Religion in Egypt

Mosques and minarets in Cairo. Islam is the official religion in Egypt.

Religion in Egypt controls many aspects of social life and is endorsed by law. The state religion of Egypt is Islam. Although estimates vary greatly in the absence of official statistics. Since the 2006 census religion has been excluded, and thus available statistics are estimates made by religious and non-governmental agencies. The country is majority Sunni Muslim (estimated to be 85-90% of the population), with the next largest religious group being Coptic Christians (with estimates ranging from 10-15%[note 1]). The exact numbers are subject to controversy, with Christians alleging that they have been systemically under-counted in existing censuses.[1]

Egypt hosts two major religious institutions.[2] Al-Azhar Mosque, founded in 970 AD by the Fatimids as the first Islamic university in Egypt and the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria established in the middle of the 1st century by Saint Mark.

In Egypt, Muslims and Christians share a common history, national identity, ethnicity, race, culture, and language.[3]

A common religious scene in Egypt: a mosque next to a church.

In 2002, under the Mubarak government, Coptic Christmas (January 7) was recognized as an official holiday,[4] though Christians complain of being minimally represented in law enforcement, state security and public office, and of being discriminated against in the workforce on the basis of their religion.[5][6]

Demographics

According to research by Pew Research Center for the PEW-TEMPLETON Global Religion Futures Project in 2010, based on the contested 2006 Census data, estimated that 94.9% of Egyptians are Muslims, 5.1% are Christians, and less than 1% are Jewish, Buddhists, or other religions. The share of Christians in the Egyptian population has according to official statistics been declining with the highest share reported in the past century being in 1927, when the official census put the percentage of Egyptian Christians at 8.3%. In each of the seven subsequent censuses, the percentage shrank, ending at 5.7% in 1996.[7]

However, most Christians refuted these figures claiming they have been under-counted. Christians uphold that they represent up to 15 or even 25% of the Egyptian population.[8][9][10][11][12] In 2017 state-owned newspaper Al Ahram claimed that the percentage of Christians ranged from 10 to 15%[13][14][15], similar to the range claimed by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.[16]

Recent self-identification surveys put the Christian percentage at around 10%, as found by Afrobarometer in 2016 (which estimated the country to be 10.3% Christian and 89.4% Muslim)[17] and by Arab Barometer in 2019 (which estimated it to be 9.6% Christian and 90.3% Muslim)[6].

According to 2015 figures from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Sunni Muslims make up 90% of the population, with Christian making up the remaining 10%[17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26]. A significant number of Sunni Muslims follow native Sufi orders.[27] There are reportedly close to fifty thousand Ahmadi Muslims in Egypt.[28] Estimates of Egypt's Shia Twelvers and Ismaili community range from 800,000 to about two to three million members.[29][30][31]

Most Egyptian Christians belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, an Oriental Orthodox Christian church.[32][18][21][22][23][24] Other Christian denominations include Armenian Apostolic, Catholic, Maronite and Anglican. The Greek Orthodox number between 250–350,000. The most recent declarations, made by Pope Shenouda III and bishop Morkos of Shubra in 2008, claimed that the number of Orthodox Christians in Egypt was over 12 million. Other estimates made by church officials put this number at 16 million.[1] The Coptic Orthodox Church claimed that these figures are based on regularly updated membership records.[33] Protestant churches claim a membership of about 300,000 Egyptians,[34] and the Coptic Catholic Church is estimated to have similar membership figures.[25][26] These figures would put the percentage of Christians in Egypt between 10% and 20% of the total population.

There is a small but historically significant non-immigrant Bahá'í population, estimates place the number at around 2,000 people,[3] and a far smaller community of Jews;[35] an unknown number of Egyptians identify as atheist and agnostic as public expressions of irreligion risk harassment and legal sanctions.