Egypt is included in U.S. commission’s top 14-nation list of worst religion violators
For the first time, a government agency in the U.S. has added Egypt to its list of top 14 worst violators of religious freedom in the world.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom placed Egypt on its top 14 list, taking into account the patently worsening situation of Coptic Christians after the resignation of former president Hosni Mubarak, the AP reported.
However, the report notes that the attacks against the Copts began while Mubarak was still in power and heightened in 2008 up to New Year’s Day of 2011 with the bombing of a church in Alexandria which the report said was “the worst sectarian strike against Egypt’s Christians in a decade.”
A PDF file of the report also says, “For years, President Hosni Mubarak‘s government tolerated widespread discrimination against religious minorities, from Copts to Baha‘is and dissident Muslims, while allowing state-controlled media and state funded mosques to deliver incendiary messages against them.”
The report adds that anti-Christian violations continue after Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11, 2011. The PDF file says, “Since February 11, military and security forces reportedly have used excessive force and live ammunition in targeting Christian places of worship and Christian demonstrators.”
The report adds that the new government falls short in other areas saying, “Implementation of previous court rulings – related to granting official identity documents to Baha‘is and changing religious affiliation on identity documents for Christian converts – continues to lag. In addition, the government has not responded adequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.”
Another country on the top 14 list of worst violators of religious freedom is China. In his opening remarks, USCIRF chairman Leonard Leo added that China has been trying to hack the commission’s files, the AP said.
Other countries on the top 14 list are Burma, Vietnam, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Sudan and Uzbekistan, the AP reported.
Just below the top 14 is a list of countries that are on its 2011 Watch List, meaning, Leo said, countries where “impunity has become a matter of escalating alarm,” according to its website.
The Watch List countries include Venezuela, Turkey, Tajikistan, Somalia, Russia, Laos, Indonesia, India, Cuba, Belarus and Afghanistan. Leo said in the website, “Watch List countries require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by their governments.”
Leo said in the website, “This year’s Annual Report spotlights the problem and advances concrete solutions that will improve religious freedom while weaving it more tightly into the fabric of national security and U.S. foreign policy.”
Less aid to Egypt
One of the recommendations of the report is that the U.S. set aside part of the aid budget to Egypt’s military and instead funnel it to “enhance physical protection for Copts and other religious minorities,” the AP reported.
The USCIRF was established by congress in 1998 and works as an independent, bipartisan commission. Its members are appointed by the president and the political party leaders from both houses of congress, the website said.
The USCIRF is tasked to review incidents of violations of religious freedom internationally and then to make policy recommendations to the president, the State Department and congress, the website said.