According to the Assyrian International News Agency, quoted in a Pajamas Media story Unprecedented: Egyptian Government Suppresses Christian Doctrine by Raymond Ibrahim:
The head of the Coptic Church in Egypt has rejected a court ruling that orders the church to allow divorced Copts to remarry in the church. In a press conference held on Tuesday June 8, Pope Shenouda [III], reading from the statement issued by the Holy Synod’s 91 Bishops, including himself, said: “The Coptic Church respects the law, but does not accept rulings which are against the Bible and against its religious freedom which is guaranteed by the Constitution.”
He went on to say “the recent ruling is not acceptable to our conscience, and we cannot implement it.” He also said that marriage is a holy sacrament of a purely religious nature and not merely an “administrative act.”
Ibrahim writes that the story is being reported in Egypt as if the state trying to liberalize (in the sense of humanize) a cold, rule-bound Church, and that this is a liberalizing measure is (in a way) true — but only for some.
[A]ccording to the Second Article of the Egyptian Constitution, Sharia law — one of, if not the most draconian law codes to survive the Medieval period — is “the principal source of legislation.” This means that any number of measures contrary to basic human rights are either explicitly or implicitly supported by the Egyptian government, including polygamy, the obstruction of churches, and institutionalized discrimination against non-Muslims and females in general.
Put differently, Sharia law can be liberal — but only to male Muslims, who (speaking of marriage and divorce) can have up to four wives, and divorce them by simply uttering “I divorce you” thrice (even via “text messaging”).
This reminds me of a comment the Catholic Arcbhishop of Sydney, George Pell, recently made in an interview titled Hold Fast What is Good (I commend the whole interview):
You seem very impressed by the Fatherhood of God in Christianity. Does that give it an edge on Islam?
Christianity, Catholicism in particular, has an edge on Islam. I am tempted to say: in every way. Islam is a regression, culturally as well as religiously. I do not think it compares in any significant way with Christianity. I say that because there is much less about love in the Koran than there is in the writings about Christ in the Gospels and the New Testament.
Islam is fundamentally handicapped because it does not recognise the divinity of Christ. The Incarnation is an immense advantage. In Christ, God came down to our level. So when we see Christ teaching and acting, we have an insight into God himself.
Another point is that while Christians certainly endorse and explain and emphasise the differences between men and women, we believe in a fundamental equality between men and women in God’s eyes according to the teachings of Christianity. That is very different in Islam.
Update: An article of interest to those interested in the Coptic Church: Robert Shaffern’s Let My People Go, a review of Christians Versus Muslims in Modern Egypt.