In Egypt, Coptic MP fights for the rights of Christians
DR. EMAD GAD is a Member of the Egyptian House of Representatives and a professor of political science at Cairo University. A member of the Orthodox Coptic Church, he has represented the Free Egyptians Party during several terms in Parliament. Because of his defense of the rights of Christians, he has regularly suffered harassment and marginalization. In his statements and writings, he has frequently criticized authorities for failing to protect Egypt’s Coptic Christians from violent, often deadly attacks, and for not doing more to guarantee Christians’ rights and freedoms as citizens.
Among the rights often denied the Church is the freedom to build new churches. In many cases, hardline Muslims oppose—often violently—the construction of new churches. Gad has repeatedly argued against so-called reconciliation sessions sponsored by the state or local government to resolve Muslim-Christian disputes—procedures, he charges, which routinely fail to lead to prosecution of Muslims guilty of violent acts against Christians or Christian properties.
Today, Gad—who also serves as deputy director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies in Cairo—believes conditions for Christians are better than under President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in January 2011. Gad said that recently re-elected President Abdel Fattah Al- Sisi—who drew a significant part of the Christian vote—“has good intentions and wants to change lots of things, but the inheritance of the past is very heavy. Egyptians have from childhood on been fed a rhetoric of hate, with the message that Christians are infidels. How do you suddenly tell people that Christians are good?” Gad also pointed at resistance on the part of influential Muslim networks, which includes the University of Al-Ahzar, the most influential center of learning for Sunni Islam.
President Al-Sisi is criticized by Christians for not doing enough to protect Christians from Islamist violence, particularly in Upper Egypt, but Copts consider him the best choice to ensure stability and battle terrorism. Meanwhile, Gad refuses to be silent and continues his fight to combat the discrimination of Christians and to work towards the creation of a secular state where all citizens are treated equally, regardless of faith. To read the rest of the interview with Dr. Gad, please click here.