Rulings spark hope for Egyptian Copts fighting Islamic estate law

 Some apparent progress:

  • Egyptian courts have largely applied Islamic inheritance laws to both Muslims and the Coptic Christian minority

  • But Coptic Orthodox customs call for gender equality in inheritance matters

CAIRO: Egyptian Copt Amal Hanna says she is determined to fight the long-standing application of Islamic inheritance laws to Christians, as recent court victories embolden Coptic women.For decades, Egyptian courts have largely applied Islamic inheritance laws — which mostly allocate a bigger share of inheritances to men than to women — to both Muslims and the country’s significant Coptic Christian minority.But Coptic Orthodox customs call for gender equality in inheritance matters.
Hanna has twice been faced with the unbalanced division of family estates.
The first was more than 20 years ago, when a court granted her brother double her share of their parents’ property.
Then, after her aunt died last year, another court awarded the entire inheritance to Hanna’s brother.
“I was dumbstruck,” she said. “It really upset me, especially as my family raised us — me and my brother — as equals.”
Hanna has appealed against the ruling.
But Christian women’s hopes were rekindled late last year after Coptic lawyer Hoda Nasrallah and her brothers were granted an equal share of their father’s inheritance.
The November ruling by a Cairo family court took into account a constitutional article allowing Christian principles to be the basis of rulings on the minority’s personal status affairs.
Nasrallah’s rare victory generated a buzz across Egypt, but it was not the first of its kind.
In 2016, a Christian woman won a legal dispute with her brother, obtaining equal inheritance.
Coptic Christians have long complained of discrimination and underrepresentation in Egypt.
They are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, and account for 10-15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 100 million.
They have also been the target of Islamist militant attacks that have left more than 100 dead since December 2016.
Elizabeth Monier, an expert on Coptic affairs at the University of Cambridge, said applying Christian inheritance rules would meet resistance from within the legal system.
Their application “has had to overcome resistance from entrenched practices and norms, both in the judiciary and society,” she said.
Though Nasrallah had already agreed with her brothers to split the estate equally, it took her around a year to have a court rule in her favor.
She said she pursued the case in order to set a legal precedent for other Christian women.
“My fight was about ensuring that the constitution is applied,” Nasrallah said.
“Many judges are against applying Christian norms,” she added. “It can be even more challenging when the heirs are in disagreement.”
Hanna also criticized a lack of legislation forcing judges to apply Christian rules.
In building her case, she said she invoked the constitution and used the 2016 ruling as precedent.
Hanna said she feared her appeal would be rejected, but would keep on challenging the decision.
“I will even take it to the constitutional court if I have to,” she said.
Lawyers say the lack of a personal status law for Christians is partly to blame for courts’ resistance.
“Coptic males sometimes push for Islamic laws to be applied since it’s in their interest,” lawyer Atef Nazmy said. “It is vital that a personal status law for Christians be created to regulate these issues.”
Christian denominations have for years been locked in talks over a unified personal status law.
They have yet to reach agreement or present a bill to parliament.
Nazmy said issues like divorce were at the core of the divisions.
Egypt’s strict Coptic Church applies rigid rules to divorce, granting it only in cases of adultery or conversion to other faiths.
Monier said courts might also resist granting Christian women equal inheritance because they fear Muslim women would seek the same rights.
In 2018, then Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi sparked controversy across the Islamic world by proposing a bill on equal inheritance for Muslim women.
The move drew praise from secularists and women’s rights activists across the region, but stern rebuke from Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s most prestigious educational institution.
Despite the resistance, Monier remains optimistic.
“That a Coptic woman has taken her case to court and won suggests there is some progress being made,” she said.
“This is another step that is part of the journey toward greater gender equality.”

Source: Rulings spark hope for Egyptian Copts fighting Islamic estate law

Coptic Christian woman wins court case against Egypt’s Islamic inheritance law

Of note:

A Coptic Christian woman has won a major legal victory against Egypt’s Islamic inheritance law that greatly favors men.

Christian human rights lawyer Huda Nasrallah announced that a Cairo court ruled in her favor Monday, deciding that, as a Christian, she has a right to the same share of her father’s inheritance as her brothers.

The decision follows a nearly yearlong legal fight that has seen two other judges rule in favor of Egypt’s Islamic inheritance law that grants male relatives twice as much share of a family member’s inheritance as female relatives.

The Associated Press reported last week that when Nasrallah presented her case to a higher court she based her argument around a Coptic Christian doctrine that calls for an inheritance to be distributed equally.

On Tuesday, Nasrallah told AP that she is “thrilled” by the verdict and hopes it will serve as an encouragement to women in her country.

According to Texas Tech University law professor Gerry W. Beyer, recent cases and sentiment on the issue in Egypt did not bode well for Nasrallah. Additionally, leaders at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, regarded as the most prominent Sunni religious institution in Egypt, have rejected equal inheritance proposals.

Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., called the decision a “significant development” in a Twitter thread, but stressed that “only time will tell about its scope.”

“On the other hand, we still don’t have the court’s reasoning,” Tadros, the author of Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity, added. “In Hoda’s case, there was no contest. Her brothers joined her in her demand. So if the court simply found no objection and hence ruled in her favor, the case’s scope would be very limited.”

Although Nasrallah’s brothers were on her side in the case, complaints have been raised in the past about how Coptic men “usurp the inheritance of women.” The Coptic Church has also been accused of overlooking the inheritance issue.

Tadros explained that if the court’s reasoning cited the constitutional clause that grants Copts “the right to resort to their own laws in governing their personal status affairs, then this is a huge thing.” However, he stressed the decision could bring both “positive and negative developments.”

“On the positive side, obviously the rights of Coptic women to equal inheritance. It would also be interesting to see what else would the courts consider as Christian personal status. Adoption?” He asked.

“On the other hand, this means that there is unlikely to be any movement on marriage and divorce issues. In those cases, while @PopeTawadros made significant practical moves on them (ones that got him curses from the old guard), these changes remain tied to him and not long term.”

Tadros assured that “any such movement should be understood as a return to the Dhimmitude framework.” He explained it is a framework in which “non-Muslim communities were allowed to govern their own internal affairs, but in which they are not equal citizens.”

Nasrallah is not the only Coptic woman to have successfully sued in the past for their right to equal inheritance. The AP reported earlier this month that Nasrallah was inspired by a 2016 Cairo court ruling in favor of a Coptic woman who fought the inheritance laws.

“It is not really about inheritance, my father did not leave us millions of Egyptian pounds,” she told AP at the time. “I have the right to ask to be treated equally as my brothers.”

Source: Coptic Christian woman wins court case against Egypt’s Islamic inheritance law

After Egypt attack, sectarianism and extremism go hand in hand: Hellyer

Good commentary and linkages:

Here is something else we know. The primary targets of the attacks today were Christian – their Christian identity is what singled them out for the attackers, and they paid for that identity with their lives. No one should be under any delusion in this regard – IS propaganda spoke specifically about Christians, and Christians were specifically targeted. This deadly sectarianism has to be identified as what it is – hateful, bigoted, and murderous.

But blood doesn’t know those boundaries. Among the dead today, Egyptians shared pictures of Muslims who died in the blasts – more than half a dozen Muslims, men and women, who died in the course of their duty, as police officers, protecting the security of their Christian compatriots. Had they not fulfilled their duty, many more in Alexandria would likely have paid the ultimate price. Their being Muslim did not immunize them from the crimes of the attackers. It wouldn’t.

Indeed, it is also being reported that the Egyptian security services dismantled a bomb in a mosque in Tanta today – a mosque that is known particularly for an adherence to Sufism, which is part of normative Sunni Islam, historically. But the likes of IS, informed as they are by an extremist form of Wahabism which rejects much of normative Sunni Islam in the first place, may have targeted the mosque anyway.

There will be those from the majority Muslim community who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their Christian compatriots. There will be those who marched on the church to show solidarity with their Christian compatriots, which likewise happened in Tanta by imams. It’s one type of model. It’s a model which, regrettably if ironically, is rejected by anti-Muslim bigots in the West, many of whom took the opportunity today to further Islamophobia. Hatred, it seems, also loves company.

But there will also be those who will deceitfully condemn the murders on the one hand – and create the conditions for the sectarianism that inspired it on the other. Sectarian incitement has been an issue that far too few have been willing to tackle head-on when it comes to the pro-Islamist universe – and that includes the Muslim Brotherhood. For years, anti-Christian populist sentiment is a currency that too many in these movements traffic in – and too little attention is given to confronting it.

It would be wrong and inappropriate to associate the entirety of the Islamist camp with the radicalism of the likes of IS – but likewise, it would be the height of naiveté and an utter fallacy to assume that sectarianism is only a problem in the pro-IS faction. It goes far beyond that. Condemning the attacks, for example, in English, while propagating conspiracies and “false flag” theories about them in Arabic, only means that the mood music for sectarian incitement is left unchecked even further.

To avoid further tragedy, we need to recognize that sectarianism and radical extremism remain crucial problems to resolve.

Source: After Egypt attack, sectarianism and extremism go hand in hand – The Globe and Mail

Must-see QP: Jason Kenney takes on a death cult

While there may be an element of calculation in his use of a Christian prayer in his comments on the killing of Copts in Libya, it also likely reflects his strong faith.

Kenney has been consistent throughout his Ministerial career in his concern over the fate of Christians in the Mid-East:

Jason Kenney, the new defence minister with a knack for candid speech, cribbed largely from the prime minister’s rhetoric as he responded to the Coptic slaughter during question period. Kenney also referred to Islamic State as a “death cult,” a moniker he first applied last October as he made the case for airstrikes in Iraq—and which others in the House have since repeated. This afternoon, in question period, he applied his go-to measured tone, eschewed any opposition shaming, reinforced his government’s belief in ongoing airstrikes, and sat down to light applause. Fiery jingoism, it was not.

But yesterday was different. Kenney’s tweeted reaction to the beheadings was far less conventional. He recalled that the victims were killed because of their standing as “followers of the Cross,” and then, out of respect for the faith of the dead, typed out a prayer retweeted 128 times: “Eternal rest grant unto them, let light perpetual shine upon them.”

#ISIL death cult has beheaded 21 Copts for being “followers of the Cross.” Eternal rest grant unto them, let light perpetual shine upon them

— Jason Kenney ن (@jkenney) February 15, 2015

A typical observer might not think much of Kenney’s tweet. But imagine the reaction of an extremist who’s hell-bent on killing anyone who disagrees with his view of the world. The Canadian minister responsible for war responded to the intentional slaying of Christians with a Christian prayer. Kenney is no fool; he knows how inflammatory that sounds to the people who are, it’s worth remembering, also on the receiving end of Canadian airstrikes.

Must-see QP: Jason Kenney takes on a death cult.