Politics & Society
May Wed 23, 2012
The ballot boxes open today for the first free presidential elections in Egypt after 30 years of dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak. The candidates are Mohamed Morsi, chairman of the Islamist party Freedom and Justice, Aboul Fotouh, who left the Muslim Brotherhood, and Amr Moussa, the former Foreign Minister and former Secretary General of the Arab League. It is decisive vote for the country's future and for the religious freedom of the Copts, who suffer from various forms of discrimination and fear that things will get worse if the Muslim Brotherhood should win. Thus, today and tomorrow will be two crucial days, followed by a runoff in a month if no candidate wins an absolute majority. Ilsussidiario.net spoke with Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit, to ask him to comment on today's vote and its possible consequences for the religious freedom of the Copts.Father Samir, what are the main forms of discrimination that are still being used against Christians in Egypt?The first is the inability to access the highest levels in the hierarchy of the Army and the government. Religious freedom in Egypt also does not exist, at least as a right of the individual, but there is only controlled freedom of worship. There is a Church that is recognized by the State and, as such, its members are granted the right to pray. However, they cannot build new buildings, and so all the newer neighborhoods are without a parish. If they do manage to build one by gaining the support of someone, there is always a group of fanatics that comes in and sets it on fire or destroys a part of it.Does the phenomenon of forced conversions exist in Egypt?Muslims try to convert Christians, especially girls, by all means and using various devices. The methods used are not as violent as in Pakistan, but abductions and forced marriages with Muslim men do occur. The media also features continuous Islamic propaganda, which is not seen in any other country with a significant number of Christians. On the streets, in buses, in taxis, on the train, there are readings of the Koran 24 hours a day. How would the situation of Christians change if the secular Amr Moussa were to win the elections?The Christians would have more room in social and political life. Amr Moussa is not in favor of the Copts, but he is at least neutral. Being a secular leader and a diplomat connected to the old regime, with him in power Christians know that initiatives would not be taken against them. Aboul Fotouh, in turn, has separated himself a bit from the Muslim Brotherhood, but no one knows if this is just a political attitude to gain votes or if he has truly become secular.What would happen to Christians if the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, were to be elected instead?
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