|CAIRO: The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) amended Saturday a law in
the penal code to apply stricter punishments against discrimination to ease
sectarian tension following deadly clashes between military police and mostly
Coptic protesters that left 27 people dead and more than 330 injured last
The amendment adds a fine of no less than LE 30,000 and no more than LE
50,000 for discrimination based on “gender, ethnicity, language, religion or
Government employees convicted of discrimination will also be subject to at
least three months in prison or a fine of LE 50,000 to LE 100,000, according to
the text of the amendment published by the official MENA news agency.
Ishaq Asaad, lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
described the law as a good step but that “it wasn’t enough to ease sectarian
tensions,” which have long plagued Egyptian community.
Asaad said that a unified law regulating the building of houses of worship
needs to be issued and all unauthorized houses of worship must be
The Cabinet said earlier last week that it would present a draft law
recognizing unauthorized houses of worship to its legislative committee. It also
said that it plans to draft a unified houses of worship law within two
However, Asaad pointed out that it is difficult to prove discrimination,
despite a statement by Cabinet that specifies that “anyone who takes action or
abstains from taking action which leads to discrimination between people or
against a sect based on sex, origin, language, religion or doctrine (resulting
in) a violation of equal opportunity, social justice or disturbing public
peace,” will be in breach of the anti-discrimination law.
“What’s important is implementing the law on the ground,” Asaad said.
Hani Ramsis, leading member of the Coptic Union of Maspero Youth, said the
law was a positive step, but added that it was “long overdue.”
“This law was issued on the blood of innocent people who were unjustifiably
killed in front of Maspero,” Ramsis told DNE.
He pointed out that incitement was the basis of all crime, adding that
punishment meted out to those who cause discrimination and divide people should
Ramsis believes that the law should have been issued after the Imbaba clashes
in May, which left 12 people dead following rumors that a Christian convert to
Islam was being held in a church against her will after running off with a
Cabinet had issued a draft houses of worship law after the Imbaba
violence, which was rejected by both Copts and Muslims, and has since been
placed on the back-burner.
Egypt’s Copts account for around 10 percent of the population and have long
complained of discrimination and demanded equal rights.
Mubarak’s regime was repeatedly accused of manipulating underlying sectarian
tensions to reinforce its stranglehold on power. –Additional reporting by