ICC Note: After el-Sisi gained massive support from the Coptic Christian population in Egypt, many are not holding the same optimistic views as before. The new government has now implemented a series of widespread crackdowns on the media. Even Christian media is beginning to suffer. Two Christians in the past two weeks have been arrested for “false information” against Islam. This is just the surface of a larger marginalization of Coptic Christians from political life in Egypt.
By: Joseph Fahim
07/07/14 Egypt (Al-Monitor) – Most Coptic Christians will tell you that anything is better than the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the unequivocal support for current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi among Copts was no surprise. But now with the devastating curb of freedom of expression and the widespread crackdown on journalists and activists, the Coptic Orthodox Church’s support for the government’s post-June 30 Revolution policies may prove to be a grave miscalculation.
As the church is finding out, Copts, too, are not safe from the new government’s oppressive measures. Two weeks ago, a 23-year-old Coptic teacher was sentenced to prison for six months for insulting Islam. On June 23, a Christian convert reporter was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly reporting false information about discrimination against Copts. The following day, a 29-year-old Copt from Upper Egypt was given a five-year prison sentence for liking a Facebook page put up by a group of Christian converts — so much for the secular utopia we conjured in our imagination.
The Coptic push for a secular Egypt stemmed largely from the fear of Islamists. The failed Mohammed Morsi administration may have not taken direct action toward minority groups, but for many Copts their policies and statements suggested that it was only a matter of time before wide-scale, concrete laws were put into place. The empowerment of radical religious leaders and fundamentalist groups after Morsi’s election in June 2012 provoked fear among Egypt’s 10 million Copts, who felt more threatened than at any time in recent history.
The debilitating fears were well-justified: Marginalization of Copts from political life was expected to increase, sectarian clashes were already on the rise and hate speech grew rife at the time. Most of all, the unprecedented infiltration of religion into every aspect of political and public life caused the alienation of Copts on a scale unseen since the banishment of Pope Shenouda III by Anwar Sadat in 1981.