Newspaper: Government mulls regulating proselytizing

A cabinet panel is studying a draft law that would regulate religious conversion, according to independent daily Al-Tahrir.

The cabinet's National Justice Committee proposed the law as several sectarian clashes have resulted from proselytizing, the committee's head, Amir Ramzy, told the newspaper.

The committee will soon discuss the possiblity of issuing the law, Ramzy told the paper.

Religious conversion in Egypt – usually from Christianity to Islam or vice versa – sparks controversy which at times develop into sectarian violence.

Egypt's Constitution stipulates Islam as the main source of legislation. As Islam prohibits apostasy (conversion to other faiths), authorities rebuff requests for religion changes, even for Muslim converts who would like to return to Christianity.

Al-Tahrir revealed that religious figures differed over the committee's proposal.

According to the newspaper, the archbishop of Helwan, Anba Bassanty, voiced his support for the bill, saying it would grant citizens freedom to change their faith based on their personal will.

But Abdel Masih Bassit, a priest at Saint Mary Church in Mostorod, Cairo, voiced his fear of the reaction of hardline religious groups which, he said, would view the bill as a war against religion.

Abdel Rahman al-Berr, a member at the Muslim Brotherhood's Gudiance Bureau, told the newspaper he rejects the bill, arguing that it would ignite tensions between Muslims and Copts and thus threaten social stability.

Secular thinker Kamal Zakher said religions should not be consulted when legislation is being drawn up, adding that the state’s legal reference should be from a civilian perspective. He said that proposing the law will be a test for supporters of civilian and religious states.

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