Egyptians against discrimination
Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination (EARD) is founded to promote freedom of religion in Egypt . Here is the interview Mounir Megahed, who is the head of EARD, gave to Watani magazine.
By Ishaq Ibrahim
April 13, 2008 Egypt (Watani)- How did the EARD start, and with what perspective?
In April 2006, a knife-wielding man who was said to be mentally unstable attacked the congregations of three churches in Alexandria . Many Muslims were angered because this and other crimes were committed in the name of Islam. They believed such attacks should be condemned, and that Muslims should unite in opposing fanaticism and terrorism. We hastened to issue a statement signed by 200 Muslims to support non-Muslims, defending freedom of belief, no compulsion in religion, full citizenship rights for all Egyptians regardless of their sex, colour or religious affiliation. We believe that religious discrimination should be legally banned, and anyone who discriminates against another should be penalised.
After the first statement the signatories felt the matter should not be dropped at that. In August 2006 we announced the foundation of EARD as a democratic body that condemned religious discrimination and was open to all Egyptians. This was signed by 305 Egyptians of different religious, social, and political background. Through the Internet membership rose to 700.
What has EARD achieved so far?
We have issued a series of statements in support of people who were subjected to discrimination because of their religion. One was the peasant woman Shadya al-Sissi who was imprisoned on charges of forgery because she had remained Christian even though her father had, when she was a three-year-old child, converted to Islam and she should have then been accordingly Muslim. Another was Ghada Atef who was deprived from being appointed a lecturer in university because of her belief. The group organised a seminar on the second article of the Constitution, which stipulates Islam as the State religion and Islamic sharia as the principle source of legislation. EARD sent delegates to attend the conference held by immigrant Copts, and studied the recommendations of their Zurich and Washington conferences in 2004 and 2005 respectively. It also approved the statement issued by six Coptic intellectuals under the title ‘Citizens in one homeland’.
Is there a correlation between discrimination and the rise in religious movements?
I don’t like this expression. There is a rise in ‘religiosity’, which is different from true piety. Egypt is going through hard times, but the tolerant and mild Egyptian character has not vanished. In Egypt there has been mosque, church; the pious, moderate, and non-pious. I think we can gather Egyptians to battle religious discrimination.