There were atheists in ancient Egypt

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The Sunni Islam is the state religion and the principles of Sharia law are the main source of legislation. There is no clear separation of state and religion or religious institutions. The Sunni teaching of Islam, strongly influenced by Al-Azhar University, therefore influences state action in many areas. The Sharia-based civil and family law applies equally to Egyptians of all denominations, whereby non-Muslims are severely disadvantaged both legally and in everyday life. The Freedom of cult and the associated right to build houses of God remain reserved for the revealed religions recognized in the constitution ((Sunni) Muslims, Christians, Jews); all religions and denominations not mentioned in the constitution, such as Shiites,345 Bahá'ís, Ahmadiyya and Jehovah's Witnesses are marginalized. Believe this Minority religions usually practice these in secret.

With around 10 million members, the Christian community in Egypt, which consists mainly of Copts, is the largest Christian minority in the Near and Middle East. Christians have certain disadvantages compared to the Muslim majority. There are hardly any members of Christianity in the country's military and political leadership. In rural areas in particular, clashes with Muslims occur again and again.

The Government seeks unity between Sunnis and Christiansto prevent terrorism and religious extremism. Increased security measures since April 2017, especially in front of churches, have led to a decrease in religiously motivated attacks.

 

Demographic proportions of religious communities

Around 90 percent of the approximately 100 million inhabitants of Egypt are Sunni Muslims, around 10 percent are Christian (of which around 90 percent are Copts). Only a small number of Jews still live in Egypt. Probably the largest non-legally recognized religious groups are Shiites and Bahá'ís. Serious estimates by experts are around a few hundred thousand Shiite Muslims out. The religious minority of the Bahá'ís comes to 1,000 to 2,000 members. Reliable figures on Ahmadiyya, Jehovah's Witnesses and other small religious communities are not available. There are also no reliable estimates of the number of atheists or religious converts.

 

Legal situation

Egypt ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN Civil Covenant) on January 14, 1982. Article 18 of the civil pact guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.

The 2014 Egyptian constitution elevates the Sunni Islam the state religion and the Sharia principles as the main source of legislation (Art 2). Article 3 sets out the religious principles of Christianity and Judaism as an essential source of law for their civil status laws, religious affairs, and the selection of Christian and Jewish spiritual leaders. Article 7 states that Al-Azhar University has the is the highest authority of (Sunni) Islamwho must be provided with sufficient financial resources346. Article 53 prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, origin, ethnicity, skin color, language, disability, social status, political attitude or geographical origin. Article 64 stipulates that freedom of belief is absolute and that the practice of religious rites and the building of places of worship for followers of the revealed religions are regulated by law. However, this expressly relates only to freedom of belief and does not include freedom of belief. Article 74 prohibits political activities and political parties with religious aspirations and those that seek to discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnic or geographical origin or religion.

For the Sunni religious community that is Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Religious Foundations the topics and priorities of the Friday sermons and controls compliance. Mosques are financed through tax revenue. As of June 2014, all mosques must be licensed by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Religious Foundations. To be able to preach in the official mosques, imams must have been trained at al-Azhar University.

The Christian churches are largely self-governing and are financed through donations from parishioners.

Faith communities need to be by presidential decree at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Religious Foundations register, this also applies to the constitutionally recognized revelation religions Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In addition, the Ministry of the Interior examines whether the group poses a threat to national unity or social peace. In addition, the Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh as the highest representative of the Sunnis and the Coptic Pope are consulted. The Registration gives religious communities legal status and enables them to adhere to their canonical laws, practice religious rituals, build houses of worship, and import religious literature.

Without this registration, membership in a denomination can be classified as "degrading religion" and be punished with a prison sentence of up to five years under Par. 98F of the Criminal Code. In practice, state registration for new denominations is very difficult to achieve. Constitutionally not recognized religions, including Shiites,347 Ahmadiyya, Bahá'í348 and Jehovah's Witnesses,349 cannot register. As a result, the activities of these denominations are forbidden, they are denied the establishment of religious institutions, and their marital status and religious rules are not legally recognized.

The Religious affiliation is noted in the identity card. There are only three revealed religions to choose from. Since a court ruling in 2009, Bahá'ís no longer have to indicate their religious affiliation or can add a hyphen to the Religious affiliation field.

Neither the constitution nor the civil or criminal law prohibit it "Apostasy", atheism or proselytizing. In reality, however, a conversion from Islam to another religion is not possible due to the corresponding requirements in Sharia law. The criminal law provides for blasphemy a prison sentence of up to five years in prison. Offenses include interfering with religious ceremonies, damaging religious symbols, and denigrating religions, including satire.

Civil, family and inheritance law are based on Sharia law and apply equally to all Egyptians. The fact that all denominations must adhere to Islamic law when it comes to questions of family and inheritance law, met with a lot of criticism in civil society. Parliament announced several years ago that it wanted to reform family law, but the implementation of the project is difficult due to the ubiquitous presence of Islamic law in this area of ​​law.

The most important institution for interpreting the Sharia is the Egyptian Fatwa Office (Dar-al-Ifta) under the direction of the Grand Mufti. The reports of the fatwa office are used in court proceedings Family matters plays an important role, which results in massive discrimination against women. The husband is the family's financial guardian. According to Sharia law, Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men. If they do, the marriages and the resulting children will not be legally recognized. The reverse is possible, however, without any negative consequences. In the case of interreligious marriages (Muslim man, non-Muslim woman), the Sharia rules take precedence. Divorce is possible in this case. Because of the high financial hurdles for a marriage or the religious legitimation of a partnership that is not accepted by the family, some Egyptians rely on a so-called "Urfi marriage ", a temporary marriage, a. They are legitimate according to Sharia law, but socially frowned upon and are not registered. In an Urfi marriage, women waive all legal claims against the man, which means that women are at greater risk of violating their personal rights and that the perpetrators are not punished.

 

Restrictions on freedom of religion and belief by state actors

Despite the constitutionally secured prohibition of discrimination are Non-Muslims Severely underrepresented in public office. This is especially true for high political offices and military leadership.

The Situation of Christians presents itself differently depending on social class and residential area. While Christians in the cities and Christian members of the middle class are protected due to their status, the situation of Christians in the lower social classes is precarious. In the rural areas of Upper Egypt in particular, many live in a largely unlawful and unprotected area.

The Approval practice for churches For many years it was based on a decree from 1856 (Ottoman period), according to which the building of a church required a presidential decree. The 2014 constitution legitimized the building of churches for the first time. In September 2016 became a long awaited one Law on Church Construction adopted. According to the Egyptian government, of around 5,000 applications, at least 1235 churches and religious buildings have now been legalized. At the beginning of 2019, Egypt's President Abel Fattah al-Sisi opened a new cathedral for the Coptic Christians in the new administrative capital east of Cairo, which is said to have space for up to 8,000 believers.

Converts who switch from Islam to another religion, are socially ostracized. Officials - including the courts - usually interpret Sharia law as a prohibition for Muslim believers to convert to another religion. Accordingly, they often refuse to legally recognize such conversions, e.g. by refusing new personal documents. Conversion to Islam, on the other hand, is received positively by the Islamic majority. Nonetheless, converters face exclusion from family and social circles in both directions.

atheism is not prohibited by law, but in fact not being religious is socially frowned upon.350 In extreme cases, atheism can be classified as Blasphemy and disregard for religion be assessed and punished with up to five years imprisonment. There are arrests of atheists for appearing on social media. In 2018, at least four people were convicted of blasphemy, affecting both atheists and Christian people. In 2019, at least eleven preliminary investigations into blasphemy were ongoing, mostly against Christian and atheist persons.

 

Social conflicts with a religious component

In the aftermath of the fall of President Morsi in July 2013 and the forcible evacuation of the protest camps by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo and Giza in August 2013, it broke out across the country Riots against members of Christianitywho have killed up to nine people, according to reports from human rights organizations; some church institutions were destroyed. In 2016 and 2017 there were devastating terrorist attacks on Coptic churches in Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta, in which at least 44 people lost their lives. Since the tightening of security precautions to protect Christian institutions, the Violence against Christians has declined in major cities across the country

In June 2013 it happened in a village in Giza violent riots against a group of Egyptian Shiites with at least four dead. In 2018 there were - mainly in villages in Upper Egypt - at least 20 religiously motivated incidents in the form of protests in front of churches or attacks on Christians and churches. There are also isolated attacks by Islamists on Christians. For example, seven people died in an attack on Christian pilgrims in Miniya in November 2018. Christians criticize the state's inconsistent approach to attacks by Muslim fellow citizens. Violence and vandalism are often not prosecuted, instead relying on dispute settlement mechanisms at village level. There are also reports of Christian congregations being forced to close or leave their places of prayer.

Against that Muslim Brotherhood, which was again classified as a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government at the end of 2013, still exists Repression campaigns. The government is cracking down on its members and sympathizers. Human rights organizations estimate that there are between 25,000 and 60,000 political prisoners, the majority of whom are alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. A number of Islamist terrorist organizations are also active in Egypt, such as B. the "Islamic State Province of Sinai" (formerly Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis).

Although Women's rights are mentioned extensively in the constitution of 2014, they are still based on a traditional or Islamic family image and an Islamic role allocation. Sexual harassment and domestic violence are largely part of social reality and are often not prosecuted. Also the female practice banned in 2008 Genital mutilation (FGM) is still practiced by large parts of the Egyptian population and regardless of religious affiliation, despite increased penalties and sentencing by Al-Azhar University. The increasing number of female genital mutilation by medical staff is particularly problematic, as this suggests that FGM is a legal practice. Violations of the prohibition are not prosecuted or hardly punished.

The Child marriage remains a widespread problem, although the minimum age at marriage for both men and women was raised to 18 in 2008. Since according to Islamic law only the criterion of biological sexual maturity is decisive for marriage, girls are still often married by clergy before they turn 18. However, these marriages are not recognized by the state, i.e. in the event of a divorce these women have no financial claims, their children are considered illegitimate. So they are forced to remain in their marriage. Girls from poor families are extremely vulnerable to sexual exploitation. So-called Summer marriages ("Misyar marriage") are a form of prostitution in Egypt to circumvent the Islamic ban on sex outside of marriage. These short-term marriages make sex - even with minors - possible and legal within the meaning of Islamic law. According to reports, wealthy men travel from the Gulf States increasingly to Egypt for this purpose.The Misyar marriage was legitimized by the Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi as early as 1999.

 

Interreligious cooperation structures

The Cabinet founded the "Beit Al-Aila" (House of the Family) in 2011. This organization is intended to contribute to inter-religious understanding and peace among the Egyptian people. It is chaired by the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar and the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox The council consists of Islamic scholars and members of various churches chosen by the chairpersons. It meets every six months. Critical voices accuse the council of concentrating mainly on formalities that are little or no in the everyday life of the faithful have no effect.



345 According to the Egyptian Al-Azhar University, Shiite Islam is not one of the revealed religions. The judgment of the over 1000 year old university has great weight in Egyptian (Sunni) society.
346 The budget for 2018 was EGP 13 billion (around EUR 705 million)
347 Shiites are not recognized by either the Sunni Al-Azhar University or the Coptic Church. In 2011 Shiite activists tried to found their own party, but this was thwarted by a court.
348 The Bahá'ís were banned by presidential decree in 1960. The ban was reinforced in 2003 by a fatwa from Al-Azhar University, which qualified the Bahá'ís as apostates.
349 Jehovah's Witnesses were registered as a religion in Egypt until 1960.On June 20, 1960, they were withdrawn from registration by decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs for allegedly failing to re-register under Law No. 384 of 1956. Their property has been confiscated. All subsequent attempts to re-register failed because of alleged security concerns.
350 Compare also the sub-chapter Online media as a place of exchange and discrimination: the example of atheists in the chapter "The opportunities of digital communication and the influence of online hate speech on freedom of religion and belief" of this report.