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Swett: Egyptian Tolerance Is Democracy Barometer

So long as the problem exists, we will continue to highlight it and recommend that the U.S. government take strong action in support of religious freedom.

First, the United States should press Egypt’s government to reverse long-standing policy by repealing discriminatory decrees against religious minorities, removing religion from official identity documents, abolishing the blasphemy codes and passing a unified law for the construction and repair of places of worship.

Second, Washington should urge Cairo to prosecute government-funded clerics, government officials or any other individuals who incite violence, while disciplining or dismissing government-funded clerics who fan the flames of intolerance and hatred.

Third, it should increase pressure on Egypt to bring to justice those who have committed violence against fellow Egyptians on account of their religion.

Fourth, the U.S. government should press the Egyptians to include robust protections for freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief in a new constitution.

Fifth, Congress should require the Departments of State and Defense to report every 90 days on the Egyptian government’s progress pertaining to religious freedom and related rights.

Sixth, until genuine progress occurs, USCIRF renews its call for the United States to designate Egypt a “country of particular concern” as one of the world’s most serious religious freedom abusers.

Finally, if Egypt demonstrates a commitment to progress on freedom of religion and related rights, the United States should ensure that a portion of its military aid to Egypt be used to help Egypt’s police improve protection for religious minorities and their places of worship.

Today, as Egypt confronts the rigors of democratic transition, will it embrace the rights of Copts and other religious minorities and commit to a truly democratic future, characterized by respect for rule of law and the full panoply of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion?

The world awaits an answer.

Katrina Lantos Swett is chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. This article is based on her June 28 remarks at the 2012 Coptic Solidarity Conference in Washington, D.C.

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