Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Egypt accuses Europe of discrimination, xenophobia

Posted by vmsalama on January 18, 2008

This crossed the wires this morning.  First, we learned that Egypt was not mentioned in President Bush’s speech during his Middle East tour about Arab governments that are on the path to democratization; now this.  So much for being a regional ally!  It almost sounds like Russia’s spat with the British Council.  Frankly, Egypt is a long way from the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser where it can afford to intigate any negativity between itself and the West.  It depends far too much on US (and European) foreign aid to have the luxury of burning bridges.  Still, Europe is now home to far too many Arabs/Muslims for it to make hasty and potentially inflamatory comments.

CAIRO, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Angry about a European Parliament resolution on human rights in Egypt, the Egyptian government countered with an accusation that religious and ethnic minorities face increasing discrimination in Europe.

“Egypt is deeply concerned at the deteriorating state of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and immigrants on the European continent,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

“(The spokesman) condemned the prevalence of the phenomenon of xenophobia and discrimination against Muslims in various parts of Europe,” added the statement, issued late on Thursday.

It cited a report by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as saying that Muslims in Europe face discrimination in education and housing and through stereotyping as terrorists or extremists.

An OSCE report in 2006 said that intolerance and discrimination against Muslims have become increasingly prevalent in the OSCE region in recent years.

The Egyptian government and parliament have dismissed the European Parliament’s resolution as unwarranted interference in Egyptians affairs. The parliament has said it will cut off some forms of contact with the European body.

The resolution, passed on Thursday, called on the Egyptian government “to end all forms of harassment, including judicial measures, detention of media professionals and, more generally, human rights defenders and activists.”

It called for the immediate release of opposition politician Ayman Nour and for a change in the law on military courts, which the Egyptian authorities have sometimes used against the government’s political opponents.

The Egyptian statement said: “Egypt rejects … any attempt by any party to set itself up as inspector of human rights in Egypt or as mentor to the Egyptian people.”

But the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group, welcomed aspects of the European resolution. “Human rights have become an international language, even if each country has its specificities,” said Hussein Mohamed Ibrahim, deputy leader of the Islamist movement’s parliamentary group.

“When it (the European Parliament) talks about the existence of torture in Egypt, then that is real. When it talks about referrals to military courts, this is something that really happens. What is needed is dialogue about it in a transparent and objective manner,” he added.

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