TEL AVIV – At a UN forum in Geneva, leaders of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community called for the abolition of an “exploitative” blasphemy law, but praised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for saving them from the oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The heads of various Coptic organizations attended a UN minority rights forum in Geneva, Switzerland, during which they condemned Egypt’s blasphemy law, saying it is “exploited against the Copts.”
The number of blasphemy prosecutions–in which people convicted of offending Islam are sent to jail–soared following the “Arab spring” uprising in 2011. But the numbers have not declined in the years following the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi by the far more moderate al-Sisi.
Nonetheless, Coptic representatives stated that Sisi’s takeover saved Egypt and the Copts from the oppressive policies of the Muslim Brotherhood, which included regular attacks on churches and the displacement of thousands of Christians.
The head of the European Coptic Organizations Union, Medhat Kelada, led the effort to revoke the blasphemy law, saying that it has no place in the country that millions of Egyptians hoped for in the wake of the Brotherhood’s rule.
In the past, famous writers and speakers have been jailed for “contempt and defamation of Islam,” including Karam Saber, a lawyer who is currently serving a five-year sentence.
Despite changes to Morsi’s constitution, such as the removal of an article that bans “insulting the prophets,” little has changed for Christians who are still subject to arrest because of their faith.
Mina Thabet, a researcher at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, claims there is little political will to change the situation.
“Sisi is conservative. He doesn’t care about religious freedom,” said Thabet in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine.
Participants at the UN forum in Geneva agreed to call on member states to enact specific legislation prohibiting questioning, arrest, and inspections based solely on racial or ethnic profiling.