CAIRO: Thirty-two human rights organizations called on President Hosni Mubarak to form a committee to look into sectarian tensions in the country and to find plausible solutions.
The organizations presented a memorandum on Monday to President Mubarak’s office as part of a campaign launched last week to face “the unprecedented escalation of sectarian tension.”
“The Nagaa Hammadi shootings that took place on Christmas Eve proved that there are a lot more sensible people in this country than there are extremists, as society’s different groups condemned the attacks,” read the memorandum issued by the organizations and signed by 230 public figures.
“Some fundamentalist groups are fighting equality and citizenship rights,” the memorandum continued. “They took advantage of the church’s stance on Coptic marriages and Kamelia Shehata’s issue to spread hate and launch a campaign against both the [Coptic] church and Christians in general.”
The rights groups called on Mubarak to intervene.
“[This] statement’s signatories are calling for the formation of a supreme committee to investigate the issue, with the authority to question all involved parties and directly report to the presidential office,” the memorandum stated.
Coordinator of the Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination group Mohamed Mounir Mujahed told Daily News Egypt that “it is time to face our problems head on, away from the usual rhetoric of national unity that is repeated to the media to give the impression that there are no problems. President Mubarak has to find the roots of the problem and reach a final solution.”
The memorandum issued by the various human rights organizations stressed the importance of taking action soon.
“We are approaching a very dangerous stage,” the memorandum stated. “Tension is rising on both sides, as we see protests in mosques and churches, hateful statements made by Muslim and Christian religious figures, accusations that the church is becoming a state within a state and is hiding weapons, as well as allegations of Islamic groups kidnapping Coptic women and forcing them to convert in alliance with state security.”
The memorandum also urged Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud to launch a transparent investigation to look into the truth behind allegations that Coptic women have been getting kidnapped and consequently forced to convert to Islam.
It also called for a separate investigation into allegations of the kidnapping of Kamelia Shehata by state security.
“We demand a trial for whoever misleads the public and spreads rumors, inciting hate and threatening national security, whether they are Muslim or Christian religious leaders, or even the media,” the memorandum added.
Mujahed stated that the rights groups are planning an event which will bring the issue of religious discrimination to the forefront this month, which will be attended by public and religious figures.
The groups who signed the statement include the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights, Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Violence Victims, Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Arab Organization for Civil Society and Human Rights Support, Arab Network for Human Rights Support, and the New Woman Organization.
Several public figures also signed the memorandum, including director Dawood Abdel-Sayed, political activist Aboul Ezz El-Hariri, director Ahmed Hany El-Mehy, composer Ayman Helmy, and researcher Samer Soliman.