Non-profit organization Coptic Solidarity has filed formal complaints with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA alleging that Coptic Christian athletes in Egypt face “systematic religious discrimination.”
Coptic Solidarity is “a non-profit organization supporting those in Egypt working for upholding values of freedom and equality, and the protection of the fundamental rights of all Egyptian citizens.”
According to a press release from the organization, numerous Coptic athletes have submitted complaints regarding their “exclusion” from Egyptian sports, including football, which is Egypt’s most popular and most widely-followed sport.
“Despite successfully passing all selection stages, these athletes have been excluded from national and international competition for no reason other than their religious background,” the press release reads.
The organization goes on to say that Egypt’s Olympic Mission to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2012 Olympics in London did not include any Copts, while Copts have also been excluded from holding coach and trainer positions in any clubs in the country’s premier league.
As a result of these circumstances, which Coptic Solidarity maintains cannot be a statistical anomaly and is instead the result of “deep-rooted discrimination” in Egyptian society, the organization has called on the IOC and FIFA to urgently send investigative committees to Egypt to look into this matter.
“The infusion of religious bigotry into sports has become all too pervasive in Egypt, and is undermining the very meaning of sportsmanship. The shameful action of Egypt’s judoka, Islam El Shehaby in refusing to shake hands with his Israeli counterpart at the 2016 Olympic Games was condemned worldwide, yet in Egypt celebrated as a contrived religious victory,” the statement reads. “Religious intolerance and discrimination are contrary to the values and principles upon which the Olympics and FIFA were founded.”
Coptic Christians comprise approximately 16 percent of Egypt’s overall population but many feel that the Christian community is often marginalized from public life. Sectarian tension between Muslims and Christians has also been rife over the past decade, with Muslims often instigating violence against Christians, particularly in rural areas of the country.