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Constitution committee eliminates all barriers to building churches in Egypt
Committee votes to lift restrictions on church building, postpones decision on article stipulating 'absolute freedom of belief' for all citizens
Passant Darwish, Sunday 27 Oct 2013
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Egypt
A minaret of a mosque is seen beside a church in Cairo February 23, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's 50-member committee tasked with amending the suspended 2012 constitution adopted on Sunday a transitional article that will cancel existing restrictions regulating the building of new churches.

According to Ahram Arabic news website, the committee also initially adopted an article [47] which stipulates "absolute freedom of belief" for Egyptian citizens and endows the state with the responsibility to ensure free practice of religion.

However, under pressure from representatives of Egypt's highest Sunni authority Al-Azhar, which has demanded that freedom of religion be restricted to the three monotheistic beliefs, the committee opted to postpone its vote on article 47 until Monday.

Sources at the meeting told Ahram that representatives of the church, who have until now strongly supported complete freedom of religion, sided with Al-Azhar's objection.

Christians, who make up 10 to15 percent of Egypt's 85 million, need special presidential permits in order to build or renovate churches in Egypt.

Supporters of equal rights for all citizens have long demanded the freedom to build and renovate churches without restraint in order to ensure parity between Egypt's religions. 

Islamic extremists have attacked tens of churches, destroying many, in the past 15 years.

Following the police's bloody dispersal of two sit-ins supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi, churches and Christian homes and businesses have been attacked nationwide.

Amnesty International, a London-based rights group, says that upwards of 200 Christian-owned properties have been attacked and 43 churches torched or seriously damaged across the country since Morsi's ouster.

None of Egypt's previous constitutions included a law to regulate the building of mosques.

Cairo, the country's capital, is known as the "City of a thousand minarets" for its extensive ancient Islamic architecture. 

Articles regarding religion have been especially contentious during the committee's drafting session.

Article 47, allowing for complete freedom of religion, is controversial because it could be extended to other Egyptian minorities, such as Egypt's Baha'is and Shia Muslims.

Shias and Baha'is are not allowed to practice their beliefs in public and have suffered sectarian attacks by Sunni extremists over the years. 

In June, shortly before Morsi's ouster, an angry mob led by Salafist sheikhs torched and attacked houses of Shias in the small village of Zawyat Abu Musalam in Giza governorate, killing four citizens, including a prominent Shia figure.

Last Sunday, five people were killed and at least 17 others injured after unknown assailants opened fire at a wedding ceremony held at a church in Cairo's suburb of Al-Warraq.

The Islamist-drafted 2012 constitution, which is currently being amended by the 50-member committee, did not grant equal rights to Christians and failed to recognise non-Sunni Muslims.



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10



osta.rido
28-10-2013 10:26pm
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5+
Freedom for All!
It is a good sign that restrictions shall fall here. But it is of much deeper importance to also secure the basic human rights of the free and secure practice of Religion and belief for all citizens of the Country. It is again obvious that there are attempts to form a vaste majority of the three cousins in belief. But what is with all others? What e.g. with the Baha'i? Who fears their much more modern principles?
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9



sami
28-10-2013 03:34pm
3-
3+
all things by god hands
The GOD is be always wiz us wiz his virgin MARY
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8



Kevin
28-10-2013 02:32pm
14-
13+
Democracy is a joke in Egypt...
When you suppress religion and only allow "three" religions to openly practice their faith, you do not have a democracy. "...Shias and Baha'is are not allowed to practice their beliefs in public... Egypt will never have a true democracy, nor will any Muslim country have a true democracy.
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7



Bubbly
28-10-2013 10:29am
27-
38+
Democracy & basics right are only for Seculars
If you are muslim islamist (doesn’t matter you are in a majority or in minority) you are not allowed to build mosques without permission, you cannot preach or offer prayers without permission, you cannot practice Islamic way of conduct like niqqab & scarf .You cannot protest, you can not run a TV channel, you cannot run news paper, you don’t have the right of freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of speech ,protest and expression of muslims is considered Inciting of hatred and violence. So this called Democracy for Wes, Secularist, liberals and Coup supporters. While if they become naked, do what so ever they like against someone’s belief and cluture, kill, torture and arrests opponents this freedom of speech, basic human rights of the secularists.
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6



Woow
28-10-2013 07:32am
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39+
Excellent moove
Woow excellent move...permission to open the churches while closing the mosques...
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5



amir
28-10-2013 07:22am
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48+
now building new mosques would need permision
now building new mosques would need permission from sisi and interior ministry and will depend who wants to build it if the supporters of coup want then they will get permission and if Islamist they cant build anything
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4



Hasan Jammoul
28-10-2013 07:22am
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33+
nonsense
You can not have freedom of any kind under military fascism. Everything begins with the people's ability to freely elect their rulers. In Egypt, however, this ability is denied by the anti-Islam military. Indeed, how can we have freedom of belief if political parties based on faith are barred? In Islam, the implementation of Islam is part of one's faith and freedom of belief. Besides, why is it that Communists atheists of all kinds, gays and Lezbians, socialists and liberals and fascists can form political parties....and that only Islamists can not? And you call this democracy?
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osta.rido
28-10-2013 10:07am
51-
44+
aplles and pears
You cannot have freedom under islamistic fascism as well! That's why islamistic parties -and I guess it would be the same with radical-christians parties if their goals were not compatible with a pluralistic and democratic societywill not be allowed to form!
3



Samir Amman
27-10-2013 10:27pm
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63+
Too little, too late.
'Absolute freedom of belief for all citizens' - as long as you're a Christian or a Muslim (and not even any kind of Muslim, the RIGHT kind). Just the fact that we're labelled with our supposed 'religion' on our ID cards and passports indicates the total opposite of that statement.
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2



kerstin påvall ragab
27-10-2013 10:00pm
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no religion in passport
Please, dear Constitution workers, take away the law that demands your religion to be shown in the passport. My religion is something between me and my God.
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1



No matter
27-10-2013 09:19pm
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60+
None of your business
Freedom of faith is guaranteed. Freedom of believe has no meaning. Right to practice ones faith is god given right. Freedom to believe is secular and athiestism. It has no place in the Muslim wold never mind Egypt. Sisi and Adly are they Muslims ? Is Ammr Moussa a Muslim too ? I do not think so same as overwhelming majority of Egyptian Muslims.. No those who claim to be Muslims but are none else other than hypocrite.
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Sam Enslow
28-10-2013 09:24am
39-
36+
God's job
It is not your job or the job of any human to detremine if anyone is a good Muslim or not. That is God's job. In fact to tell someone that their lifestyle is not pleasing to God is haram (right?)

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