Egypt parliament adopts discriminatory law on churches
CAIRO— The Egyptian parliament on Tuesday adopted a law on regulating the construction of churches, despite opposition by some members of the Christian community which complains of discrimination.
Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian minority, have long struggled to obtain official permission to build places of worship.
They find it especially difficult to erect churches south of Cairo, where even the rumour of Christians building one can spark mob violence. “The parliament adopted the bill presented by the government for the construction and restoration of churches by a two-thirds majority,” the parliament’s website reported.
The new law stipulates that provincial governors will be authorised to issue permits to build churches and that they must respond within four months to each application, lawmakers told AFP.
In the case of refusal, the community may appeal the decision to the administrative court.
The construction of churches in Egypt is still governed by a ministerial decree dating back to 1934.
Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, criticised the lack of transparency in the debates that preceded the adoption of the new law. “The law was decided by the authorities and a limited number of clergy. Of course they do not represent all Christians,” said Ibrahim.
“Members of parliament were not given a chance to propose amendments for some items, with their requests being ignored with the excuse that it is to reach consensus.”
He also noted the absence of a unified places of worship law that would govern both the construction of churches and mosques, noting that legislation concerning the mosques is more lenient. — Al Jazeera