11/09/2011, 00.00
EGYPT
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Common law for Copts and Muslims on construction of religious buildings

Leaders of the community have held a recent meeting. Representatives from the Islamic University of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox community are pushing for the recognition of places of worship already in use, built without permission. For them, the new law proposed in June by the government is inadequate and full of gaps.
Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A proposal for a common law for Christians and Muslims on the construction of religious buildings to counter the nebulous regulations imposed by the Military Supreme Council has been presented following a recent encounter between representatives of Coptic Orthodox Church and the 'Islamic University Al - Azhar. According to sources in the Egyptian daily AlMasry-Alyoum, the bill will allow the Copts to regularize all those buildings being used as places of prayer, built without government permission.

Sources from the National Justice Committee confirm that Ahmaed Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, has given instructions to insert the amendments in the controversial law on places of worship presented by the army in June. To date, the draft bill is pending approval, but is widely regarded as inadequate and ambiguous. In fact, it gives local governments the power to approve or deny the construction of places of worship, which must be at least 1000 square meters and more than 500 meters apart from each other. However, local authorities, especially in Upper Egypt, penalize the Christian communities, and the average size of churches already made do not exceed 200 square meters. In October, the Egyptian Council for Human Rights (National Council for Human Rights - NCHR), made a counter proposal to eliminate these limitations. Another problem encountered by many experts is the absolute arbitrariness in granting land for the construction of mosques or churches, which could cause conflicts in many villages.

Despite criticism, the new regulations for places of worship has been touted as the first fruit of the jasmine revolution and the new post-Mubarak Egypt. Proposed June 2 last year it was created with the intent to eliminate the absurd bureaucratic rules, which for decades have prevented Christians from building new churches, obliging them to seek authorization from the President of the Republic or the Prime Minister. To date, the sites are often blocked by the Muslim communities, despite the authorization of the highest offices of state. The latest case occurred on October 1 in the province of Aswan (Upper Egypt) where hundreds of Muslims, incited by the local governor, set fire to a church. The episode was the basis of protests organized by the Coptic community that took place in Cairo on October 9, leaving 27 dead and over 200 injured.

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