A minaret of a mosque is seen in front of a church in Cairo March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
CAIRO, Oct 14 (Aswat Masriya) - For the fifth year in a row, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended in its 2015 report that Egypt be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)
While the annual report, contends that since he assumed office in June 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made several important public statements and gestures encouraging religious tolerance including being the first head of state to attend a Coptic Christmas eve mass, it holds the government for "not adequately [protecting] religious minorities, particularly Coptic Orthodox Christians and their property, from periodic violence".
The report is critical of the lack of accountability for violent attacks on Coptic lives and property as well as repressive laws and discriminatory policies against Copts that remained the same, pointing out that limitations on religious expression continue as the Egyptian penal code prohibits citizens from “ridiculing or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife.”
It also noted the government's increased control over all Muslim religious institutions, including mosques and religious endowments and imposing government “talking points” on Friday sermons.
It added that the government’s efforts to combat extremism and terrorism have had a chilling impact on civil society activities in the country. Among the consequences have been severe limits on dissent and criticism of the government, resulting in a poor human rights situation overall, including for freedom of religion or belief.
"Sympathizers and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, journalists, and opposition figures continue to be harassed, jailed, and given harsh prison terms, including death sentences for Brotherhood members and other Islamists, sometimes on legitimate, but also on unfounded, security charges," said the report.
USCIRF will continue to monitor the situation closely to determine if positive developments warrant a change in Egypt’s status next year.