persecution.org

Shedding light on Christian persecution around the world.

February 15, 2012

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By Aidan Clay

Washington, D.C. February 15 (ICC) – Thousands of activists gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square last weekend in continued protests to denounce the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and, in a surprising turn of events, the election of the Muslim Brotherhood-ruled parliament. The large demonstrations marked the one year anniversary of President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster from power.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which won 47 percent of the votes in Egypt’s elections for the lower-house of parliament in January, has fallen under increasing pressure in recent weeks, Christian and moderate activists told ICC. Many accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of participating in fraudulent elections and tacitly allying with the SCAF. Meanwhile, protestors continue to demand that the SCAF immediately cease power to civilian rule while condemning them for committing human rights violations that rival those of Mubarak’s regime.

“Protestors were shouting, ‘No military council and no Brotherhood. This is our revolution, the youth’s revolution,’” Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub told ICC. “Many people have regretted electing the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is more concerned with their movement than the benefit of the country.”

Mary Ibrahim Daniel, the sister of Mina Daniel – a well-known Coptic activist who was killed by the SCAF during a peaceful protest on October 9 – continues to march with demonstrators to defend the memory of her brother and to demand the same freedoms that were sought in Egypt’s revolution.

“I dream that one day all the Egyptian people will demonstrate against the Brotherhood,” Daniel told ICC. “I was surprised to see so many people, including Muslims, protesting against them outside the House of Parliament. I think that finally the Egyptian people are waking up to the fact that the Brotherhood used religion to get into power and are using religion to stay in power. The Brotherhood is hijacking the ideals and motives behind the revolution.”

The Muslim Brotherhood recently pulled away from popular demands that Egypt’s new parliament should immediately replace the military-appointed government, which raises concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood is tacitly allying with the SCAF for political gain. Alliances formed by the Muslim Brotherhood will likely set the agenda of the new parliament, including its appointment of an assembly to draft the constitution. The SCAF has made clear its intention to influence the process and has opted for autonomy from parliament oversight, The Wall Street Journal reported last November.

The Egyptian daily Al-Wafd, published by the Wafd political party, recently reported that the SCAF has discretely helped finance the Muslim Brotherhood, enabling them to carry out social programs which have played a major role in securing votes. Some Egyptians claim that the SCAF will hand over internal powers to the Muslim Brotherhood while it remains in control of defense, security and the country’s enormous budget.

“The Brotherhood has always publicly insisted that there is no deal [between them and the SCAF]. But especially since they offered immunity from legal action to the SCAF for its actions since the revolution, the allegations grew louder,” Mara Revkin, analyst at the U.S. think-tank the Atlantic Council, told Now Lebanon. The SCAF has been accused of killing hundreds of protestors, including 27 Christians on October 9 and at least 41 activists during demonstrations leading up to the parliamentary elections.

Renewed protests are planned to take place outside the hospital where former President Mubarak is being held. In a message intended to undermine demonstrators, the SCAF warned on Friday that it will not bow to threats and plots that aim to topple the state and spread chaos, The Associated Press reported. The Muslim Brotherhood also condemned recent protests, saying that it will not take part in demonstrations that will hurt Egypt’s already fragile economy. However, many activists, including Coptic Christians who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, remain hopeful that change is still on the horizon.

“Every day is a new day. Every hour is a new hour,” Yacoub said. “I stopped predicting what will happen next. I’ll wake up and find that a new disaster has happened. You just don’t know in Egypt. The 24th of January was different than the 25th, which was different than the 11th of February when Mubarak stepped down. I’ve learned to take things step-by-step, day-by-day, hour-by-hour.”

February 13, 2012

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Coptic homes set ablaze in Ameriya

Washington, D.C. (February 13, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that eight Coptic Christian families were evicted from their homes in northern Egypt following two attacks by radical Islamists on Christian homes and businesses in late-January. The attacks were in response to an alleged affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.

On January 27th, hundreds of Muslims, led by Salafists who adhere to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, looted and torched Christian homes and shops in Kobry el-Sharbat near Alexandria following rumors that a Christian man, Mourad Samy Guirguis, had an affair with a Muslim woman. On January 30th, a group of Muslims attacked the village for the second time, setting fire to three Christian homes. Guirguis denied the accusations, but reportedly turned himself into the police for his own security.

Village elders, including representatives from the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and local police, agreed to evict eight Coptic families and put their property up for sale. Ironically, they came to this decision after holding three ‘reconciliation’ meetings, Asia News reported. At the first meeting, Muslims argued that “Muslim honor has been damaged,” and refused to offer compensation to Coptic Christians who were innocent victims of the violence. Father Boktor Nashed from St. George’s Church in el-Nahdah, who was present at the meeting, called the decision a “complete injustice.” Sherif el-Hawary, a Salafist sheik, was given the authority to execute the meeting’s demands.

Who gave them the right to form a committee headed by a Salafi to sell Christian property? This is thuggery and the blatant targeting of Copts,” said Magdi Khalil, head of the Middle East Freedom Forum. “If we accept this, we will open the door to an avalanche of forced evictions.”

Reconciliation meetings are a traditional form of ‘conflict resolution’ that bypasses Egypt’s judicial system and often fails to bring perpetrators of attacks against Christians to justice. In its 2011 Religious Freedom Report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated, “Reconciliation efforts should not be used to undermine enforcing the law and punishing perpetrators for wrongdoing. The State Department also has concluded that reconciliation sessions not only ‘prevented the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against Coptic Christians and precluded their recourse to the judicial system for restitution’ but also ‘contributed to a climate of impunity that encouraged further assaults’.”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Reconciliation meetings are nothing more than a method to excuse those responsible for violence, shift blame on the victims, and to completely ignore justice. The recent attack in Kobry el-Sharbat again proves that nothing has changed in the ‘new’ Egypt after President Mubarak’s ouster, as perpetrators of attacks against minorities continue to be pardoned and allowed to pursue their bloody campaign to rid the country of Christians. Most disturbing is that the reconciliation meetings were not led by the military council, but by representatives of the very groups that won a majority in Egypt’s new parliament and claim to support democracy and a civilian judicial system. We urge Egyptian officials to retract the illegal decision that was made to evict the eight Christian families and to arrest and convict those responsible for burning down Christian homes and businesses.”

Washington, D.C. (February 13, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that eight Coptic Christian families were evicted from their homes in northern Egypt following two attacks by radical Islamists on Christian homes and businesses in late-January. The attacks were in response to an alleged affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.

On January 27th, hundreds of Muslims, led by Salafists who adhere to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, looted and torched Christian homes and shops in Kobry el-Sharbat near Alexandria following rumors that a Christian man, Mourad Samy Guirguis, had an affair with a Muslim woman. On January 30th, a group of Muslims attacked the village for the second time, setting fire to three Christian homes. Guirguis denied the accusations, but reportedly turned himself into the police for his own security.

Village elders, including representatives from the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and local police, agreed to evict eight Coptic families and put their property up for sale. Ironically, they came to this decision after holding three ‘reconciliation’ meetings, Asia News reported. At the first meeting, Muslims argued that “Muslim honor has been damaged,” and refused to offer compensation to Coptic Christians who were innocent victims of the violence. Father Boktor Nashed from St. George’s Church in el-Nahdah, who was present at the meeting, called the decision a “complete injustice.” Sherif el-Hawary, a Salafist sheik, was given the authority to execute the meeting’s demands.

“Who gave them the right to form a committee headed by a Salafi to sell Christian property? This is thuggery and the blatant targeting of Copts,” said Magdi Khalil, head of the Middle East Freedom Forum. “If we accept this, we will open the door to an avalanche of forced evictions.”

Reconciliation meetings are a traditional form of ‘conflict resolution’ that bypasses Egypt’s judicial system and often fails to bring perpetrators of attacks against Christians to justice. In its 2011 Religious Freedom Report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated, “Reconciliation efforts should not be used to undermine enforcing the law and punishing perpetrators for wrongdoing. The State Department also has concluded that reconciliation sessions not only ‘prevented the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against Coptic Christians and precluded their recourse to the judicial system for restitution’ but also ‘contributed to a climate of impunity that encouraged further assaults’.”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Reconciliation meetings are nothing more than a method to excuse those responsible for violence, shift blame on the victims, and to completely ignore justice. The recent attack in Kobry el-Sharbat again proves that nothing has changed in the ‘new’ Egypt after President Mubarak’s ouster, as perpetrators of attacks against minorities continue to be pardoned and allowed to pursue their bloody campaign to rid the country of Christians. Most disturbing is that the reconciliation meetings were not led by the military council, but by representatives of the very groups that won a majority in Egypt’s new parliament and claim to support democracy and a civilian judicial system. We urge Egyptian officials to retract the illegal decision that was made to evict the eight Christian families and to arrest and convict those responsible for burning down Christian homes and businesses.”

February 9, 2012

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By Aidan Clay

The court hearing of Egyptian Coptic billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who was accused of “insulting Islam” last month, is scheduled to reopen on Saturday. Sawiris’ hearing follows the prison sentence of Egyptian actor Adel Imam who was tried on similar charges last week. The two cases underline concerns about freedom of expression in Egypt.

Christian telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris, who founded the Free Egyptians political party, was charged for “blasphemy and insulting Islam” on January 9 when he reposted a cartoon of a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled Minnie Mouse on Twitter. The initial court hearing held on January 14 was postponed because the billionaire failed to show up, Agence France-Presse reported. The independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm accredited the trial’s adjournment to a “fistfight” between the defense and prosecuting lawyers after Sawiris was branded as a “criminal” in court.

Among the group of Islamist lawyers who filed the lawsuit against Sawiris was Mamdouh Ismail, a former member of Islamic Jihad who has been known to represent accused terrorists and was himself arrested for complicity with al-Qaeda in 2007.

The Muslim Brotherhood, who won 47 percent of the votes in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, quickly backed Ismail’s lawsuit while the ultraconservative Salafists led a nationwide campaign to boycott products and services offered by Sawiris’ companies. Many Egyptian Christians and liberals believe Islamists rallied the nationwide outcry to discredit Sawiris and his secular Free Egyptians Party.

“Sawiris is one of the biggest supporters of the Egyptian liberal parties,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The Islamists are delivering a message to Coptic Christians that they can take down our leaders. They’re saying, ‘This is our country now. You’ll live as we want you to live.’”

Adel Imam, Egypt’s leading comic actor, faced similar charges last week when he was sentenced to three months in jail for “defaming Islam” in an Egyptian court for a role he played in a 2007 film, the state-run Ahram Online English website reported. The cases have added to concerns that Islamists are using their newfound political powers to stifle freedom of expression.

“Christians and many Muslims are supporting Adel Imam. Whether we like him or not, we are defending the freedom of speech and the freedom of art,” said Yacoub. “What is Adel Imam’s sentence based on? His old movies made years ago? It’s crazy. We’re going through a dark time in Egypt.”

“In both cases, the men didn’t do anything against ‘Islam’ but merely made fun of Islamists,” said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel. “The battle, of course, is being waged by Islamists who want their interpretation of the religion to be declared as the only acceptable version. Westerners don’t understand that when that happens anything more moderate or flexibly traditional hence becomes illegal and punishable. The Islamist counter-Bill of Rights proclaims that the country’s people have no freedom of speech or freedom of religion, no right to free assembly or of the press.”

Sawiris is a champion of secularism and has publicly opposed the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the prospect that Islamists will draft a new constitution influenced by Sharia law. Sawiris has also dismissed the Muslim Brotherhood’s official moderate stance, accusing the group of wanting to turn Egypt into an Iran-style theocracy, Reuters reported. Sawiris’ Free Egyptian Party, in alliance with secular political parties known as the Egyptian bloc, won nine percent of the seats in Egypt’s new parliament. If convicted, Sawiris could spend up to six months in prison.

January 17, 2012

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Christians Fear Sharia will be Foundation of New Constitution

Washington, D.C. (January 17, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Muslim Brotherhood leader will be installed as speaker of Egypt’s new parliament after Islamists swept the popular vote in the country’s elections last week, raising fears among Christians and secularists that new laws heavily influenced by Sharia may soon be instituted.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party nominated its Secretary General Mohamed Saad al-Katatni as the speaker of the newly-elected lower house of parliament on Monday. Following the third and final phase of Egypt’s elections that ended last week, the Brotherhood is projected to secure 232 seats, or 46 percent, of the 498 elected parliament seats. The extremist Salafists’ al-Nour Party, which follows the strict Wahhabi doctrine of Islam and opposes equality with non-Muslims, won 113 seats, or 23 percent of the overall vote. The lower house, known as the People’s Assembly, is the most important body in Egypt’s bicameral system.

Egypt’s elected parliament will be given the authority to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before the presidential election is held in June. Many Christians and moderates fear that an Islamist majority in the parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, which will greatly restrict the rights of non-Muslims.

“The power of the article in the constitution often depends on where it’s placed. Currently, article one is about citizenship and equality, while article two is about the Islamic religion. That will soon change,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told ICC. “The Salafists are talking about banning alcohol and monitoring tourism. They’re going to take the country toward a very dark time. We’re going backwards; we’re not going forward at all… Some Christians will leave the country, some will stand up, and some will leave it as it is, trusting in God.”

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood has pulled away from the popular opinion that Egypt’s new parliament should immediately replace the military-appointed government, raising concerns that the Brotherhood is tacitly allying with the military for political gain. Alliances formed by the Brotherhood will likely set the agenda of the new parliament, including its appointment of an assembly to draft the constitution. The military has made clear its intention to influence the process and has opted for autonomy from parliament oversight. Nonetheless, the military may be the only force in Egypt stalling the country’s complete transition into an Islamic state governed by Sharia law.

“Somewhere between two-thirds and 80 percent of Egyptian Muslims support radical Islamist parties. Only the army, which is eager to suppress moderates but would rather make deals than fight the Islamists, stands in the way of radicalization,” said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In May 2011, Salafists were responsible for attacking two churches and killing twelve people, mainly Christians, in Cairo. The same group now holds one-fourth of the seats in Egypt’s new parliament and there is no evidence to suggest that violence committed by the Salafists will cease. Instead, Salafists will be eager to push the country toward Islamism and, in doing so, will target Christians, liberals, and women demanding rights. The question remains: will the Muslim Brotherhood be driven by Salafists toward radicalism or will they continue to appease the West and liberals by appearing moderate? In either case, continuing attacks on Christians are inevitable.”

January 13, 2012

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Washington, D.C. (January 13, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the high-profile trial of a Coptic Christian billionaire will not convene tomorrow as previously announced in what appears to many Egyptian Christians and liberals to be an Islamist attempt to belittle Egypt’s championed secular leader.

Head of the Free Egyptians political party and Christian telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris was scheduled to appear in court tomorrow after being charged for “blasphemy and insulting Islam” on Monday for reposting a cartoon of a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled Minnie Mouse on Twitter. Naguib Ghobrial, Sawiris’ lawyer, wrote in a press statement on Thursday that Cairo’s District Attorney has yet to set a trial date, according to the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram. Among the group of Islamist lawyers who filed the lawsuit against Sawiris was Mamdouh Ismail, a former member of Islamic Jihad who has been known to represent accused terrorists and was himself arrested for complicity with al-Qaeda.

The Muslim Brotherhood, who is set to win more than forty percent of the votes in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, joined the ultraconservative Salafists in backing Ismail’s lawsuit and led a nationwide campaign to boycott products and services offered by Sawiris’ companies. Many Egyptian Christians and liberals believe Islamists rallied the nationwide outcry to discredit Sawiris and his secular Free Egyptians Party.

“Sawiris is one of the biggest supporters of the Egyptian liberal parties,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told ICC. “What the Islamists are trying to do is break him down. They are trying to scare him. This type of news will hurt him in Egypt. The [Muslim] Brotherhood is among those behind the war on Sawiris.”

In response to the heated reaction, Sawiris later tweeted, “I apologise for those who don’t take this as a joke, I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry.”

Sawiris is a champion of secularism and has publicly opposed the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the prospect that Islamists will draft a new constitution influenced by Sharia law. Sawiris’ Free Egyptian Party, in alliance with secular political parties known as the Egyptian bloc, is expected to win nine percent of seats in Egypt’s lower house of parliament.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The Muslim Brotherhood has made efforts in recent months to tone down extremist rhetoric in order to reassure Egyptian liberals and Christians, as well as western nations, who fear that the Brotherhood’s ideology and agenda is not consistent with democratic principles and human rights. However, the Brotherhood’s support for Mamdouh Ismail, the Salafists, and other radicals in condemning Naguib Sawiris is one more example that any attempt made by the Brotherhood to appear moderate is merely a façade. Sadly, the voices of Egypt’s secular-minded youth who ignited the country’s revolution have not been heeded as Islamists rise to power and stomp on the very freedoms many revolutionaries had fought so dearly to defend.”

December 7, 2011

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Christians’ and Moderates’ Greatest Fear Becoming Reality

Washington, D.C. (December 5, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that radical Islamists acquired the majority vote in phase one of Egypt’s parliamentary elections last week, validating ICC’s early predictions that Islamists would gain control of the country in wake of the revolution that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak.

Islamists attained 65 percent of the overall vote last week in the first of three phases to elect the lower house of parliament which began November 28 and ended today. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party emerged with 36.62 percent of the 9.7 million ballots cast last week. Close behind was the Salafists’ Al Nour Party which garnered 24.4 percent of the vote.

Egypt’s elected parliament will be given the authority to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before the presidential election is held in June. Many are concerned that an Islamist majority in the parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, greatly restricting the rights of non-Muslims, especially Christians.

Most disconcerting for Coptic Christians is that one in four Egyptians opted for the ultraconservative Salafists, whose interpretation of Islam derives from Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. In post-revolution Egypt, Salafists have been accused of committing several attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority, including the torching of a church and the killing of twelve Christians in the Imbaba district of Cairo on May 7. Many Christians fear that laws instituted by Salafists will be similar to those enforced under the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Salafists want to apply the laws of early Islam from 1400 years ago in the 21st century,” Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub told ICC. “They believe in cutting the hands off people who steal and stoning adulteress women. They are Wahhabis. If they rule Egypt, it will become like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Salafists are one of the largest threats to Christians in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is also very dangerous, but the difference is that Salafists don’t negotiate. They are straightforward. They want to kill.”

While Egyptians wait for the final two rounds of elections for the lower house, or People’s Assembly, which is scheduled to take place later this month and in January, there is little hope that results will improve for the country’s Christians and liberals. The votes in the electoral districts of Egypt’s two largest cities, which were predicted to have the greatest moderate support base, have already been counted.

“If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile?” said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. “The Brotherhood came in first in Cairo and Alexandria. Think about that. Of course there are millions of migrants from rural areas in those places, but that’s also where the middle class, such as it is, lives.”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The worst fears of many Egyptian Christians and secularists are now becoming a reality. There was some hope that at least contending Islamist parties would steal seats from one another; however, that did not prove to be the case. Coming in second place, Salafists will drive the Muslim Brotherhood toward ultra-conservatism. The Brotherhood no longer needs to appear moderate when the majority of Egyptians have voted in favor of radical Islam and its natural end point, Sharia law. Sadly, Egyptian Christians are entering into a time of intense persecution.”

October 10, 2011

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On October 4, Coptic Christians protested the torching of Mar Gerges Church in Aswan, Upper Egypt. In this video, a lone protestor is brutally beaten by riot police. To learn more about the attack on the church in Answan, read Compass Direct News’ report by clicking here.

October 9, 2011

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In this post, we remember earlier protests this year where Christians and Muslim moderates joined together to demand greater freedoms in Egypt. These protests, taking place in July, were no different than those held on October 9 when the Egyptian military brutally killed more than 20 protestors in Cairo when opening fire on them with live ammunition and running them over with armored tanks. This article was originally posted on July 22.

ICC – Protestors numbering in the thousands are pushing onward in their 15th day of demonstrations in Tahrir Square in an ongoing bid for immediate transition to civilian rule.

A boy joins protestors in Egypt’s revolution

Labeled the “days of warning,” the protests that began July 8, 2011, condemn interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf for failing to implement much needed reforms six months after his appointment by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The SCAF took control of the country after the 18-day revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011.

Most protestors believe the moment of opportunity to repeal Egypt’s repressive laws will be lost once free elections are held, as Islamist-based parties are expected to take the majority seat in parliament.

While the SCAF has stated their support for free elections without military interference, protestors remain suspicious, viewing the SCAF as their final road block before their self-determination for a free society is fully realized.

I’m not going to leave the square before I see the head of SCAF, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, cede power to a civilian presidential council that would rule Egypt during the current transitional period,” protestor Ragi Eskandar told The Los Angeles Times.

Yet, for some, a government detached from military inference is unimaginable. “The president will likely come from the military institution,” a Coptic protestor told ICC. “It has been this way since 1952. But what we want is a country like Turkey; for the military to protect a civilian country, but not have all the power.”

Unlike Turkey, whose democracy has been agitated by tensions between a powerful secular military and Islamist-leaning politicians, Egypt’s military is believed by many leftists and moderates to be backing the Muslim Brotherhood. “There’s no doubt they’re allied,” said Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub. “If they weren’t, than the military would be supporting the people’s will to draft a new constitution before the parliamentary elections are held. Instead, there will be elections first so that the Muslim Brotherhood will have more leverage in developing an Islamist-leaning constitution.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is the primary party insisting that elections be held before the constitution is drafted,” reiterated Coptic scholar Magdi Khalil. “Other parties support immediate constitutional reform. So why is it that the military council is stalling? The obvious answer is that there’s a deal between the Brotherhood and the military.”

Thousands of Coptic Christians are among those revolting alongside Muslim moderates and secularists in Tahrir Square. Perhaps more than other groups, however, Copts understand the peril minorities will face under an Islamist-based government. On at least three occasions in 2011, Islamist mobs killed nine or more Coptic Christians in religious based attacks on churches or protestors.

Copts are protesting very loudly,” said Wagih Yacoub. “Copts and moderates together; we all fear an Islamist constitution and an Islamic state. We are protesting for our freedoms – freedom from the military council and freedom from the Islamic agenda that the [Muslim] Brotherhood will use to dictate Egyptian law.”

To ease the fears of moderates, the SCAF announced last week that it will set guidelines before the constitution is drafted to limit the influence of Islamists. However, moderates are not satisfied, viewing the military as dominating the process and granting themselves the authority to define the military’s future role in Egypt.

Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, a key member of the military council who is leading the process of drafting the guidelines, said the country’s next constitution should safeguard the SCAF against future presidents, The Associated Press reported. The military council’s recent actions signify their push for complete independence in the new Egypt and their desire to hold authority to guarantee constitutional reforms. The military’s unchallenged role opposes Coptic and moderate demands to move toward democratic rule lead by a civilian government.

Today in Tahrir Square, Copts and moderates find themselves in the middle of what they view as two evils. “The [Muslim] Brotherhood’s policies are evident through its history and culture of oppressing non-Muslims and opposing western civilization and democracy,” said Magdi Khalil. “At the same time, the military council is continuing the same discrimination toward religious minorities that we saw under Mubarak. Neither the Brotherhood or the military council is good for us.”

September 19, 2011

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Washington, D.C. (September 16, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) commends the Obama administration’s designation of eight nations as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) – a classification appointed to countries that severely violate religious freedom – in the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom released on Tuesday. However, the report failed to designate Egypt as a CPC despite the increase of violence targeting religious minorities and the killings of more than fifty Christians in 2011.

On April 28, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, had recommended for the first time that the State Department designate Egypt as a CPC. “Instances of severe religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by the government have increased dramatically,” said USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo. “Since President Mubarak’s resignation from office in February, such violence continues unabated without the government’s bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

Attacks against Egyptian Christians in 2011 include, but are not limited to:

• The bombing outside the Church of the Two Saints on New Year’s morning that killed 23 worshippers leaving a midnight mass celebration in Alexandria.

• The destruction of a church by a Muslim mob following reports of a romantic relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman in the village of Sol on March 5.

• The killing of nine Coptic Christians by a radical mob and the Egyptian military while Copts were protesting in the Mokattam Hills in Cairo on March 9.

 

• The killing of twelve Christians and Muslims by an Islamist group that attacked St. Mina Church and Virgin Mary Church in the Imbaba district of Cairo on May 7. One church was burned to the ground and numerous Christian-owned apartments and shops were vandalized and looted.

Egyptian Christians are also concerned that religious freedom will decline further if Islamist-based parties win the majority seat in Egypt’s parliament in elections scheduled for November. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is the most organized and financed contender in the elections and has publicly stated their intention to institute forms of Sharia (Islamic law) in the country.

While the U.S. gives 1.3 billion dollars in foreign military assistance to the Egyptian government annually, a CPC designation can carry economic sanctions if the Egyptian government fails to address U.S. concerns. Several U.S. congressmen have voiced frustration to ICC over the “illogical” approach taken by the U.S. in continuing to give billions of dollars in aid to a government that is yet to be elected and that may not be interested in honoring previous agreements made between the U.S. and Egypt, like maintaining a peace treaty with Israel.

“Egypt should be classified as a CPC,” Coptic scholar Magdi Khalil told ICC. “Further monitoring of persecution, like the special envoy to promote religious freedom in the Middle East known as [house bill] H.R. 440, would be pushed forward quicker and taken more seriously if Egypt was a CPC.”

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In light of increasing attacks on Christian communities and the Egyptian government’s failure to enhance security and institute nondiscriminatory reforms to protect religious minorities, we urge the Obama administration to strongly consider designating Egypt as a CPC. A CPC designation will give the U.S. additional leverage to place sanctions on existing military and emergency economic aid and to direct a portion of that aid to enhance security for religious minorities and fund civil society groups who are adamant about promoting religious freedom.”

September 13, 2011

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Just weeks before the attacks on St. Mina Church and Virgin Mary Church in Imbaba on May 7, Coptic Christians had received warnings by Salafists, a radical Islamist group, that there “will be blood” if anyone showed up to St. Mark’s Cathedral in the Abbassia district in Cairo. In response, hundreds of Coptic Christians protested outside the cathedral that April day making a “human shield” around the cathedral to protect the church and its clergy.