Amidst Slaughter of Christians, Sisi Boasts of Egypt's Human Rights Record
It’s always something when the leaders of nations known for abusing human rights preach to others about the need to respect human rights. Take Egyptian President Sisi’s recent admonitions during his address before the United Nations. After saying, “We need to address the major shortcomings in the international community’s handling of human rights issues,” he proceeded to criticize the UN because “the Palestinian people were denied their legitimate rights to live in dignity and peace.” At the same time, he boasted of how “Egypt has a solid constitutional foundation for the protection of human rights,” adding:
Major strides have been achieved in the field of women and youth empowerment. Women hold 25% of the ministerial posts and more than 15% of seats in parliament. International youth conferences, which are held annually in Egypt in November, have also become a regular forum for the youth to communicate and raise their concerns. We are determined to continue to accord high priority to the issues of women economic empowerment, and the causes of the youth, science, technology … as a practical example of our commitment to the promotion of human rights in a comprehensive manner.
Glaringly missing from Sisi’s “comprehensive” plans is any mention of “commitment to the promotion of human rights” in the context of religious freedom and equality. The reason for this is simple: as with most Muslim countries, non-Muslim minorities are simply not accorded the same religious freedom and equality as their Muslim counterparts.
This is even enshrined in Egypt’s Constitution itself. Article 2 states, “Islam is the religion of the State ... The principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation.” And, as it happens, Islamic Sharia is emphatic that non-Muslims are at best to be treated as second-class citizens.
As one example, Sharia is clear that nations conquered (or “opened”) by Islam are banned from building non-Islamic houses of worship. In Egypt, which was Christian majority before Islam invaded and subjugated it in the Seventh Century (discussed in detail in Chapter 1 of Sword and Scimitar), the building of churches is virtually impossible. First Christians are confronted by various legal hurdles in their way to opening a church; these often take years if not decades to overcome. (Needless to say, such red tape does not apply to mosques, ten of which are reportedly opened per week in Egypt.)
In one detailed study, Coptic researcher Adel Guindy estimated that “there is one church per 5,800 Orthodox Copts,” thereby forcing many Christians “to travel far distances outside of their towns for religious services (baptism, marriage, funerals, and regular mass).” On the other hand, based on the number of mosques in Egypt (about 114,000) and estimated Muslim population of about 80 million, there is about one mosque for every 700 Muslims. In other words, even after taking account of the ratio between Muslims to Christians, there are still about eight mosques for every one church. The discrepancy could not be clearer.