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No unified code for churches and mosques
Christian and Muslim representatives fail to agree on the basis for a unified code governing the construction of houses of worship in Egypt
Dina Ezzat , Sunday 16 Oct 2011
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St Mark
A soldier stands guard near the Saint Mary church which was set on fire during clashes between Muslims and Christians on 8 May in the Giza neighbourhood of Imbaba (Photo: Reuters)
A week after the massacre of over 20 Copts during a protest over attacks on churches, Copts are still looking for a legal framework for the construction and protection of their churches.

A Christian-Muslim committee with high level clergy and intellectuals failed Sunday to pass a draft for the long debated unified code for the construction of houses of worship. Beit Al-Aila (Family House), with the grand sheikh of Al-Azhar and Pope Shenouda, the Orthodox patriarch, in attendance, only went as far recommending that a law to "regulate the construction of churches" be drafted and adopted.

The committee, which met at the headquarters of Al-Azhar, called on Christian authorities in Egypt to provide recommendations for a law to regulate the construction of churches, in order for it to replace the current Byzantine code which denies Copts the right to build churches except with a decree of the head of state or his representative.

No specific framework was offered. However, an informed source told Ahram Online that the ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) has initiated discussions with Pope Shenouda, who missed today's meeting, to sound out his views on the matter.

The Egyptian Orthodox Church represents the vast majority of Egyptian Christians. In turn, Copts constitute some five to 10 per cent of the total population, depending on the count that is sometimes made to exclude or include migrating Copts, and depending on whether the figures are offered by state officials or sources of the Coptic Church.

Meanwhile, Beit Al-Aila called for all "licensed churches" closed down for a variety of reasons, mostly the desperate need for reconstruction, to be reopened. Other churches that lack the required license should be examined case by case to allow for the regulation of their operation, recommended the same meeting this afternoon.

According to sources who spoke to Ahram Online, the rejection of a unified building code for houses of worship is essentially on account of the grand sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayyeb. El-Tayyeb insists that there can be no regulation on the construction of mosques, which he says are frequented five times a day by worshipers, unlike the case for churches.

The grand sheikh, however, is of the opinion that churches should be built "in line with the needs" of the Christian community. This means that churches should only be built in villages that have a sizeable Christian community.

The Orthodox Church also also had some reservations on the draft of a unified code, especially in relation to the inadequate penalty it stipulates for attacks on or enforced demolition of churches. It also objects to the imprisonment penalty that the draft law stipulates for priests who expand construction of churches without extra permits, in view of the "sensitivity of imprisoning clergymen".

According to press statements made by Mustafa El-Fiqi, a member of Beit Al-Aila (Family House), this afternoon's meeting thought it was best to separate the regulation of churches and mosques, to avoid compounding an already volatile situation.

Sources close to Pope Shenouda said that the Orthodox patriarch is willing to consent to a "fair set of regulations for the construction and reconstruction of churches, irrespective of the issue of mosques altogether".

"We are not in a position to ask for equal rights and we really don’t mind how many mosques there are; we are just hoping we could have some fair regulations for the construction and reconstruction of churches," the source said on condition of anonymity.





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Mohamed, Cairo
17-10-2011 01:59pm
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do we need more houses of worship?
Egypt seems to be obsessed over religion, at the expense of being a country united in the reality of the humanity of all Egyptians. We do not need more houses of worship, We have a population too occupied with prayer and worship rituals and religious labels, which does nothing to help the country achieve its potential. Prayer and wodoo2 5 times a day is not necessary and wastes time that could be spent working and jump starting our economy.
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Hannibal
17-10-2011 11:45am
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Theo-fascism
Why there can be no regulation on the construction of mosques ??? what kind of theo-fascism Is that ??? There must be one law for everybody including budhistes ,ismaleist ,Shia and christians and other religions religions
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Hannibal
17-10-2011 11:45am
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Theo-fascism
Why there can be no regulation on the construction of mosques ??? what kind of theo-fascism Is that ??? There must be one law for everybody including budhistes ,ismaleist ,Shia and christians and other religions religions
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expat
17-10-2011 11:28am
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funny issue
well as my name states,I am not egyptian but for me the same people,who demolish here churches,make it difficult by any possible way for copts to build,rebuild or renovate,are the same people(especially the hardcore ones)demanding and demanding,complaining etc in europe,that they want this and that and they always get it.... this shows,that moslems are not clear,they demand on one hand and discriminate on the other. best regards expat
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anon
17-10-2011 11:10am
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egypt giving competition to saudi arabia
egypt is fast becoming one of the most religiously intolerant countries in the world. they victimise and treat the minority copts as if they do not belong to egypt. majority of muslims say they are against such abuse of minority, but they also in their heart do not mind the copts getting killed or abused, and keep quiet. very sad situation, arising from ignorance, and blind and wrong belief of religions
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Abibaal
16-10-2011 11:24pm
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Unified law
Stop discrimination once for ever. There must be one and unique law for mosquee churhes.
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Abibaal
16-10-2011 11:24pm
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Unified law
Stop discrimination once for ever. There must be one and unique law for mosquee churhes.
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Waleed
16-10-2011 10:02pm
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Why would any one build a house of worship?
Although I agree that a reasonably fair, clear and straight forward law that regulates the building of churches would be a great advancement in the current atmosphere in Egypt, i still am confused by the reasoning of the whole issue. The excesses have been on the Muslim side even more than the Christian one. We have witnessed in Egypt the random way through which random mosques appeared encouraged by tax breaks for property owners or territorial claims next to churches. I think this is a good time to regulate this issue with reasonable conditions that require proof of utility, and architectural appropriateness (size). Rules that take into account distance traveled to attend service or to pray. Maybe then this war over symbols would end and we can go back to utility over territorial dog fighting.
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