Egypt Unwrapped: Copts Still Waiting for Better Days

Egypt Unwrapped: Copts Still Waiting for Better Days


Egypt Unwrapped is a blog featured on The Majalla, a leading Arab magazine.

Copts still Waiting for Better Days

Where do Egypt’s Christians fit into Sisi’s religious vision?

EGYPT UNWRAPPED blog: Exploring the political and social developments in Egypt as the dust continues to settle on the 25 January uprising and the new political landscape it has formed.

Questions were raised once more about the religious freedoms of Copts—Egypt’s largest Christian community—when the sentence for blasphemy of Demiana Abdelnour, a female Coptic teacher, was upheld earlier this month. An appeals court in Luxor sentenced her to six months in prison, overturning an earlier ruling that imposed a fine but no prison term.

She was originally accused and convicted during Mohamed Mursi’s presidency, a period that witnessed a surge of blasphemy cases. According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), 63 individuals were tried for insulting Islam post-January 25 until September 2013. This was seen as a symptom of the rise of political Islam in the vacuum created by Mubarak’s ouster, and there were real fears that religious intolerance would increase.

Certainly it was not only Christians that felt pressure. In June 2013, four members of Egypt’s minority Shi’a population were killed by a mob—the attackers allegedly accused the victims of spreading Shi’a beliefs—and Sunni Muslims have also faced defamation charges. However, conversations with Copts at the time revealed that many no longer saw any alternative but to leave Egypt. Churches were reportedly emptying family by family as emigration increased.

Unease about the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic project spread beyond Egypt’s religious minority communities, contributing to the mass public support for Mursi’s ouster in July 2013. Nevertheless, it was Copts in particular who were targeted in the aftermath of the Islamist fall from power. They were accused of supporting now-President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the army’s actions in deposing Mursi.

It is true that Sisi did receive widespread support among Copts, though both Coptic and Muslim Egyptians support the anti-terror and anti-Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric that continues to accompany the transition under Sisi. It is clear that Copts saw hope in these statements for their security and freedom.

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