Since the beginning of the crisis, saving lives has relied on rapid and effective government intervention and the temporary restrictions on certain rights, including freedoms of religion, belief, and assembly. These legitimate restrictions are supported based on public health-related grounds. In this context, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, “The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion… is far-reaching and profound; it encompasses freedom of thought on all matters, personal conviction and the commitment/or not to religion or belief.”
Population and development have historically been intertwined. For decades, economic growth and family size have been viewed as two sides of a single equation. Population policies and strategies are typically statistic-heavy, number-focused documents until initiatives from feminists and women’s rights groups introduced human rights principles to these endeavors (Samir, 2020). As Egypt’s population topped 100 million this year, the state is seeking to reduce the total fertility rate (TFR), which currently stands at 3.5.
As usual, discussions related to organizing religious affairs in Egypt occupy a significant part of public debate at times of various crises and developments. As soon as the Egyptian government began to impose partial closures to confront the Covid-19 pandemic, controversy erupted over decisions to close places of worship and prevent religious gatherings at the time of approaching important religious occasions for both Muslims and Christians. This becomes a fertile ground for settling political scores and faith one-upmanship between multiple parties in a scene that is not alien to the public discourse in Egypt.
Calls for banning the niqab (the full face veil) in public places and state institutions in Egypt have recently re-emerged, gaining momentum after the High Administrative Court rendered a final judgment this past January rejecting the appeal of 80 niqab-wearing researchers at Cairo University and upholding the university’s decision to ban niqab for staff members during lectures.
Recently in a rare ruling, an Egyptian court, in a case brought by a Christian woman demanding the equal distribution of inheritance between herself and her male siblings, ruled that Christians should be subjected to their own inheritance norms instead of Islamic Law.
In recent years, the Egyptian regime has promoted a new “vision” of Islam, both locally and internationally, to combat terrorism and religious extremism.
Egypt’s 2016 Church Construction Law established what was, on its face, a streamlined process for the construction of churches, and also provided for a committee to formalize churches which had been built illegally. But Christians still face both official and social restrictions on building their houses of worship, as officials have been slow to issue permits (even to existing churches seeking recognition), security agencies have failed to protect churches and Coptic properties, and violence from neighbors has succeeded in keeping churches out of contested areas.
“Today, there is no freedom, especially the freedom of religion. The Ministry of Religious Endowments will not allow unlicensed preachers to give sermons at mosques. We are the sole competent authority to decide on this matter.” This was the answer of Muhammad Abdel Razeq, former undersecretary to the minister of religious endowments for mosque affairs, in response to a question about allowing Salafist clerics to deliver sermons at mosques.
The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrated the Coptic New Year, also known as All Martyrs Day, on September 11. Earlier this year, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, accompanied by a number of bishops in a mournful procession at Cairo airport, received the relics of the Coptic martyrs beheaded by the Islamic State three years ago in Libya.
On 21 March 2018, the Dekheila Appellate Misdemeanor Court found the Egyptian subsidiary of the Greek-headquartered cement company guilty of violating the Environment Law as well as the Egyptian Penal Code, as a result of dangerous emissions released from the factory. The case of TITAN Cement Egypt is one of many cases where the hazardous effects of cement factories in Egypt have been compounded by their coal, in late 2014.