By Tian Dongdong, Marwa Yahia
Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has paid a condolence visit to North Sinai and promised to protect those Coptic families who fled their hometown after receiving death threats from some Islamic militants.
During his visit to North Sinai early Friday, Morsi reassured the Coptic families by saying that "your security is our security, " sending a strong signal to thousands of Coptics nationwide who were deeply worried about being marginalized in a society dominated by Islamists. Morsi said the death threats against Copts were "personal behavior" and "crime," urging that "those responsible should be punished." Affirming that "whoever carries the Egyptian nationality has the same rights," the Egyptian president pledged that threats against Copts "won't be repeated."He added that Egyptians should not be differentiated by religion or gender.
Threats against Coptic families came after decisions to refer a Christian to criminal court over blasphemy and to detain two Coptic children for insulting Islam. Ekram Lamie, a professor of Compared Theology Science in Cairo University, said that "the Coptic conditions during Morsi have improved compared to his predecessor Hosni Mubarak." Lamie praised the president's statements in Sinai and called for implementing it on grounds to make the Coptics feel they are safe in Egypt. The professor also asked the president to continue in his approach to solve the Coptic issue completely.
The Education Ministry has decided for the first time to include some verses of the Bible in the National Education book at the secondary school stages in the current year. Lamie said this move "is a positive step." Meanwhile, Lamie asserted that the Jihadist Salafist movements were behind the threats against Coptics in Sinai, an attempt to turn Sinai into an Islamic territory. Sinai has experienced violent attacks and terrorist accidents following last year's unrest by some ultra-Islamists groups, he said.
However, Lamie said the Egyptian authorities are still handling the Coptic issue as a security file, calling for changing this trend especially via the media and Education Ministry.He reiterated that the most prominent problem faced by the Coptics is the differentiation in applying for public jobs, adding that appointing a Coptic as an advisor to the president is a good step that can alleviate their feelings of discrimination.Morsi appointed Samir Morcos, a prominent Coptic thinker, as his assistant of democratic issue on Aug. 27. "The government should make all appointment according to efficiency and profession rather than religion and gender. Coptics shouldn't be marginalized because of their belief," said Lamie.He further noted that the new constitution, which is under drafting, should contain the principals of citizenship, human rights and protection of general freedoms.
Meanwhile, Professor Ayman Okeal, chief of Maat Center for Constitutional and Rights Studies, said the Coptic conditions are related not only to Morsi's policies, but also to the society's cultural atmosphere, a main obstacle to a harmonious relation between Coptics and Muslims. "I don't ask the president to improve the Coptic conditions, but I urge him to improve all the Egyptians to get rid of the prevailed thoughts as "Coptics are the other part" as well as "the segment divisions," he said.He echoed Lamie as saying that "the Coptic problem wouldn't be solved completely from its roots unless the new constitution asserted the citizenship and equity among all citizens rather than divisions based on religious beliefs." The government should pave the way for applying citizenship and punishing violators, he said.He considered Morsi's statements in Sinai as a bid for reform, but also admitted that "change wouldn't happen in a day." (Xinhua)