Morsi did not call Copts a 'minority': Spokesman

Ahram Online, Tuesday 8 Jan 2013

President Morsi did not call Copts a 'minority' in an interview with CNN, but said that all Egyptian citizens are equal, according to a presidential spokesperson

President Mohamed Morsi did not describe the Coptic population in Egypt as a "minority", presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said at a press conference on Tuesday.

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN on Sunday, Morsi stated that Coptic Christians are equal to Muslims, said Ali.

In the interview, a summary of which is published on Ali's official Facebook page, Morsi said that the people of Egypt are not "divided on the basis of belief or religious practice." He added that that all Egyptians are equal in terms of rights and duties.

Morsi also said that the recently-approved Egyptian constitution includes a new article that guarantees that Jewish and Christian principles are the main source of legislation for the personal status laws, religious affairs and the choice of spiritual leaders of those religious communities.

Criticisms of Morsi were raised when CNN’s website published a brief report about the interview on Monday which said that "Morsi sought to assure viewers around the world, as well as people in his own country, that he is committed to promoting democracy and protecting minorities, including the country's Coptic Christians, from discrimination."

Several Egyptian newspapers then reported that Morsi described the Coptic population as a "minority" in Egypt, and a number of opposition political figures criticised the label, arguing that that it is insulting to Copts.

Nasser Abd El-Hamid, secretary general of Dostour Party, told Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that Morsi views the Copts as a part of Egypt who do not hold rights but are protected. 

Hussein Abd El-Razeq, secretary general of El-Tagamo Party, also told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Morsi's statements were a "serious political mistake." 

In Ali's published summary of the interview, Morsi also spoke about cases that were filed against some media figures, most recently host of political satire show "Al-Barnameg" (The Programme) Bassem Youssef, on charges of "insulting the president."

Morsi has said that everyone has the right to criticise the president and that any legal cases filed by Egyptian individuals are dealt with by the general prosecutor and the judiciary and are not related to Morsi himself in any way.

"I do not pursue rights as much as I perform my duty to the Egyptian people and move forward to what is more important," he said. He also added that freedom within the opposition or the media is part of the democracy that the Egyptian people did not practice before the January 25 revolution.

On a similar note, Morsi disregarded the idea of imprisoning people for their political opinions, saying that freedom of expression is guaranteed for the good of Egypt and within the boundaries of the law. 

Morsi also spoke about the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Egypt, saying that "negotiations and cooperation" are ongoing and that Egypt will not accept a "conditioned loan."

Blitzer discussed regional affairs with Morsi, including the Syrian situation. Morsi said that the Syrian people will decide "what they want to do to those who committed crimes against them" after moving on to a new stage. 

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