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“The Muslim Brotherhood want to show that they are not against Copts and attract some Christians to join their party,” Coptic lawyer Naguib Gobraiel told Al Masry Al Youm. “Eventually, they want to delude people and make them think that their paradigm is not fundamentalist but conforms with the values of citizenship.”

4/5/2011 Egypt (Al Masry Al Youm) – As the Muslim Brotherhood begins its life as an official political player, it is attempting to revamp its image to appeal to all Egyptians, particularly the Coptic Christian minority that has long been skeptical of the Islamist group. But Coptic leaders say it will take more than public relations to quell fears of sectarianism.

“The Muslim Brotherhood want to show that they are not against Copts and attract some Christians to join their party,” said Naguib Gobraiel, lawyer for the Coptic Church. “Eventually, they want to delude people and make them think that their paradigm is not fundamentalist but conforms with the values of citizenship.”

The Brotherhood is using its website to attempt to building bridges with Copts. Earlier this week, it featured archival and recent pictures of its members visiting churches. On Saturday, the site ran an article addressing Coptic concerns.

In mid-March, the Brotherhood called for dialogue with Christians, who constitute about 10 percent of Egypt’s population. Yet the call was rejected by the Church and many Coptic public figures, who dismissed it as a political maneuver rather than a genuine change in the group’s values.

Gobraiel, speaking on behalf of the Church, said that no dialogue can be held until the Brotherhood meets four conditions: acknowledging that Copts have the right to run for president; recognizing that Copts and Muslims are equal citizens; accepting that a woman could become president; and apologizing for a statement made by the Brotherhood’s former supreme guide in which he implied that the group would prefer to be ruled by a non-Egyptian Muslim rather than a non-Muslim national.

Shortly after former President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February, the Brotherhood announced it would form an Islamic-leaning civil political party. This reignited an old debate that started when the group released its first draft of a party platform in 2007. The platform shocked Egypt’s Christian and secular communities by calling for clerical rule and arguing that women and Copts could not run for president.

Trust in the Brotherhood fell due to its vocal support for a “yes” vote in the recent constitutional referendum. The referendum created unprecedented polarization between Islamists and secularists: the Brotherhood, Salafis and radical Islamic groups supported the army-backed amendments, while the Coptic Church and most liberal and secularist groups called for an entirely new Constitution. In the end, more than 77 percent of voters favored the amendments.

In many mosques across Egypt, clerics claimed that a “yes” vote was a religious obligation, while certain radical Muslim leaders said Copts would vote “no” in order to topple the old Constitution, which recognizes Islamic law as the primary source of legislation. While there is no clear evidence that the Brotherhood was behind these sermons, their posters calling for a “yes” vote were circulated outside mosques nationwide.

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