“As Egyptians voted for a new president on Saturday, many of the country's Coptic Christians said they were backing Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister they believe can stem a rising Islamist tide,” Agence France-Presse reports.
By Hassen Jouini
6/17/2012 Egypt (AFP) – As Egyptians voted for a new president on Saturday, many of the country's Coptic Christians said they were backing Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister they believe can stem a rising Islamist tide.
In the working-class Cairo neighbourhood of Shobra, home to a large Christian community, 30-year-old Makram was proud to declare his support for Shafiq, the last premier to serve under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
"We are backing the one who can ensure a measure of security for our community and the country," the government employee said.
Egypt's Christian population, which is believed to represent between six and 10 percent of Egypt's 82 million strong population, has long complained of discrimination and increasingly fears "creeping Islamism" in Egyptian society.
Shafiq's rival, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi has tried to quiet the fears of the Christian population, promising to protect their rights and stamp out discrimination.
In speeches he refers to "our Christian brothers" who are "our partners in the nation and have full rights." Some of his posters even feature pictures of Coptic priests.
But his words have largely fallen on deaf ears, at least among the Christians in Shobra.
"They say one thing and do the opposite, to marginalise us," 35-year-old Maureen, a Coptic teacher, said of the Brotherhood.
"Look, in the last two years we've had attacks, murders, restrictions on the building of churches have increased and God knows what future we'll have with the Salafists," she added.
And Maureen said she was proud to have campaigned for Shafiq since the first round presidential vote, explaining that Christians "fear the creeping Islamisation in the country," which she says is financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
"Today, the Brotherhood is opposed to a Christian or a woman being president. Tomorrow, if they're in power, they will tell us to pack our bags."