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Egypt’s Coptic Christians Fear Persecution by Muslim Brotherhood

ICC Note:

“Egypt’s democratic elections have been hailed as the dawn of a new era. But Mr. Morsi’s election victory has not alleviated the fears of Coptic Christians and other minorities who foresee their freedoms disappearing under the rule of an Islamist state,” the Washington Times repots.

By Gracy Howard

7/12/2012 Egypt (Washington Times) – When Souly Farag was growing up in Egypt, Christian houses were marked with crosses for burning. Coptic Christians were second-class citizens.

Forty-four years ago, Mr. Farag emigrated to the United States to provide a better future for his family. But even in the wake of the ouster of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak and Egypt's first democratic elections, the Farag family is in no hurry to return to their homeland.

When they found out Mohammed Morsi had been elected president, they were afraid. Mr. Farag's niece, visiting from Egypt, began crying as she told him, “I am not going home.”

Egypt’s democratic elections have been hailed as the dawn of a new era. But Mr. Morsi’s election victory has not alleviated the fears of Coptic Christians and other minorities who foresee their freedoms disappearing under the rule of an Islamist state.

Michael Rizk, Egyptian-born co-founder of the Texas chapter of Copt Solidarity, an organization that advocates for the rights of Egyptian Copts, hears daily reports of persecution and mistreatment from his Egyptian relatives. Church burnings are a regular occurrence in villages across the country. Angry mobs — often incited by local sheikhs or imams — continue to torch Christian homes and businesses. Forced conversions to Islam and kidnappings of young girls have become hazards of daily life for Christians in Egypt, Mr. Rizk said.

“If I had a sister there is no way I would let her walk down the street,” Mr. Rizk said. Uncovered women are easy to pinpoint as Christian. “In Islam, you are the equivalent of cow dung if you are a Christian," he said. "You are immediately treated as a second- or third-class citizen.”

Ihab Marcus, communications director for St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Washington, D.C., said many Egyptians turn to the American Coptic Church for support and encouragement — but “sometimes they can’t talk openly for fear of further persecution.” Mr. Marcus said he could not speak with complete openness about the situation in Egypt, for fear that Christians there will suffer reprisals.

Mr. Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has strong connections to fundamental Islam. In the past he opposed diplomatic relations with Israel, decried American influence in schools, and had a tense relationship with more liberal Brotherhood youth. But today, as president, Mr. Morsi speaks supportively of Western allies, promises to uphold the rights of women and Christians, and tells protesters and youth he will be their representative. Mr. Morsi’s new sentiments could be genuine — or deceptive tactics to elicit Western support for his office.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has pushed forward an agenda over the past 80 years,” said Mr. Rizk. “It is a system that runs extremely smooth, and is extremely powerful. … They make you hear whatever they want you to hear.”

Mr. Rizk said it is unlikely Mr. Morsi will speak publicly in support of Sharia law or the veiling of women. Rather, he will “let the street do it for him.”

[Full Story]

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