him that "here is the right channel and venue, i.e the UN"

 

The reply to the Egyptian government response was delegated to me on behalf of the all 4 of us, and God helped me to literally flatted the Egyptian Government Representative and to proof he is wrong or lying, his response to my reply was very poor, concentrating on no harm would happen to Mamdouh or Lydia when they go back to Egypt, Mamdouh the president of Al-Kalema Centre is in and out of Egypt all the time with out harassing. As to the personal status law and the Islamic Jurisprudence interpretations he replioed that he "IS NOT SPECIALISED IN THE SUBJECT" therefore he cannot answer (why was he there then), and El-Kosheh was started between merchants.....and did not reply to other subjects...very poor response, the man was pleading with Mamdouh to stop me from respoding to him before I replied but we did, thank God we were given the chance.

 

Here is the transcript of my two statement

 

Regards

Ibrahim Habib

 

The statement / intervention to WGM 2005

Freedom of Religion

 

My name is Habib Ibrahim, Member of Al-Kalema centre for Human Rights, Cairo.

While the Egyptian constitution claims to provide for freedom of religion in articles 40 and 46, yet Article 2 stipulates that Islam is the religion of the State and Sharia is the primary source of legislation, thus, rendering Articles 40 and 46 subordinate to Islamic Sharia law, subsequently non-Muslims are treated as second class citizens. The state duty is to defend its citizenís rights not citizens good. For the State to assume any moral or religious stand based on the majorityís belief would immediately encroach on minorities rights and casts great doubt on the state as neutral body.

 

While the Egyptian government has a prescribed procedure and official recognition under the Egyptian law for a non-Muslim to convert to Islam under Islamic Sharia Law, there is no similar process for the reverse i. e for a Muslim to become non-Muslim, which is not permitted under Islam, which contravenes the Freedom of Belief according to Article 18. Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. The lack of conversion procedure from Islam creates endless difficulties and hardship for Muslim converts.

 

Also there is restriction on building places of worship for non-Muslims, permissions to build new churches are restricted and obtained if any with great difficulties, for example in Manqateen village, Samalout district there are 5000 Christians live with out church so far, the local people started to build their church in 1978 when Islamic fundamentalists attacked the church under construction, the police then stopped the building till now for security reasons. Local Christians have to conduct their weddings and funeral services in the village streets with no dignity.Photographs of the desecrated church and the street weddings are provided.

 

There are cases of forced conversion of underage Christian girls where police side with the kidnapper and does not hand back the minor to her family, under Egyptian law a female canít marry without her family consent under the age of 21.

The Copts are being excluded and marginalised from participation in the Egyptian public life, culture, Media, high government offices, (police, army, Governors of Counties, universities, or even heads of local districts, judiciary, diplomatic mission 1%).

 

Egyptian police does not protect Christians if they are killed by muslims, famous for it, for example is El-Kosheh 2000 when 21 innocent Christians were hunted down and killed in their homes or fields, not a single person was convicted other than Sorial Gaed Ishaak, a Christianimprisoned for 3 years for insulting Islam.

 

I would like to recommend the following:

 

1.   The Egyptian government should extend the freedom of conversion procedure to cover conversion from any religion including Islam.

2.   The Egyptian Police should not be involved in the conversion process, but rather a civil religious committee from both sides.

3.   Removal of all indication to one‚Äôs religion from the Identity cards and the official papers.

4.   To change second article of the Egyptian constitution to provide equality to all Egyptian citizens.

 

Mr Chairman, these violations contravenes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; Article I Para. 1&2, Article II Para 1/2/3, Article III Para 1&2, Article IX Para 1/2/3/4 Article X Para 1.

 

Thank you

 

 

 

Reply to the Egyptian Government Rep. by Mr Habib Ibrahim 31/5

 

Thanks Mr Chairman

I would like to avoid using semantics or give long history lesson like my friend the Egyptian Government Rep did, as this wastes time and deviates from the main issues.

 

I was a little worried regarding some veiled threat when he levelled a charge of defaming Islam, I would like to say, categorically that non of us intended to or indeed did defame Islam. We believe in total respect to every ones religion. I am a bit worried about Mamdouh and Lydia when they go back to Egypt, just in case the Egyptian authorities charge them for defaming Islam or imprison them. I would like to invoke the protection rights of the Human Rights worker to be used to protect them to ensure their safety.

 

Getting to the points, I would like be very specific. I would like to ask my friend Egyptian Government Rep, is there specific procedure to convert from Islam which is recognised and legally binding in Egypt? Also In case of a Christian wife embraces Islam, what happen to her husband? Does not he get asked either to accept and embrace Islam or get divorced regardless of sequences to the family and the children? Is not that true that a Muslim woman can not marry a Christian man?Even if that not written in Law books but the judges rule by Islamic jurisprudence books (in accordance with Egyptian constitution article2) this is taught in Law Schools and I have got examples here from Law Books and court cases for inspection if you would like to.

 

Then regards the church buildings, according to the British House of Commons debate on the Copts 14 June 2000, the total number of churches is about 2400 serving 10,000,000 to ď 15,000,000, a church per 6200 while mosques are over 82,000 for a population of about 60,000,000 a mosque per 750 approx. (so how come 1500 permits have been given as Egyptian Government Rep claims).

 

A stark example of obstruction to church building is Manqateen church where the application was made in 1977, I have got photographs of the church and how people conduct the prayers on the dead and the weddings in the streets where there is no dignity what so ever.

 

Regarding the protection of Christians who were killed in sectarian strife, the government is totally biased in this case because the police does not give protection, a stark example is the massacre of El-Kosheh 2000 when 21 innocent Christians were massacred, not a single person was condemned for the killing, the court decision was challenged twice to the higher level and the perpetrators were exonerated. The blood of twnty one Christians cries for justice, there are case of ElzawiaElHamara, Sanaboo, ElzawiaElHamara22,Sanaboo 13, Tema 12,AbuKorkas 13 not a single perpetrator of Islamic fundamentalists was caught and put in prison, there is degree of impunity, I repeat a degree of impunity applied by the government, this has been too obvious and has been going on for over twenty years or 25 years , Muslims fundamentalist when they attack Christians they know they will not go to prison.

 

As regards to the public life, there are 26 governorates with 26 governors in Egypt, not a single Christians also their secretaries all Muslims, all head of police their deputies all Muslims all colleges dean a bout 500 all Muslims, head of universities all Muslims, I know there are two ministers who are Christians then you could come and tell us there are two Christian ministers ok there are 3 or 4 ambassadors ok I accept, but this does not represent the population ratio, and I would say that the Christians are not less educated than any body else they are like any body else and educated like everybody else.

 

Without any history lessons and without any semantics to diffuse the issue, we just need justice and equality applied to all Muslims and Christians a like in Egypt, I gave you exact numbers and examples and I would like to see what is you answer to that, I have got supportive documents to support my case and thank you for listening, thanks you Mr Chairman and thanks to every one.