Christians: Egypt's New Scapegoats

Egyptian Copts fear impending ethnic cleansing.

On Wednesday morning, October 20, 2010, Dr. Monir Dawoud, president of the American Coptic Association, led a rally in front of the United Nations' New York headquarters to “demonstrate [against] the impending massacre and ethnic cleansing of our people -- the Coptic-Christians of Egypt -- by the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood groups helped by the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak.”

Dr. Dawoud stated in his press release that the aim of the rally was to “protest the recent attacks against His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, and the threats by Muslims to kill him, as well as denounce the bloodshed, murder, abducting and Islamizing of young Christian girls. “Additionally, this rally is aimed at publicizing “the murder of six young men while getting out of church after their Christmas mass on January 6, 2010, and the Egyptian court’s continued delay in the killers’ trial.”

Dr. Dawoud explained that “Copts are afraid to venture out of their homes in fear of being attacked,” and added, “Ten attacks of this type have taken place in the last five weeks, an average of two such attacks a week. “

The latest campaign against the Copts (the original inhabitants of Egypt preceding the arrival of Arab Muslims and one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East) began on September 15, when Muhammad Salim al-Awa, the ex-secretary general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and a prominent Egyptian voice, appeared on Al Jazeera and accused the Copts of “stocking arms and ammunition in their churches and monasteries.” In this same interview, the interviewer mentioned that a month earlier, according to the Egyptian newspaper Al Shurouk, the Egyptian security agencies apprehended a cargo ship laden with explosives from Israel. The authorities arrested the ship owner, Joseph Boutros Jabalawi, son of the deputy head of the Coptic Church in Port Said.

In an angry tirade, al-Awa made obscure and unfounded charges including the claim that the Pope had said that Egypt was “our [Christian] country” to the exclusion of Muslims. Al-Awa accused the Pope and the Coptic church of “political activities” and warned that “fire would spread throughout the country.” He then surmised that the alleged weapons the Copts are hoarding “can only have one purpose - to be used against Muslims,” and he asserted moreover that the Coptic-Christians want to “split Egypt into two states,” namely Muslim and Christian.

Al-Awa also inferred that the Copts are a “fifth column” and that Israel, the alleged heart of the Coptic cause, is preparing to wage war against Muslims. He made the outrageous claim that Egypt’s security agents cannot enter the monasteries to investigate or uncover the weapons. In Mubarak’s dictatorship, the Coptic churches are at the mercy of the authorities who regularly deny permission to repair churches or build new ones in Egypt.

Following al-Awa’s lead, Muslim leaders began to inflame the Muslim population by circulating rumors that the church and Pope Shenouda III kidnap Coptic women who willingly converted to Islam, and then trap the women in desert monasteries, all the while torturing them and re-indoctrinating them back to Christianity.

On October 8, 2010, 500 Egyptian Salafists (fundamentalist Muslims who follow the examples of the early Muslims) demonstrated in front of the Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria after Friday prayers and demanded that the alleged “Muslim” women, held against their will by the Coptic Church, be released and allowed to be interviewed on TV. They also charged that Father Bishoy, Secretary of the Holy Synod, be put on trial regarding alleged comments questioning the authenticity of the Koran.

The demonstrators called for searching monasteries and churches for hidden weapons, and issued direct threats to the Pope including, “Shenouda, just wait, we will dig your grave with our own hands.” They continued with chants such as “Egypt will remain Islamic,” called for boycotts of Christian businesses, and for deposing the Pope.

According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the Egyptian state security is behind these anti-church demonstrations. In its October 10, 2010 release, AINA asserted that “mounting tensions between Muslims and Christians aim to foment havoc ahead of the crucial political landmark…from the People’s Assembly elections slated for November 29 to the presidential elections next year.”

The Christian-Copts, who account for more than 10% of Egypt’s 83 million inhabitants, have been victimized by the majority Muslims ever since 1952, when the Egyptian revolutionary command led by Abdul Nasser took control of the country. There have been periods of relative peace between the Muslims and the Christian Copts, but the dictatorial regime has allowed the Islamists to attack Christians whenever the government has found itself under pressure. In essence, the Copts have become the regime’s scapegoat.

In January 1977, bread riots broke out in Cairo when Anwar Sadat tried to lift subsidies on essential items. Riots orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood compelled Sadat to inject a more Islamic flavor to his government, parenthetically giving the Muslim Brotherhood a green light to assault the Coptic Christians.

The Mubarak regime, according to Raymond Ibrahim, has facilitated what he describes as the "severe persecution" of Egypt's Christian minority by Muslims. Ibrahim, who lectures at the National Defense Intelligence College, said Egypt has transformed into the spearhead of the Muslim Brotherhood and has developed a structure for intimidating the nation's estimated eight million Coptic Christians.

Dr. Dawoud has been regularly protesting against the harassment and persecution of Copts at the U.N. He recently organized a protest in front of the White House when President Mubarak visited the U.S. Dr. Dawoud notes that the weak, voiceless, oppressed Copts in Egypt are an example of what could happen in America if Islam is triumphant. Dr. Dawoud, who has had a close relationship with Pope Shenouda III since his childhood, pointedly refers to Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…”

The ugly fabrications and lies leveled at Pope Shenouda III by a growing jihadist camp in Egypt and the collusion of the Mubarak regime with the Islamists (while they are one of the largest recipients of U.S. Foreign aid) is an unacceptable reality. President Mubarak must demonstrate that he is the president of all Egyptians, not just of Muslims, and put a halt to the use of Coptic-Christians as scapegoats.