President Mubarak denies discrimination against Copts

Mass protests in Egypt

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has accused Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak of failing to learn from the terrorist attacks on Copts that took place last New Year's Eve in Alexandria. "With his persistent denial of any discrimination against Copts, Mubarak has lost not only the last shred of credibility, but also any remaining sympathy among Christians," criticized the head of the Africa section at the STP, Ulrich Delius, on Wednesday in Göttingen. Twice in just the past three days Mubarak has publicly denied the existence of discrimination against members of the Christian minority in Egypt.

The Coptic church has been urging Christians not to take part in the mass protests against poverty and repression on 25 January 2011 – not so much out of consideration for the government, as for fear of what could happen during the country-wide unrest. The church fears that the radical Islamic Muslim Brotherhood could gain in influence in a regime change, worsening the situation for Christians.

On January 24, Mubarak told an editor of the journal of the Egyptian police force that it was "unfair and untrue" to say that Copts were discriminated against in Egypt, and anyone who said otherwise was "spreading fictitious stories." He claimed this would only undermine national unity in Egypt.

"Rather than speaking out against the violence directly after the attacks and working to end the decades-long discrimination against Copts, Mubarak simply denies the existence of discrimination," stated Delius. "But his denials are neither logical nor politically intelligent, because the unequal treatment of the Christian minority is too blatant." Coptic organizations have been urging the repeal of regulations that impose major restrictions on the erection and renovation of church buildings. Furthermore, the discrimination manifested in the assignment of public sector jobs, in workplaces, and in the defamatory images in state media and school books has been fueling anger among the Christian minority for many years.

Last week, when members of parliament in the ruling party once again attempted to justify the strict building codes imposed for Christian churches, Copts reacted with anger. "They cannot fob us off with excuses, as though we were mentally deficient," said Coptic civil rights activist Mark Ebeid indignantly.