The Egyptian government has promised leaders of the nation's apprehensive Coptic Christian community that it will resist attempts by Moslem conservatives to impose harsh, traditional Islamic laws on Egypt.
Prime Minister Mamdouh Salem pointedly visited Pope Shenudah, head of the Coptic Church, to convey the government's assurance today, the final day of a week-long fast and prayer vigil called by the Copts to protest the proposed laws.
Neither the government nor the church would officially confirm the purpose of the prime minister's unusual call on the pope, which was reported without comment in Cairo newspapers. Unimpeachable sources within the church said however, that Salem promised that the government would not support a return to the several legal penalities of Islam.
"He said the government will not even permit the draft of the proposed law to proceed to the People's Assembly (Parliament) for debate," said a church source, expressing relief after a period of rising fear and uncertainly among members of Egypt's Coptic minority.
Two weeks ago, Pope Shenduah had sent a private message to President Anwar Sadat expressing concern about theproposed law, and called on Copts throughout Egypt to observe a church spokesman said "a great majority" of Egypt's estimated 6 million Copts took part.
The Hadd, or law of Islamic legal punishments, was drafted by a committee of Moslem religious leaders and legal scholars at the request of Moslem conservatives in the People's Assembly who have been urging a returen to old Islamic values.