Yesterday the Forum for Independent Egyptian Human Rights Organizations submitted a memo to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif asking that he form a commission under the cabinet to assume the mission of activating constitutional guarantees for citizenship, equality, and equal opportunity for all Egyptians, regardless of religion, belief, ethnicity, or place of birth.
In its memo, the Forum stressed the need for the commission to include independent figures among its members to represent those segments of society that face discrimination or marginalization, such as Copts, Shiites, Baha’is, Nubians, and Sinai Bedouins, as well as representatives of human rights organizations.
The memo, signed by 14 rights groups, aims to encourage official state efforts to address the sectarian crises that pose a real threat to the coexistence of Muslims and Copts within the framework of respect for equality, the repudiation of discrimination and exclusion, and respect for religious liberties. A clear departure must be made from the current sectarian climate, which is increasingly stoking hatred, bigotry, and religious extremism.
In the memo, the Forum noted that the commission’s mandate should include drafting legal proposals to entrench equality and prevent discrimination, advising on problems resulting from discrimination, and monitoring state institution’s observance of the equal right to build and restore houses of worship and occupy senior positions in state and public institutions, including the security establishment.
The commission should also assess and monitor the performance of investigating and security authorities as they deal with incidents of sectarian tension and violence and their compliance with a single standard of law in handling these cases. In addition, it will monitor and evaluate the performance of the media in confronting religious hatred, and assess and monitor the state as it undertakes a thorough review of academic curricula aimed at elevating the humanistic values common to all religions and faiths and strengthening the values of tolerance and mutual respect between adherents of different religions, faiths, and ideas.
The memo stated that there must an end to arbitrary security interference in the freedom of religious belief, stressing the state’s duty to ensure protection for all individuals to worship and deal transparently with cases of conversion. All forms of harassment and pressure brought to bear on people because of their religion or belief must end.
The memo added that the ability of the state to contain sectarianism and put an end to sectarian violence and tension depends to a large extent on restoring the pillars of the civil state that have been eroded over the past decades as a result of the increasing use and abuse of religion and religious institutions in politics and the public sphere. The Forum urged the state to stop deploying religion in the public and political sphere, which is better occupied in a democratic society by political parties and civil society institutions. The state must also stop using religious institutions to play political roles that go beyond their mandates. Similarly, religious institutions should produce modern religious discourses that reject religious exclusion, extremism, and hatred and promote enlightenment and moderation. The memo encouraged religious institutions to enlist one of their own qualified members to monitor publications they release or any speech for its incompatible with the values of citizenship or incites to religious hatred.
To read the entire memo, see:
- 1. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
- 2. Arab Network for Human Rights Information
- 3. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- 4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- 5. Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services
- 6. Group for Human Rights Legal Aid
- 7. Hesham Mubarak Law Center
- 8. Land Center for Human Rights
- 9. New Woman Research Center
- 10. The Arab Penal Reform Organization
- 11. The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
- 12. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
- 13. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- 14. The Human Rights Association for the Assistance for the Prisoners