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Islam in Egypt By Rachida El Diwani Fulbright Scholar Chatham College Woodland Road Pittsburgh PA 15232 February 2003 I Religions in Egypt Islam plays a major role in Egypt today About 90 58 500 000 of the population of modern Egypt is Sunni Muslims There are several religious minorities the largest of which is an indigenous Christian minority constituting the Coptic Church The Copts represent about 9 5 850 000 of the population and the remainder 1 includes followers of the Greek Orthodox Church 360 000 Eastern and Latin Rite Catholics 185 000 Protestants 210 000 In addition an estimated 1000 Jews remained in Egypt as of 1990 the eldest This Jewish population represents a fragment of the community of 80 000 Jews who lived in Egypt before 1948 Religious tolerance has been a hallmark of traditional Egyptian culture The Egyptian Constitution of 1971 guarantees freedom of religion although some tensions along religious lines have risen since 1970 Because of political reasons the Muslims being oppressed and not the Christians backed by the West the Christians enjoy much more freedom of action inside their churches than the Muslims inside their mosques The centrality of religion in defining Egypt is deeply rooted historically When the expanding empire of Islam incorporated Egypt then a Byzantine province in the middle of the 7th century by the end of the reign of the second Caliph Omar ibn al Khattab 634 644 Islam found a fertile soil in Egypt where religion had taken different forms through a succession of pharaonic dynasties and foreign conquerors but it always remained a key element of political culture The Arab conquest gave this inherited religious bond a distinctive Islamic form The new faith invited Muslims as a collective body to express their faith by founding a community of believers or Ummah II Rulers and Religious Leaders The Quran the Word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad and the Sunna the traditions of the Prophet himself provided guidance for



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