advancing liberal democracy and countering violent extremism
Nov 3, 2018
1 min read
Elsisi: Freedom of belief or disbelief is guaranteed to all Egyptians
"Every Egyptian citizen is absolutely free to choose what to worship, or not to have a religion at all."
Those are words said, not by an American or a European statesman, but by the President Abdel Fattah Elsisi of Egypt, today, at the World Youth Forum. I still cannot believe my ears! I have never thought I would ever hear an Egyptian state official say such words. Imagine, it is being said by the President of the State!
Freedom of belief is guaranteed by constitution, but has never been respected by the society or politicians. Former presidents used to abuse religion to upscale their political game or oppress opposition.
President Nasser (1954-1971) discriminated against Egyptian Jews because he was involved in war with Israel. President Sadat (1971-1981) empowered Islamic extremists to rid him off the communist Nasserists, whom he stigmatized by calling them disbelievers. Ironically, he was killed by those Islamic extremists after convening a historical peace treaty with Israel. Mubarak (1981-2011) politically muted Coptic Christians by manipulating sectarian tension to induce fear. Even worse, he used to punish bloggers and opposition activists by putting them in prison or exposing them to assassination by extremists, under the allegation that they are atheists.
Nevertheless, the epic scene of revolutionists from all religious backgrounds, gathering in Tahrir Square in 2011, did not last long.
Seeing President Elsisi showing so much bravery by making such a bold statement, today, on freedom of belief or disbelief, means a lot to me, and to the future of Egypt. That is a historical statement coming from a very courageous stance.