“The subject peoples … are forbidden to build new churches.” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o11.5). Islamic law also forbids Christians to repair old churches.
Sharia Alert from Egypt: “Controversial Church-Building Law a Focal Point for Egypt’s Coptic Voters,” by Luiza Oleszczuk for the Christian Post, May 17:
Egypt’s Coptic Christians fear they could face further persecution should an Islamist candidate win next week’s presidential elections, as frontrunners vying for leadership stem from the Sharia-leaning Muslim Brotherhood. One of the major issues on their agenda is a controversial law that puts heavy restrictions on building and maintaining Christian houses of worship.
The emerging top Islamist candidates in the race include Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood; Salafist candidate Hazem Abu Ismail; and the Muslim Brotherhood’s own Khairat Al-Shater, who said in April that Sharia should become the ultimate law of the land.
Meanwhile, some Copts are hoping that candidate Ahmed Shafiq, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s prime minister and a former military commander, would be the one to help end the discriminatory rules concerning building churches, Reuters reported this week.
The church-building policy in Egypt has been the subject of a heated Muslim-Christian debate for years. Controversial legislation makes it easy to build a mosque but hard to raise or even repair a church. A new mosque only needs a permit from the local district, while a church needs additional paper work signed by the president himself.
The law goes back to the 19th century, Kurt J. Werthmuller, Research Fellow at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told The Christian Post via email.
Actually, it is part of Islam’s laws for dhimmis, which go back to the beginnings of Islamic jurisprudence.
However, as far as the law may have been seen as progressive then, “in the context of contemporary Egypt, it has meant that Coptic Christians have been required to submit presidential petition to not just build new churches, but to expand, renovate, or even make simple repairs in existing ones,” Werthmuller said.
In 2005, Mubarak altered the policy by issuing a presidential decree that delegated the authority for such permissions to the nation’s governors.
“This meant,” Werthmuller explained, “that if a village priest had to repair a broken toilet or cracked wall in his church, he would still have to go a high regional executive for permission. Even then, it’s worth noting, he would have to navigate a labyrinth of paperwork and corrupt bureaucracy, and often face clerical workers that could easily ‘lose’ the petition in the process.”…