By Coptic Solidarity –
Today the International Religious Freedom Roundtable sent a multi-faith letter to Chairmen Royce and Ros-Lehtinen signed by 41 organizations and individuals to ask them to urgently mark-up H. RES. 673, Expressing concern over attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, and bring it to a full floor vote.
Key points from the letter, which is an initiative of Coptic Solidarity, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable:
- This resolution, which Rep. Ros-Lehtinen supported as an original cosponsor, now has the strong bi-partisan backing of 47 Members of Congress, many of whom are members of the MENA subcommittee.
- During the Foreign Affairs Hearing, Egypt: Security, Human Rights, and Reform, which Rep. Ros-Lehtinen chaired on July 24, the expert witnesses presented compelling evidence of the decimation of civil society and increased persecution of religious minorities in Egypt, particularly the Copts.
- Copts have been subjected to more attacks during el-Sisi’s rule than during Mubark’s or the Muslim Brothers’.
- The Egyptian government denies the ongoing persecution of the Copts and blames it on international terrorism, rather than acknowledging the reality that the persecution is perpetrated by internal fanatic Islamist groups, the government, its security and intelligence agencies and the society at large, which has been thoroughly radicalized. It has opted to turn a blind eye to attacks on the Copts by fanatic Islamists and the radicalized section of the society, which threatens the rule of law and Egypt’s internal stability, and succeeded in externalizing the threat to gain Western support.
- It would seem that the Egyptian government has succeeded in convincing US politicians that the fight against terrorism supersedes human rights and religious freedom. But US policy makers should not fall for such deception.
- The Egyptian government understands the significance of H. RES 673 and has exerted tremendous pressure on US legislators to compromise it either by gutting it of its content; by denying the persecution or blaming it on external terrorism or by completely halting its passage. If US legislators bow to Egypt’s pressure, they stand to risk; reinforcing Egypt’s denial of the ongoing persecution of the Copts, other minorities and continued decimation of civil society; emboldening the Egyptian government and persecution of all religious minorities, and suppression of civil society and the media are likely to worsen; providing precedence that may compromise future efforts to urge Egypt to make reforms; and confirming the Egyptian media’s false accusations that US legislators do not care about human rights or religious freedom but are using them to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs.
- The US is now engaging Egypt in the fight against Islamist terrorism and stands to exercise its weight and moral values to promote equality, civil society, and religious freedom for all Egyptians. Egypt’s stability is vital, but Copts and civil society should not be the victims – or collateral damage – that pay the ultimate price in the war on terrorism.
- It is imperative to pass H. Res. 673 since it will send Egypt a message that this is not mere empty rhetoric. In this increasingly authoritarian environment in which minorities suffer, passing H. RES. 673 before the end of this session of Congress will send an important message to the Egyptian government that the Congress cares about the state of human rights and religious freedom in Egypt, and is willing to address it.