Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Egypt

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 4 March 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Egypt, 4 March 2007, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Continuing religious intolerance in Egypt during 2006 led Christian Copts to seek the protection from the government, and the Baha'i minority to fear that government's active role in their torment.

The Copts are Egyptian Christians, mostly Orthodox, who trace their roots to Pharaonic peoples and their conversion to the arrival of St Mark in the first century AD. Nationally, Copts make up around 5–10 per cent of the population but are more concentrated in Cairo and Alexandria and comprise an estimated 18–19 per cent of the population in southern Egypt. They face state discrimination in such areas as university admissions, public spending, military promotions and required authorizations for the building or repair of churches. Islamist attacks on Copts have led the latter to fear legalization of Egypt's largest opposition force, the Muslim Brotherhood. April 2006 knife attacks on Copts outside churches in Alexandria led to sectarian violence.

Whereas Shari'a law recognizes Coptic Christians as 'people of the book', no such tolerance exists for the tiny Baha'i community of 500–2,000. Baha'i is a religion with roots in Shia Islam that emanated from Persia in the nineteenth century. Because the Baha'i believe that God's word is passed to humans through an ongoing series of revelations, it clashes with Islam's view that the Prophet Mohammed's revelations were the final ones. Currently, many Baha'i believers in Egypt are denied birth certificates and the identification required to open bank accounts or enrol their children in school, and their marriages are not recognized. The Egyptian government is appealing a court ruling from April 2006 that allows Baha'i to have identity cards listing their faith. A related government report in October 2006 argued that Baha'is must be 'identified, confronted and singled out so that they can be watched carefully, isolated and monitored in order to protect the rest of the population as well as Islam from their danger, influence and their teachings'.

Copyright notice: © Minority Rights Group International. All rights reserved.

Search Refworld