Egypt’s Christians will take part in the first mass demonstration against the country’s Muslim Brotherhood government on Friday, a statement by the Coalition of Coptic Egypt declared Wednesday.
The August 24 demonstration will call for Egypt to remain a civil state and demand the separation of Islamic influences from state institutions. It is being planned as the first large-scale protest against the new government of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, appointed by President Mohammed Morsi and sworn in on August 2.
In its statement, the Coalition of Coptic Egypt, a grassroots umbrella organization dealing with legal issues, spelled out its list of grievances against Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi.
‘We do not wish to topple the president but want to realize the demands of the revolution,’ the group’s statement read
“There is an attempt by the Brotherhood to take control of state institutions,” Fady Youssef, founder and deputy president of the Coalition of Coptic Egypt, told the Times of Israel. “The civil character of the state is under threat.”
According to Youssef, Muslims in Egypt currently enjoy privileges which Christians do not. “Christians are oppressed and humiliated,” he said.
In early August, 130 Christian families were forced to leave their homes in the village of Dahshour, near Giza, after their houses and shops were burned by Muslims following a dispute between a Muslim and a Christian in the village.
The remedy to sectarian violence, Youssef argues, is in amending legislation that discriminates against Christians, such as a law which prohibits Christians from testifying in court and a constitutional article prohibiting Muslims from converting to Christianity.
“We do not wish to topple the president but want to realize the demands of the revolution,” the group’s statement read. “The affairs of the president must be separated from the affairs of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
‘Christians are oppressed and humiliated,’ says Fady Youssef
Although Morsi resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood upon his election as president in June, Youssef claimed that the presidency is still intimately connected to the Islamic movement.
Another longstanding demand of the Egyptian Christian community is the legislation of a “unified law on places of worship,” which will allow churches to be built with the same ease as mosques. The government has agreed on the need for new legislation, Youssef said, but the law has not been promoted.
“Today, you need the governor’s permission to renovate the bathroom in a church,” Youssef said. Christians comprise some 10% of Egypt’s 85 million citizens.
A number of opposition parties have announced they would not participate in the August 24 demonstration.
“Those who call for this gathering refuse an Islamic president, even if he was elected by the will of the people,” Yahya Abul Hassan, a member of the liberal Wasat party, told Al-Ahram news website Wednesday.