What’s like to belong to a religious minority in Egypt after January 25th? Will the long history of oppression get worsened or relieved? To better know, we’ve interviewed four young activists who represent a major portion of the religious minorities in Egypt; a Baha’i, an atheist, a secular, and a Christian, in quest for their opinions, reflections, thoughts, ideas, and hopes about the Egyptian people’s uprising which made the news for the last 2 consecutive months.

To better understand the situation, the listener has to put in mind that Egypt hosts two major religious institutions, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria established in the middle of the 1st century by Saint Mark the Evangelist, and Al-Azhar University founded in 970 A.D by the Fatimids as the first Islamic University in the world. Cairo has a unique cityscape with its ancient mosques, especially around the area of Old Cairo. Cairo is also known as the “city of a thousand minarets.”

Egypt’s “recognized” religions are Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and more recently the “Dash religion,” which denotes the Baha’i faith according the the state. The Bahai’s of Egypt, who were granted their basic rights to issue an ID after uphill trials and long waiting years, still face a lot of problems though. You’re not allowed, by state, to believe in any other religion, or practise any other rites. Egypt is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country with Islam as the recognized state religion. The percentage of the adherents of various religions is a controversial topic in Egypt, with different sources citing different figures. According to public figures, around 90% are identified as Muslim “by birth or by I.D.,” however it’s nearly impossible to estimate accurate figures, because it’s considered “deadly” to announce a convert publicly. A significant number of Muslim Egyptians also follow native Sufi orders, and there is a minority of Shi’a. Islam plays a central role in the lives of most Egyptian Muslims, however the state of ambivalence is a wide trend in Egypt. The Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) is heard five times a day, and has the informal effect of regulating the pace of everything from business to media and entertainment. Cairo also comprises a significant number of church towers.

According to the current constitution of Egypt, until Saturday’s referendum, any new legislation must at least implicitly, but ambiguously, agree with Islamic law; however, the constitution bans political parties with a religious agenda, moreover the constitution is mostly secular, except for the personal status laws which are derived from Sharia Law.

Religious minorities face discrimination and marginalization on many levels. In terms of religious freedom, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life ranks Egypt as the fifth worst country in the world, after Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan and China. In addition, Egypt ranks among the 12 worst countries in the world in terms of religious violence against religious minorities and in terms of social hostilities against Christians in specific. Furthermore, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed Egypt on its watch list for religious freedom that requires close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government.*

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Mideast Youth Podcast: Broadcasting Ahead
Originally posted on MideastYouth.com by Ahmed Zidan