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Reports on Religious Freedom:
Egypt

(2000)


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The Constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites; however, the Government places restrictions on this right. Under the Constitution, Islam is the official state religion and primary source of legislation. Accordingly, religious practices that conflict with Islamic law (Shari'a) are prohibited. However, in Egypt the practice of Christianity or Judaism does not conflict with Shari'a and, for the most part, members of the non-Muslim minority worship without harassment and maintain links with coreligionists abroad.

There was a trend toward improvement in the Government's respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom during the period covered by this report. The Government undertook a series of initiatives to address the concerns of the Christian community, including the facilitation of church repairs, the appointment of Copts to senior positions in the ruling political party, and expanded treatment of Coptic themes in the media. There was a significant increase in press and public discussion of the subject of religious discrimination.

Many Egyptians agree that more needs to be done to eliminate religious discrimination, but argue that development of the economy, polity, and society is the most effective and enduring way to abolish prejudice. A trade dispute between a Christian clothing merchant and a Muslim customer that occurred on December 31, 1999, in the village of Al-Kush in Sohag governorate, escalated into violent exchanges between Muslims and Christians in the area, culminating in the death of 21 Christians and 1 Muslim on January 2, 2000.

The subject of religious freedom remains an important and active part of the bilateral dialog between the U.S. and Egyptian Governments. President Clinton, the U.S. Ambassador, other senior administration officials, and members of Congress have raised U.S. concerns about religious discrimination with President Hosni Mubarak and other senior officials.

Section I. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites; however, the Government places restrictions on this right. Under the Constitution, Islam is the official state religion and primary source of legislation. Accordingly, religious practices that conflict with Shari'a are prohibited. However, in Egypt the practice of Christianity or Judaism does not conflict with Shari'a and, for the most part, members of the non-Muslim minority worship without harassment and maintain links with coreligionists abroad.

All mosques must be licensed, and the Government is engaged in an effort to control them legally. The Government appoints and pays the salaries of the imams who lead prayers in mosques, proposes themes for them, and monitors their sermons. In September 1999, the Minister of Awqaf announced that the Government now controls 46,000 mosques and 12,000 "zawaya" (corner mosques, or mosques located within a multipurpose building). (There are approximately 70,000 mosques in the country.) In an effort to combat extremists, the Government has announced its intention to bring all unauthorized mosques under its control by 2002.

Religious Demography

Most Egyptians are Sunni Muslims. There is a small number of Shi'a Muslims. Approximately 10 percent of the population, or 6 million of 64 million, are Christians, the majority of whom belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. Other traditionally Christian communities include the Armenian, Greek, and Syrian Orthodox Churches, and the Coptic, Armenian, Chaldean, Greek, Maronite, Roman, and Syrian Catholic Churches. An Evangelical Protestant Church, first established in the middle of the 19th century, has grown to a community of 17 Protestant denominations. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church was granted legal status in the 1960's. The non-Muslim, non-Coptic communities range in size from several thousand to hundreds of thousands. Christians are geographically dispersed throughout the country, although the percentage of Christians tends to be higher in upper (southern) Egypt than the national average.

The Jewish community currently numbers fewer than 200 persons. There is also a very small number of Baha'is.

Governmental Restrictions on Religious Freedom

An 1856 Ottoman decree still in force requires non-Muslims to obtain what is now a presidential decree to build a place of worship. In addition, Interior Ministry regulations issued in 1934 specify a set of 10 conditions that the Government must consider prior to issuance of a presidential decree permitting construction of a church. These conditions include the location of the proposed site, the religious composition of the surrounding community, and the proximity of other churches.

The Ottoman decree also requires the President to approve permits for the repair of church facilities. In response to strong criticism of the decree, President Mubarak took several steps to facilitate church repairs. In December 1999, President Mubarak issued a decree making the repair of all places of worship subject to a 1976 civil construction code. The decree is significant symbolically because it places churches and mosques on equal footing before the law. The practical impact of the decree has been to facilitate significantly church repairs. During the period covered by this report, the Government approved a total of 32 permits for church-related construction, including 4 permits for the construction of new churches; 6 permits for the construction of additional church facilities; and 26 permits for churches previously constructed without authorization. The Government reported that governors issued more than 200 permits for church-related repair in 1999.

However, the approval process for church construction is time-consuming and insufficiently responsive to the wishes of the Christian community. Although President Mubarak reportedly has approved all requests for permits presented to him, Christians maintain that the Interior Ministry delays--in some instances indefinitely--submission to the President of their requests. They also maintain that security forces have blocked them from utilizing permits that have been issued.

As a result of these restrictions, some communities use private buildings and apartments for religious services. In February 2000, security forces closed a church operating without a permit in the city of Al-Tour in the Sinai. The Christian community in the Sinai had submitted its first request for a permit to construct a church in Al-Tour in 1995. In April 2000, the Government issued a permit to build a new church in the neighborhood of Al-Qalag in the city of Shebin Al-Qanater in Qalubiya governorate. Security forces had closed the community's historic church in 1989. In May 2000, the weekly Christian newspaper Watany published an editorial series documenting the Government's failure to issue church permits in 10 "new communities" (those areas outside the traditionally inhabited Nile Valley).

In January 1996, human rights activist Mamdouh Naklah filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the Ottoman decree. In December 1998, an administrative court referred Naklah's case to the State Commissioner's Office. This decision was considered a setback, as this body of legal experts is not required to issue an opinion expeditiously and its advisory opinions are not binding. The office had not issued an opinion in this case by mid-2000. Once an opinion is issued, the court is expected to try the case.

Neither the Constitution nor the Civil and Penal Codes prohibit proselytizing or conversion. However, during the past 2 decades, several dozen Christians who were accused of proselytizing or who had converted from Islam to Christianity have been harassed by police or arrested on charges of violating Article 98(F) of the Penal Code, which prohibits citizens from ridiculing or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife. No such incidents occurred during the period covered by this report.

There are no restrictions on the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. However, in cases involving conversion from Islam to Christianity, authorities have charged several converts with violating laws prohibiting the falsification of documents. In such instances, converts, who fear government harassment if they officially register the change from Islam to Christianity, have altered their identification cards and other official documents themselves to reflect their new religious affiliation. No such charges were raised during the period covered by this report

In 1997, human rights activist Mamdouh Naklah filed suit seeking removal of the religious affiliation category from government identification cards. Naklah challenged the constitutionality of a 1994 decree by the Minister of Interior governing the issuance of new identification cards. The court referred the case to the State Commissioner's Office. In May 2000, the State Commissioner's Office issued an opinion noting that the legal challenge had not been filed within 60 days of the decree's issuance, as required by law. However, the advisory opinions of the State Commissioner's Office are not binding. The court is now expected to try the case.

In 1960, President Gamal Abdel Nasser issued a decree (Law 263 for 1960) banning Baha'i institutions and community activities. All Baha'i community properties, including Baha'i centers, libraries, and cemeteries, were confiscated. This ban has not been rescinded.

According to a 1995 law, application of family law, including marriage, divorce, alimony, child custody, inheritance, and burial, is based on an individual's religion. In the practice of family law, the State recognizes only the three "heavenly religions:" Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Muslim families are subject to the Personal Status Law, which draws on Shari'a. Christian families are subject to canon law, and Jewish families are subject to Jewish law. In cases of family law disputes involving a marriage between a Christian woman and a Muslim man, the courts apply the Personal Status Law. The children of such marriages must be raised as Muslims. The Coptic Orthodox Church excommunicates Christian women who marry Muslim men. Muslim women are prohibited by Shari'a from marrying Christian men.

The Constitution requires schools to offer religious instruction. Public and private schools provide religious instruction according to the faith of the student.

The Minister of Awqaf, Hamdy Zaqzouq, established in 1996 a committee to address a dispute with the Coptic Orthodox Church that originated in 1952. At that time, the Government seized approximately 1,500 acres of land from the Church and transferred title to the Ministry of Awqaf, which is responsible for administering religious trusts. Based on the committee's recommendations, more than 800 acres have been returned to the Church. The committee continues to review claims to the remaining disputed property.

The Ministry of Awqaf engages in interfaith discussions both domestically and abroad.

Governmental Abuses of Religious Freedom

The Government occasionally prosecutes members of religious groups whose practices deviate from mainstream Islamic beliefs and whose activities are believed to jeopardize communal harmony. One focus of government scrutiny has been the eponymous religious group established in 1969 by Salim Al-Faramawy, which advocates the belief that members should isolate themselves from the State and society, which he considered atheistic, and abjure the use of science and technology, including medicine. Faramawy also advocated the consumption of dogs and cats, a practice prohibited by Islam. After his death in 1991, his son-in-law, Mohamed Gouda, reportedly assumed leadership of the group. In March 2000, the State Security Prosecutor arrested 48 persons from several governorates alleged to be members of the Faramawy group. Gouda and the other 47 alleged members of the group remained in detention at the end of the period covered by this report, pending completion of an investigation by the Public Prosecutor.

On November 11, 1999, the State Security Prosecutor arrested 50 persons in Cairo suspected of heresy against Islam. On November 15, 1999, 30 detainees were released and the remaining 20 were charged with degrading Islam, inciting strife, and meeting illegally. The lead defendant, a woman named Manal Wahid Mana'a, was accused of attempting to establish a new Islamic offshoot. She claims that the Prophet Mohamed speaks to her. A State Security Emergency Court in Boulaq began the trial of Mana'a and her followers on May 9, 2000. The next hearing was scheduled for July 11, 2000.

In July 1999, a state security court in Alexandria convicted 14 persons of heresy against Islam. The lead defendant, Mohamed Ibrahim Mahfouz, was sentenced to 5 years in prison for claiming that he speaks directly to God and is at times transformed into God or the Prophet Mohamed. Seven of his followers were sentenced to 3 years in prison. Six of his followers were sentenced to 1 year in prison. Five other defendants were acquitted.

In August 1999, the public prosecutor reopened and expanded an investigation of police torture of mostly Christian detainees that took place during the police investigation in August and September 1998 of the murder of Samir Aweda Hakim and Karam Tamer Arsal in the largely Coptic village of Al-Kush in Sohag governorate. This investigation of police conduct is ongoing and no conclusions had been reached by mid-2000. It is unclear whether religion was a factor in the actions of the police officers. Some human rights groups outside Egypt believe that religion was a factor in the Al-Kush murder investigation, but most human rights and Christian activists in Egypt do not. Police abuse of detainees is a widespread practice that occurs regardless of a detainee's religious beliefs.

On June 5, 2000, a criminal court in Sohag city convicted Shayboub William Arsal of the murder of Hakim and Arsal. The court sentenced Shayboub to 15 years in prison at hard labor. An appeal is pending. The Christian community of Al-Kush believes that Shayboub, a Christian resident of Al-Kush, was accused and convicted of the crime because of his religion. The public prosecution in Sohag has taken no action on charges of witness tampering in Shayboub's trial that were raised in 1998 against Bishop Wisa and Arch-Priest Antonious.

An estimated several thousand persons are imprisoned because of alleged support for or membership in Islamist groups seeking to overthrow the Government. The Government states that these persons are in detention because of membership in or activities on behalf of violent extremist groups, without regard to religious affiliation. There were no reports linking their detention solely to their religious belief.

Improvements in Respect for Religious Freedom

There was a trend toward improvement in the Government's respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom during the period covered by this report. In December 1999, President Mubarak issued a decree making the repair of all places of worship subject to a 1976 civil construction code. The decree is significant symbolically because it places churches and mosques on equal footing before the law. The practical impact of the decree has been to facilitate significantly church repairs. In February 2000, President Mubarak announced the reorganization of the Government's National Democratic Party (NDP), including the appointment of five Copts to senior political party positions. The NDP holds the vast majority of seats in Parliament. The NDP and opposition political parties also have announced that they intend to nominate Copts to run for seats in Parliament in the fall 2000 elections.

The Ministry of Tourism arranged festivities in June 2000, which were attended by the Prime Minister and other senior dignitaries, celebrating the millennium anniversary of the arrival of the Holy Family, which, according to tradition, sojourned in Egypt. The Ministry of Housing and the American Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Athra Kadisha were expected to complete construction of a highway-bridge through the ancient Basatin Jewish Cemetery in Cairo in September 2000. The project is designed to be a modern highway--part of Cairo's Ring Road--that traverses a cemetery but meets the religious strictures against moving or vibrating buried bodies.

In January 1999, the Government formed a committee of academics to revise the history curriculum in the primary and secondary schools. A primary objective of the committee is to reintroduce into the curriculum the Coptic and Byzantine periods of Egyptian history. During the period covered by this report, new text was developed; however, it has not yet been incorporated into the curriculum.

Building on actions first taken in December 1999 and January 2000, government-owned television and radio significantly expanded the amount of programming time devoted to Christian issues, including the live broadcast of Christmas and Easter services and documentaries on the Holy Family's travels in Egypt and other Christian history. Pope John Paul II's February 2000 visit to Egypt, including his Mass, visits to holy sites, and meetings with religious leaders, received extensive press and television coverage. The Government introduced several television dramas that emphasize religious tolerance, and news programs pointedly sought official Christian views on topical matters. The media did not broadcast any discriminatory programs. Government newspapers provided more editorial space to Christian themes and authors than in past years. The First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, has endorsed the development of reading materials that advocate tolerance. These materials are distributed by projects under her patronage that promote literacy and educational opportunities for girls.

Forced Religious Conversion of Minor U.S. Citizens

There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

During the past 2 decades, the "Islamic Group in Egypt" (Islamic Group) and other terrorist groups that seek the overthrow of the Government have committed violent acts, including assaults against government targets, foreign tourists, and Christians. There were no reported terrorist incidents during the period covered by this report. Government, Islamic, and community leaders have criticized the attacks against Christians. The Government remains fully engaged in efforts to arrest and convict these extremists. However, some Christians allege that the Government is lax in protecting Christian lives and property. In October 1999, a State Security Emergency Court in Assiyut city began the trial of four members of a terrorist group from the upper city of Dairout who were accused of the murder and attempted murder of policemen and Christians in the early 1990's. On June 20, 2000, each of the four defendants was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Section II. Societal Attitudes

Muslims and Copts share a common history and national identity. They also share the same ethnicity, race, culture, and language. Christians are geographically dispersed throughout the country, and Christians and Muslims live as neighbors. At times religious tensions flare up and individual acts of prejudice occur. Discrimination is practiced by members of both faiths. The majority of citizens agree that more needs to be done to eliminate discrimination, but argue that development of the economy, polity, and society is the most effective and enduring way to abolish social prejudice.

The Constitution provides for equal public rights and duties without discrimination due to religion or creed. For the most part, these constitutional protections are upheld by the Government. However, discrimination against Christians exists. There are no Christians serving as governors, university presidents, and deans. There are few Christians in the upper ranks of the security services and armed forces. Although there was improvement in a few areas, government discriminatory practices include: Suspected statistical underrepresentation of the size of the Christian population; bias against Christianity and Coptic history in the educational curriculums; limited coverage of Christian subjects in the media; failure to admit Christians into public university training programs for Arabic language teachers (because the curriculum involves study of the Koran); discrimination against Christians in the public sector; and discrimination against Christians in staff appointments to public universities.

Christians have been the objects of occasional violent assault by the Islamic Group and other terrorists. However, there were no reports of terrorist attacks against Christians during the period covered by this report. In incidents unrelated to terrorism, a Christian priest in the lower (northern) city of Mahalla and a Christian priest in the city of Dairout were attacked by individual extremists in August and September 1999, respectively. The assailant in the first case was convicted on April 15, 2000 of assault and sentenced to 3 years at hard labor. The assailant in the second case was determined to be mentally unstable and placed in a state mental institution on April 29, 2000. The Government provided the priests with medical care.

The public prosecutor charged Ahmad Fergally Ahmad Nasir and Ibrahim Fergally Ahmad Nasir with premediated murder after the Nasir brothers shot and killed a monk on September 2, 1999, in Assiyut governorate following a land dispute. The monk was affiliated with a monastery that rents thousands of acres of agricultural land to local tenants, and the Nasir brothers were tenants on the land. The public prosecutor appealed the September 21, 1999 verdict of a criminal court that ruled that the Nasir brothers were guilty of an "attack leading to death" and sentenced them to 7 years in prison. The public prosecutor is seeking a conviction for premeditated murder. The case was pending before an appeals court at mid-2000.

A trade dispute between a Christian clothing merchant and a Muslim customer that occurred on December 31, 1999, in the village of Al-Kush in Sohag governorate, escalated into violent exchanges between Muslims and Christians in the area, resulting in the death of 21 Christians and 1 Muslim on January 2, 2000. The violence also resulted in the injury of 39 persons in Al-Kush and 5 persons in the neighboring municipality of Dar Al-Salaam. Approximately 200 businesses and homes in the area were damaged. Following the incident, President Mubarak sent the Minister of Local Administration to Al-Kush as his emissary. The Minister of Housing and the Public Prosecutor also visited Al-Kush to investigate. The Government subsequently provided $882 (3000 Egyptian pounds) to each of the families of those who were killed and $147 (500 Egyptian pounds) to each person who was injured. The Government relocated and rebuilt 65 kiosks destroyed in the riots. The placement of the kiosks prior to the incident had been a subject of longstanding dispute between Christian and Muslim merchants. The Christian community estimates that Christian residents and merchants lost $1,061,588 (3,609,400 Egyptian pounds) worth of merchandise and personal property during the looting. The Ministry of Social Affairs thus far has disbursed $15,560 (52,900 Egyptian pounds) in compensation. The Coptic Orthodox Church has provided $192,779 (655,450 Egyptian pounds) in compensation. Several individuals and organizations also provided donations to the Christian community in Al-Kush.

On March 11, 2000 the Public Prosecutor announced the indictment of 135 persons for involvement in the sectarian violence, on charges ranging from unlawful assembly to murder. Charges initially raised against a local priest were dropped. On June 3, 2000 a criminal court in Sohag city conducted the first hearing in the trial of 39 persons indicted for committing acts of violence in the municipality of Dar Al-Salaam. The next hearing was scheduled for July 3, 2000. On June 4, 2000, the same criminal court in Sohag city conducted the first hearing in the trial of 96 persons accused of committing acts of violence in the village of Al-Kush. The next hearing was scheduled for August 7, 2000. Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda stated publicly that negligence on the part of the police and local leaders led to an increase in the number of victims and an escalation of the violence. Although rumors reportedly played a significant role in exacerbating the violence, no incitement charges were brought. The Government did not investigate police conduct; however, the director of state security for Sohag governorate, Said Abu Al-Ma'aly, was removed from his position in March.

On May 8, 2000, Islamist students from Al-Azhar University clashed with police after their protest of the Culture Ministry's re-issuance of a novel, which the students deemed insulting to Islam, turned violent. Dozens of students were injured and approximately 75 were detained for up to 15 days of questioning. None of the students were charged for their roles in the incident. Islamic fundamentalists had objected to the Culture Ministry's supposed pro-Western, anti-Islamic orientation.

There were reports of forced conversions of Coptic girls to Islam. Reports of such cases are disputed and often include inflammatory allegations and categorical denials of kidnaping and rape. Observers, including human rights groups, find it extremely difficult to determine whether compulsion was used, as these cases typically involve a Coptic girl who converts to Islam when she marries a Muslim boy. According to the Government, the girl in such cases must meet with her family, with her priest, and with the head of her church before she is allowed to convert. However, there are credible reports of the Government's failure to ensure that such meetings occur, of government harassment of Christian families that attempt to regain custody of their daughters prior to the marriage, and of the failure of the authorities to uphold the law (which states that a marriage of a girl under the age of 16 is prohibited, and between the ages of 16 and 21 is illegal without the approval and presence of her guardian) in some cases of marriage between an underage Christian girl and a Muslim male.

There is no legal requirement for a Christian girl or woman to convert to Islam in order to marry a Muslim. If a Christian woman marries a Muslim man, she is excommunicated by the Church. Ignorance of the law and social pressure, including the centrality of marriage to a woman's identity, often affect her decision. Family conflict and financial pressure also are cited as factors. In addition, conversion is a means of circumventing the legal prohibition on marriage between the ages of 16 and 21 without the approval and presence of the girl's guardian. Most Christian families would object to a daughter's wish to marry a Muslim. However, if a Christian girl converts to Islam, her family loses guardianship, which transfers to a Muslim custodian, who is likely to grant approval. The law is silent on the matter of the acceptable age of conversion.

Official relations between Christian and Muslim religious figures are amicable, and include reciprocal visits to religious celebrations. A committee on dialog was established in 1998 by the Vatican and Al-Azhar, the country's foremost Islamic institution and a preeminent seminary of Sunni Islamic study. Al-Azhar engages in other interfaith discussions, both in the country and abroad. The Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) supports a Center for Intercultural Dialog. In May 2000, Al-Azhar and the CEOSS cosponsored a conference on "Religious Thought and Justice." Held in the city of Port Said, the conference drew more than 100 participants, including the Minister of Awqaf and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. Other informal interfaith discussions take place, as well. Private Christian schools admit Muslim students, and religious charities serve both communities.

Rejecting foreign and some local negative characterizations of government treatment of Christians, local Christian and Muslim leaders formed a Council of "Wise Men" in 1998 to define the problems of the Christian community and to propose solutions to the Government and society. The council identified the following five priorities: Abolishing the Ottoman decree and related regulations governing the construction and repair of churches; increasing the number of Christians nominated for elected positions by the governing National Democratic Party; increasing the number of Christians appointed to senior government positions; correcting the imbalance in media treatment of Christian subjects and prohibiting the inclusion of discriminatory materials; and correcting the deficiencies in the educational curriculums, including insufficient treatment of the Coptic era of history. The Government is addressing many of these concerns. In February 2000, following the new year's sectarian violence in Sohag, these leaders issued a second petition renewing their call on the Government and society to abolish religious discrimination. In general there was a significant increase in press and public discussion of religious discrimination during the period covered by this report.

Anti-Semitism in the press is found in both the government press and in the nonofficial press of the opposition parties. The Government has advised journalists and cartoonists to avoid anti-Semitism. There have been no anti-Semitic incidents in recent years directed at the tiny Jewish community.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The subject of religious freedom is an important part of the bilateral dialog. The subject has been raised at all levels of government, including by the President, Secretary of State, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, the U.S. Ambassador, and other embassy officials. The Embassy maintains formal contacts with the Office of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, the Ambassador has discussed religious freedom with senior government officials and religious leaders. The Embassy also regularly discusses religious freedom issues in contacts with other government officials, including governors and Members of Parliament. In May 2000, representatives from the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor visited and met with official interlocutors and community activists. Visiting congressional delegations have raised religious freedom issues during visits with government officials.

The U.S. Embassy maintains an active dialog with the leaders of the Christian and Muslim religious communities, human rights groups, and other activists. The Embassy investigates every complaint of religious discrimination brought to its attention. The Embassy also discusses religious freedom with a range of contacts, including academics, businessmen, and citizens outside of the capital area, as well as those from a lower-income background.

The U.S. Mission, including the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), works in concert to expand human rights and to ameliorate the conditions that breed religious strife by promoting economic, social, and political development. U.S. programs and activities support initiatives in several areas directly related to religious freedom. During the period covered by this report, the Mission provided training to Egyptian police in human rights practices and community policing techniques. The Mission is working to strengthen civil society, including training for nongovernmental groups that promote religious tolerance. In March 2000, the Nongovernmental Organization Service Center was funded by USAID to provide training and technical assistance to Egyptian NGO's began operating. The Embassy has nominated participants interested in advocacy for the international visitors program, and invited American specialists in this subject as part of the State Department's Speakers Program. Another mission initiative is to strengthen the rule of law. USAID supports a major effort to improve the administration of justice, and State Department exchange activities promote legal reform and access to justice. The Mission also promotes civic education. The public affairs section of the Embassy is supporting the development of materials that encourage tolerance, diversity, and understanding of others, in both Arabic-language and English-language curriculums. USAID, in collaboration with the Children's Television Workshop, developed an Egyptian version of the television program Sesame Street, which is designed to reach isolated households and has as one of its goals the promotion of tolerance. The show was scheduled to begin in the summer of 2000; it had not been aired by the end of the period covered by this report. USAID also supports private voluntary organizations that are implementing innovative curriculums in private schools. The public affairs section of the Embassy is leading an effort to increase the professionalism of the press, with an emphasis on balanced and responsible coverage. Finally, USAID is working with the Supreme Council of Antiquities to promote the conservation of cultural antiquities, including Islamic, Christian, and Jewish historical sites.


Sources: U.S. State Department - Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

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