Jim Shannon – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Jim Shannon on 2016-02-03.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he has made representations to the government of Egypt on the convictions of Islam al-Beheiry and Fatima Naaot in that country for contempt of religion.

Mr Tobias Ellwood

We are aware of the cases of Islam al-Beheiry and Fatima Naaot and are following both cases closely. We have raised the importance of freedom of religious belief and freedom of expression with the Egyptian authorities on a number of occasions and will continue to do so.

We deplore all discrimination against religious minorities and constraints on their freedom to practise their faith. The Government of Egypt has clearly stated its commitment to protecting the rights of minorities and of the need for religious tolerance; it is important that these rights are respected.

In November 2015, My Rt Hon and noble Friend, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Baroness Anelay and I met Non-Governmental Organisations to consider what more could be done to help Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East. I also met with the Secretary for Relations with States within the Holy See’s Secretariat of State to discuss this. In December the UK, in partnership with the Egyptian Grand Imam, launched a new scholarship for Al-Azhar graduates to pursue doctoral studies at British universities. The scholarship aims to promote mutual understanding among a new generation of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars.