WASHINGTON, January 21—The bombing of a Coptic Christian church in Egypt on New Year’s Day reflected a sharp rise in religious friction. In testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Michele Dunne explains that for years sectarian tensions have been slowly brewing in Egypt. Dunne details what the Egyptian government must do to curb the recent outbreak of violence and how the United States can spur change.
- Push Egypt to allow more equal treatment of Christians and Muslims: Egyptian law presents ample opportunity to discriminate unfairly against non-Muslims. An individual’s religion, for instance, must be listed on national identity cards. These types of practices should be eliminated.
- Enact equal protections for all places of worship: Different rules currently govern places of worship for different religions, creating resentment among Christians, Baha’is, Shiites, and others who are not Sunni Muslim. The United States should urge the Egyptian government to treat mosques, churches, and other holy places equally under the law.
- Track down perpetrators of religious violence: The Egyptian government has consistently failed to capture and punish those who have committed violence against Christians over the last decade. To prevent future outbreaks of violence, Egyptian authorities must apprehend those responsible for recent attacks.
"Discrimination against Christians and sectarian tensions are likely to persist until all Egyptian citizens enjoy enhanced human, civil, and political rights," concludes Dunne.
Michele Dunne is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and editor of the online journal, the Arab Reform Bulletin. A former specialist at the U.S. Department of State and the White House on Middle East affairs, she served in assignments including the National Security Council staff, the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, and the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, socio-political, and strategic interests in the Arab world to provide analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region.
The Carnegie Middle East Center based in Beirut, Lebanon, aims to better inform the process of political change in the Middle East.
Carnegie's Arab Reform Bulletin analyzes political reform in the Middle East.
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