|5/17/2005: Egypt: Show the way to democracy|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urges President George W. Bush, when he meets tomorrow with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, to repeat his message in his 2005 State of the Union Address, urging Egypt to "show the way toward democracy in the Middle East." In its just-released 2005 Annual Report, the Commission expressed serious concern about ongoing violations of the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief in Egypt, including widespread problems of discrimination and intolerance against members of minority Muslim, Christian, and other religious communities. These concerns have led the Commission to include Egypt on its Watch List again.
There is also a growing sense that Islamic extremism is advancing in Egypt with detrimental effects on the prospects for democratic reform, religious tolerance, and the rights of women and girls. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood has used the group's ideological roots as a platform to engage in terrorist activity in the past, and some Islamists persist in advocating violence.
The United States has a close relationship with Egypt, including cooperation on regional stability and the war against terrorism. With nearly $2 billion in economic and security assistance, Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world. USCIRF Chair Preeta D. Bansal said, "The Commission views the strength of the bilateral relationship and repeated calls for reform by the United States as an opportunity for the two countries to increase cooperation significantly to advance protection for the internationally recognized right to freedom of religion or belief and related human rights as an important aspect of U.S. policy to promote freedom and democracy in the greater Middle East."
The Commission has made specific recommendations for U.S. policy. The U.S. government should urge the Egyptian government to:
More extensive recommendations for U.S. policy are in a policy brief on Egypt that the Commission will release at a June 1 event at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. The Commission traveled to Egypt in the summer of 2004 to discuss with Egyptians the nation's efforts to advance the right to freedom of religion or belief and related human rights in accordance with the international human rights instruments to which Egypt is a party.