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The series of flagrant laws that divide and discriminate between the sons of one homeland is still ongoing. As if it was not sufficient the major scandal we exposed in July when the judge at Shubra al-Khaimah Court (Cairo), refused to accept the testimony of a Christian neighbor in the case of 'inheritance declaration', in which a Muslim was party to it, who asked his Christian friend to came and testify the verity of the death of his father. When the judge discovered that he is a Christian, he refused to hear his testimony, which gave him the feeling of sadness, due to the diminution of his right to citizenship resulting from certain laws which discriminate between him and his brother in the same homeland. A week ago, I was at the Court of Misdemeanors, Giza, and specifically at El-Omrania district, representing a Christian man who caught his wife in his apartment with a Muslim man. All statements taken from the neighbors in the building indicated that the Muslim man was frequenting the Christian man's wife for a year, during his absence. The woman was arrested, while her accomplice fled. We were surprised when during the session, the lawyer of the accused refuted the validity of the charge of Adultery, on the basis that the clauses on Adultery under the Penal Code, Article 276 stipulates that to prove adultery:
1 - To be caught in the Act.
2- Non-recognition of the crime.
3 – The presence of correspondence or love letters proving the presence of an adulterous relationship.
4 - and finally, which is the biggest disaster, for evidence to be accepted by the judge against an accused, is the presence of a non-spouse in the house of any Muslim in the place dedicated to women. Any of these conditions proves the crime of adultery. In the absence of any of the first three conditions, that is, absence of being caught in the act, lack of recognition of the crime, lack of correspondence or love letters proving adultery, which are conditions difficult to achieve, due to the caution taken by the perpetrators of such crimes, then the fourth condition, which is set by the legislature to facilitate, is the presence of a man other than the legal husband, in a place dedicated to women.
The law requires here for this condition for be accepted as a proof for the crime of adultery, that the home must be a place or a home of a Muslim!!! So the concept of the offense is, if this stranger or non-legal person committed the crime of adultery with a Christian woman, or a Christian wife, in the house of her Christian husband, it is not considered a crime, as the text explicitly requires that this house should be the home of a Muslim.
This also means that it encourages and condones the crimes of adultery to be committed in the homes of Christians, because it does not punish the perpetrators of these crimes, whether they are Christian wives, Christian husbands, or non-Muslims persons, as long as the place where that crime is committed is a non-Muslim place. Then, we come to the major catastrophe, which is, what are the indications for the presence of such a clause in the article for the punishment of the crime of adultery? What is role of this discriminatory treatment between the sons of one homeland?
Why is there a distinction in the rules of evidence between a Muslim and a Christian? Why is this legislative inferiority perception of the non-Muslim? Is the Christian under those provisions still not able to give testimony? Permitting the crime of adultery to be committed in his home without punishment for the perpetrator of the crime? Do these texts in the clause already condemn him to being a second-class citizen? How would this husband feel, whom we are about to commit the crime in his home, if the offender gets an acquittal together with the adulterous wife, only because the laws of the country does not punish the offender, as long as the victim is a Christian?!
It is true that the verdict in the case in which we were defending the husband in Al-Omrania court, was a one year jail with labor sentence for the unfaithful wife, as well as the convicted fugitive accomplice; the sentence was not based on the fourth condition of evidence, which is the presence in a Muslim place dedicated to women.
If the court had based its verdict on the defense presented by the accused, it would have ruled for acquittal based on this warped clause, which distinguishes between a Muslim and a non-Muslim.
For how long will there be discriminatory laws between Muslims and Copts in Egypt, in view of the Citizenship concept which is advocated by the President of the Republic, and which is included in the Constitution? Until when will the country's laws be penetrated, formulated and adapted to allow for discrimination between Christians and Muslims?
The best example of this, is the complaint we submitted to the Ministry of Education on Tuesday, when the director of Orman Secondary School for Girls, in Giza, turned the public school of the Ministry of Education into a semi-religious educational institute. She changed its outlay by erecting a mosque occupying the whole breadth of the school on the main Giza Street, making the entrance of the school to be through the mosque, in spite of the school having Christian students. She is also flying a flag higher than the flag of Arab Republic of Egypt, and enacted a salute to the flag which says, "O girls of Egypt this is your rising flag, Salute this flag under the banner of Islam".
The director did not take any permission from the relevant organs nor from the educational buildings authorities to transform the entire entrance of the school into a mosque, also the high voices such as the salute of the flag each morning, "Salute this flag under the banner of Islam", before the eyes and ears of everyone, in the most important area in Giza, which is "Sheraton Dokki". All this without any consideration to the non-Muslim female students; and also without realizing that she is jeopardizing the national security of the country.
I have, of course, recorded images and CD discs for this salute and cheers. What these laws are doing in addition to the laws already penetrated, is that it makes non-Muslims, very disappointed and their sense of citizenship diminished.
I dare say that many Muslim brothers feel bitter because of the shameless and blatant discrimination in the treatment. Maybe I understand now why the international institutions, especially the human rights ones, have put us year after year, among and at the top of the list of countries violating religious freedom and discrimination between citizens of one homeland. Could it be due to the Constitutional Court withholding its decision in the so-called "Reverts to Christianity" in more than five hundred cases to date, for nearly two years, because of the verdict of the Administrative Court, which was expressed by its former Chairman that these people are regarded as "apostates". He even accepted the involvement of a Muslim militant lawyer before sentencing the referral and withholding of the decision in all these cases, until the Supreme Constitutional Court gives its decision, putting a stop to the interests of all those who have cases. Could this have happened if a Christian converted to Islam?
We say that all documents are easily issued for him within the course of a few hours. Do these dealings not constitute a flagrant discrimination between Christians and Muslims? We are now in the middle of the current parliamentary session; there is no mention of a debate on the "common law on the building of houses of worship".
Debates about the quota for women's seats in the Parliament in Egypt have been going on for more than a year, and until the rest of the forthcoming legislative elections at the end of 2010. The State took care of the Women and has worked on the removal of discriminatory laws between women and men, but was not interested in Copts. Do Copts really enjoy Citizenship, or are they only having dreams of Citizenship???
Dr. Naguib Gabriel
Chairman of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Translated into English by Voice of the Copts on 11.1.2009