Egypt Cuts a Deal: Christians Fed to Muslim ‘Lions’
It’s difficult to imagine that religious freedoms could regress any further for Egypt’s oppressed Coptic Christians, but they are explains Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum, in this informative and frightening article.
By Raymond Ibrahim
10/18/2010 Egypt (Hudson New York) – A prominent Egyptian, Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, ex-secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, appeared on Al Jazeera on September 15, and, in a wild tirade, accused the Copts of “stocking arms and ammunition in their churches and monasteries” — arms imported from Israel, no less, as “Israel is in the heart of the Coptic Cause” — and “preparing to wage war against Muslims.”
He warned that if nothing is done, the “country will burn,” and urged Muslims to “counteract the strength of the [Coptic] Church.” Al-Awwa further charged that Egypt’s security forces cannot enter the monasteries to investigate for weapons — an amazing assertion, considering that Coptic monasteries are not only at the mercy of the state, but easy prey to Islamist/Bedouin attacks.
Needless to say, these remarks have inflamed Muslim passions, not to mention paranoia, against Egypt’s Christians, who make up approximately 12% of the population. To make matters worse, right on the heels of al-Awwa’s “monastery-conspiracy-theory,” Islamist leaders began to circulate baseless rumors that the Church and Pope Shenouda III “kidnap” Coptic women, who willingly convert to Islam, and then trap the women in desert monasteries, “torturing” and “re-indoctrinating” them back to Christianity — even when the women in question publicly insist they never converted to Islam.
Due to all these allegations, since last month there have been at least ten mass demonstrations in Egypt — most numbering in the thousands — condemning the Copts, the Coptic Church, and Pope Shenouda. The “Front of Islamic Egypt” issued a statement promising the Copts a “bloodbath.” Most recently, on October 8, Muslim demonstrators chanted “Shenouda, just wait, we will dig your grave with our own hands,” while burning the 86 year-old pope’s effigy.
At the very least, the usually intrusive Mubarak regime could have easily dispelled the absurd rumor that Coptic monks, among Egypt’s most humble figures, were stockpiling weapons for an imaginary coup d’état in Egypt, by formally investigating and clearing the monasteries of the charge. The same intervention could also have aborted the ludicrous rumors that the Pope is kidnapping and torturing Coptic women who freely convert to Islam — an especially odd rumor, considering that the reverse is true: In Egypt, Christian women are regularly kidnapped and compelled to embrace Islam.
There appears to be no one to stop it — not even those most accountable: America’s friend and ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his government.
Worse, recent events indicate that the Mubarak regime is intentionally inciting Egypt’s Muslims against the Copts.
To further exacerbate matters, on September 26, Al Azhar, a formal state body of Egypt, denounced a remark on Koran 5:17, which accuses Christians of being “infidels,” made by a Coptic clergyman at an internal meeting on dogma, as “blasphemous.” Moreover, it took this opportunity to state formally that citizenship rights in Egypt “are conditional on respect for the Islamic identity” of Egypt, thereby reversing any modern progress made regarding Egyptian equality, and reinforcing the Copts’ historical role as dhimmis.. Pope Shenouda was further compelled to publicly apologize “if our Muslim brothers’ feelings were hurt.”
All this has been taking place in a nation where Christian and Jewish scriptures are systematically denounced as fabricated. Mere weeks earlier, a well known publishing house in Egypt issued a book dedicated to “proving” that Christians had forged the Bible. Such double standards are well entrenched: the Coptic clergyman had privately remarked on a Koranic verse, whereas the Egyptian government openly interferes with Christian doctrine, while preventing Muslims from converting to Christianity, in accordance to sharia’s ridda, or apostasy, laws. For example, Mohammad Hegazy is one of many Egyptians who tried formally to change his religion from Muslim to Christian on his I.D. card —in Egypt, people are, Gestapo-like, categorized by their religion — only to be denied by the Egyptian court. (Many other such anecdotes abound.)