Thursday Headlines

Muslim Scholars Pledge To Protect Religious Minorities
Earlier this month a group of Muslim scholars and intellectuals hailing from more than 120 countries issued the Marrakesh Declaration, a pledge in support of the protection and freedom of religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities.

“Gatherings and statements such as these have been and continue to be significant initiatives within the Muslim world to address modern problems and the root causes of conflict and violence. But these platforms and declarations have sometimes been criticized as elitist endeavors that have failed to reach the grassroots to significantly shape public attitudes, or to effect tangible change. The hope of the Marrakesh conference organizers is that this declaration will yield such transformation,” says Susan Hayward of the United States Institute for Peace, in an article in which she explains the significance of this event.

However, others are more skeptical and cynical.

“What about Northern Sudan? Can we expect a new era when Muslims are free to convert to any other religion? Minorities in Muslim-majority lands are tired of talking about religious equality. They are in desperate need of action,” Ayman Ibrahim, a Coptic Christian, writes in an op-ed with the Religion News Service.

He notes that the Charter of Medina, upon which the Marrakesh Declaration is based, “did not actually help religious minorities, particularly Jews, during Muhammad’s time” and, in fact, religious minorities were seized, expelled from their homes and often massacred during this period.

Murder Of Italian Student Could Have Ramifications For Egypt
The brutality involved in the murder of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni may or may not have been at the hands of government officials, but it serves to underscore the perception that in Egypt, neither natives, nor foreigners are safe.

According to an autopsy, Mr. Regeni had suffered “inhuman, animal-like, unacceptable violence” before his death, and because Egyptian officials conceded they had detained Regeni before his death, many suspect the case may be another example of the government’s poor human rights record.

“Scholars across the globe have called on the Egyptian government to conduct a thorough and honest investigation. But regardless of the outcome, the very perception that students are no longer safe in Cairo has caused great harm to Egypt. The very fact that scholars, some of whom have studied Egyptian politics for decades, believe that the Egyptian Security Services could have committed this crime speaks volumes about the state of repression there,” writes Sarah Yerkes of the Brookings Institution.

That perception could impact the country’s tourism trade, which makes up 10 percent of Egypt’s GDP, and reports of widespread violations of human rights could imperil foreign aid at a time when the national economy is sputtering along,” Yerkes adds.

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