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Egypt’s Christians seek to be heard in election

Egypt’s Christians seek to be heard in election

Coptic Christians are trying to make their voices heard in Muslim-majority Egypt's parliamentary election, fearing Islamists could sweep in and deepen their sense of marginalisation.


November 30, 2011 3:09 by

…sharpening divisions.

“The Copts should blend into Egyptian society and there should not be a religious symbol (in politics) that would influence people’s decision,” said Emad Abdel Ghafour, head of the ultra-conservative Islamist Salafi Al-Nour party.

Neither al-Azhar, Cairo’s prestigious seat of Islamic learning, nor the church should influence people’s decision in elections, he said in Alexandria, a Christian centre of learning in ancient times and now a stronghold for Islamists.

Islamist reassurances have failed to douse worries of some Copts who queued up with their Muslim compatriots during voting on Monday and Tuesday in the first round of the staggered election that will take six weeks to complete.

“I have a sister and I don’t want her to be forced to wear a hijab (Islamic veil) because she is a woman,” said 26-year-old Meena Gerges at a polling station in Alexandria.

The church denies taking sides in the election. But some Christians say they have been quietly encouraged to pick more moderate political voices, whether Muslim or Christian.

“We are not scared, but as we want to build a liberal democratic society that respects everyone’s rights, surely if Islamist voices dominate parliament, then the ensuing legislation will not be for the public benefit,” said priest Mina Reda Ibrahim.

Speaking at a church in the northern coastal city of Damietta, he also admitted that the Christian vote would have little impact in a campaign in his town, where competing Islamist groups dominate. (By Maha El Dahan and Marwa Awad; Additional reporting by Shaimaa Fayed inDamietta; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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