ICC Note: One of the reasons behind the removal of the Islamist regime in Egypt was the increasing hostility and repression being suffered by the country’s religious minorities. The new leadership made promises that greater religious freedoms would be implemented, but this has not been the reality. The violent attacks, largely on the Christian community have actually increased. Christians have been seen as a soft target and complicit in the loss of power for the Muslim Brotherhood. The security forces have been largely unable or unwilling to prevent the attacks on churches, shops, and kidnappings that have targeted Christians.
By David D. Kirkpatrick
04/25/2014 Egypt (NY Times) – The architects of the military takeover in Egypt promised a new era of tolerance and pluralism when they deposed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer.
Nine months later, though, Egypt’s freethinkers and religious minorities are still waiting for the new leadership to deliver on that promise. Having suppressed Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters, the new military-backed government has fallen back into patterns of sectarianism that have prevailed here for decades.
Prosecutors continue to jail Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists on charges of contempt of religion. A panel of Muslim scholars has cited authority granted under the new military-backed Constitution to block screenings of the Hollywood blockbuster “Noah” because it violates an Islamic prohibition against depictions of the prophets.
The military leader behind the takeover, Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, often appeals to the Muslim majority in a language of shared piety that recalls Anwar el-Sadat, nicknamed the believer president, who invoked religious authority to bolster his legitimacy and inscribed into the Constitution the principles of Islamic law.
Mr. Sisi has listened attentively as Muslim clerics allied with him have offered religious justifications for violence against his Islamist opponents. A prominent Muslim scholar compared him and his security chief to Moses and Aaron. The new government has tightened its grip on mosques, pushing imams to follow state-approved sermons.
Many Coptic Christians and other religious minorities cheered the military takeover because they feared the Muslim Brotherhood, a religiously exclusive movement whose leaders have a history of denigrating non-Muslims. The military authorities shut down ultraconservative Islamist satellite networks that had stigmatized Christians or Shiite Muslims. And the military sponsored constitutional revisions that scaled back the references to Islamic traditions and declared with new directness that religious freedom was now absolute.
In some ways, however, sectarian tensions have worsened: Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have faced violence and scapegoating from Islamists angry about the church’s support for the takeover. Prosecutors and police officers — almost all in their jobs long before Mr. Morsi took office — have done little to protect the Christians or other religious minorities, rights advocates say.
“Nothing has really changed,” said Kameel Kamel, a Coptic Christian in Asyut whose son Bishoy, 26, was jailed under Mr. Morsi on charges of posting blasphemy on Facebook.