Religious Freedom – Egypt

Jump to news clippings on religious freedom in Egypt


Egypt is recognized to be a hub for the world’s three largest monotheistic religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Egypt’s population is predominately Sunni Muslim.[1] While the Constitution establishes Islam as the country`s official religion, all three Abrahamic faiths are also recognized in the Constitution. However, there are other articles in the Constitution which seem to contradict and limit the freedom of religion or belief.[2] Government and social hostilities place Egypt among the top ten countries most hostile toward religion.[3] Often, those committing abuses are not brought to account.

Egypt’s blasphemy law, Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code, allows authorities to imprison those of religious convictions considered to be “ridiculing or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife.”[4] In January 2015, President Al-Sissi put a ban on any foreign publication that the Government  deems to be “offensive”.[5] Predominately, those sentenced to prison under this law are Christians, Shi’a Muslims and atheists.[6]

Baha’is and Jehovah’s Witnesses are officially banned and face repression such as difficulty in obtaining identity cards as well as restrictions on worship and the import of religious literature.[7] Though Egypt`s Jewish community is small, anti-Semitic material continues to be disseminated through the largely state-controlled media.

While there are many branches of Christianity represented in Egypt, Coptic Christians (Copts) are the most prominent Christian group. The Coptic community has been a target for violent sectarian attacks and antagonistic rhetoric, especially since the 2013 ouster of President Morsi. Christians have reported to be treated as second class citizens and face discrimination in political representation as well as employment.[8]

Shi’a Muslims have also been targeted by officials and by fellow Egyptians. For example, in 2014, the government censored speeches in mosques and in other religious institutions.[9] Those who seem to follow a more conservative form of Islam are particular targets for harassment.[10]

There have been some positive developments in the last year.

Fewer Coptic Christians’ properties were targeted in the last year. 40 perpetrators were held accountable for their attacks.

The Egyptian government formed a fact-finding commission to investigate attacks and to hold those responsible for them accountable.

Some controversial sections in Egypt’s constitution were amended. The provision that could have allowed the Grand Imam of Egypt’s top Islamic institution to provide input on blasphemy laws has been removed. Article 235 requires the Parliament to consider a law that could potentially remove the requirement of governmental approval for building or repairing churches.

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[1] “Egypt,” CIA World Factbook.
[4] As quoted in the USCIRF 2014 Report, p. 52.
[5] USCIRF 2015 Report, p. 91
[6] USCIRF 2015 Report, p. 90.
[7] USCIRF 2015, p. 91


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