Archive for the ‘Copts’ Category

Posted: February 17, 2010 in Copts, Egypt

This is an article from … no edits, find it interesting.

Egyptian Christians appeal for help to international

human rights organizations

But will they listen? A message from The Middle East Christian Association (thanks to Ann):

Economic Blow to the Christians in Upper EgyptAppeal to all international human rights organization from the Christians
of the towns of Farshout, Abu Tesht, Abu Shusha, El-Arky, El-Dahsha, El-Khawaled and El-Kom El-Ahmar.

We, the Christian inhabitants of these towns appeal to you for support, as we have been subjected to brutal terrorist attacks from Muslims residing in our same towns. These attacks resulted in an estimated loss of over five million Egyptian pounds, equivalent to more than one million US dollars.

On the morning of Saturday, November 21 2009, we were stunned by the presence of well-organized groups of people, distributed all over the town of Farshout; they were physically assaulting any Christian person they met in the streets, whether it be a man, woman, girl or even a child, accompanied by Islamic chants, as if they were on a new Islamic invasion.

They broke into all the shops and businesses owned by Christians, breaking down the doors, looting all contents, only to leave after it was completely empty, then setting it on fire. They went from one Christian-owned shop to another.

More than 40 shops have been broken into, all this was happening while they sung Islamic chants as if they were undertaking a legitimate act approved by Islam, or a Muslim invasion which would make the heart of the God of Islam happy.

All this took place before the eyes and ears of the security forces and the Egyptian police without any intervention on their part. The police left the mob to carry out looting and opened the way for them to escape without the slightest objection from them, as if the police were there to protect them during their looting and not to arrest them.

The Coptic Orthodox Society was also broken into and completely vandalized. It was licensed over 30 years ago by the Ministry of Social Affairs and has been engaged in helping the needy in this town and the neighboring ones. It taught crafts to young men and women to combat unemployment and provided micro-credit for poor families to assist them in starting small business projects. In spite of being a Coptic society, it provided assistance to Christians and Muslims alike, without any distinction and was ultimately completely vandalized by those whom it has lent a supporting hand. Some houses were also broken into, forcing the residents to go out and leave their homes behind; they looted the contents of the whole house, while the Muslims in the streets assaulted those families before letting them go.

What we write to you now represents only a fraction of what actually happened to us, we the Christians of these villages, and we have evidence, in pictures and video footage, to prove all what we are saying.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Nag Hammadi to which our village is affiliate, HG Bishop Kyrillos, is fully prepared to take any telephone conversation from any authority wishing to investigate this issue further. HG is also pleading for support since help from inside Egypt is lacking, and so far, the security authorities have failed to respond to this matter.

We appeal to all international human rights organizations to intervene so that we, the Christians, can obtain the least of our human rights, which is to live and co-exist in Peace. We have lost everything that we own in this blow, which was specifically aimed at hitting the Christians economically and destroying the Coptic economic infrastructure in this town and the Province of Qena at large.

Presented by The Christians of Farshout and the affiliated villages


While some Egyptians might look favorably on the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Egyptian seculars and religious minorities tremble at the thought of a MB operated Egypt.  So why is that? And are their fears justified, or are they simply weasels who need to be replaced by other superior tribes?

After the 2005 Egyptian Parliamentary elections, Egypt’s secular circles feared that the MB‘s electoral gains are the first steps of the organization to implement an intolerant interpretation of Islam upon Egypt.  Such interpretation would repress women and the country‘s Coptic Christian minority.[i] The final outcome of a utopian Brotherhood-like state behooves fear in the minds of seculars and minorities alike in Egypt.  And perhaps rightfully so.

Indeed the activities of the MB in Egypt have been regarded as controversial by many since the infancy of the organization, and even though the MB has faced cycles of prosperity and repression, the MB has always enjoyed popularity among many Egyptians.  Over the past years however, the MB has, unfortunately, received some scholarly praise for its attempts to become an Egyptian functional political party.  The Brotherhood has constructed modest, yet functional, versions of the congressional cloakrooms, research service center, and has taken on western-style political and tactical stunts in order to propel its views to the public.  In other words, the MB is spearheading institutional reform and doing a better job at the representation it offers its constituents.  And so was the Third Reich in the begining of its reign.


A Point of Contention

One of the most notable recent points of contention between the brotherhood and the Coptic community was the Brotherhood’s proactive stands on slaughtering all of Egypt’s Swine.  The Egyptian pork industry is predominantly operated by the Christian minority and principally serves this minority.

This paradox was further accented by the Brotherhood’s actions in early 2006 when the bird flu virus struck Egypt’s poultry industry.  MB members of the Egyptian Parliament came out in full support of the poultry industry, with a broad awareness campaign and various socio-political stunts to inform the public with the facts.[i] On the contrary, when the swine flu virus struck Egypt and the pork industry the Brotherhood’s MPs utilized the opportunity to push for the slaughter of the entire 300,000 stock of swine in Egypt.  Members gave passionate speeches in the parliament supporting the mass slaughter as they solidified behind a statement claiming that Islam’s wisdom has banned the consumption of the pork for valid reasons, now the country is seeing this wisdom.[ii]

The Coptic Community

To the average observer, the Middle East is seen as a uniform Arab-Muslim community.  This is far from the truth.  The Muslim majority countries in the Middle East include many ethnic and religious minorities that have survived centuries of genocides, persecutions, sociopolitical repression, and jihad.[i] Among which is the Egyptian Coptic community.

The Copts have historically faced harsh discrimination by Muslim-based governments over the course of centuries.[ii] While sectarian incidents continue, the integration and acceptance of the community has been on a slow rise since the rule of Mohamed Ali Pasha in the early 1800s.[iii] Since this era of sparked reform, Egypt’s Copts progressively prospered in the social, economical and political realms.

The Muslim Brotherhood Platform

The MB works under the slogan “Islam is the Solution”, referring to Islam as the solution to all social, political and theological troubles facing the nation.  Furthermore the MBs logo carries the words “And Prepare”, referring to the Quranic verse “And prepare against them what you can of force and of steeds of war to terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them …”[1]

The Egyptian MB, like its counterparts in Jordan and Morocco has created a political arm independent of its religious arm in an attempt to convey a message to a fearing secular/minority public.  However, the MB’s political sector’s draft platform of 2007/2008 reaffirming its dedication to the reconstitution of Sharia[2] law.  Additionally the platform calls for the exclusion of women and non-Muslims from high positions of governance.

The MB calls for a return to the Sharia law, and the ways of the Caliphate[3] and the Ummah[4].  Founder, Hassan Al-Banna and more influential later reformist Sayid Qutb have iterated and reiterated the concepts that the Brotherhood follows in modern day.

This is regarded by many as the antithesis of slowly progressive reform and modernity that has been in the works since Mohamed Ali Pasha’s reign.  For religious minorities and secular Egyptians alike, the idea of the rebirthing of Sharia law in Egypt is a step backwards.

Now that I have bored you to death with this background nonsense … lets get to the good stuff 🙂

The fun stuff!!

To better understand the effects of the relationship between the MB and religious minorities of Egypt on the future electoral process, a better understanding of the fears generated by the idea of a utopian MB state must be examined.  In other words, what would be the living conditions, sociopolitical progress hopes for the secular demographic and religious minorities in Egypt under a hypothetical Brotherhood rule? And how do these fears translate to general public fears that would affect regime changes in Egypt?

Here are some of the basic concepts that lead to this negative notion; the concept of al-Ummah, the concept of Al-Taqiyyah, the concept of Al-Jizyah, and women’s rights/equality under conservative Islamic views.

Al-Ummah (The Muslim Community/World)

Mentioned in the Quran[5] as a reference to the unified Muslim community, Al-Ummah ideally should be unified as one voice and as one body.  Opponents of the theological concept of Al-Ummah cite that complete unity is unattainable and is a detriment to pluralism, the key to the comingling of the various religious, minority and secular communities of Egypt.

Al-Jizyah (Tribute)

Al-Jizyah is a monetary or another form of tribute, paid to the Muslim state by non-Muslim residents and citizens of the state.  Dictated by the Quran[6], Al-Jizyah is paid by non-Muslims to exempt them from military service and other civic duties.  It is also paid in return for the protection they receive from the Muslim state and other services they receive from the Muslim community.  Al-Jizyah has been historically implemented in various ways, some harsher than others.  Opponents of Al-Jizyah regard it as a form of excessive taxation, based on religious.  Furthermore it is regarded as a form of alienation, segregation and denial of full citizenship.  Such views could a detriment to future MB gains on the sociopolitical arena.

Women’s Role in Society

It is without a doubt that progressive/western women rights and freedoms that women enjoy in western communities do not fully coincide with the conservative Muslim views of the role and behavior of a woman in a society.  Needless to say that women rights activists and proponents of secularism in Egypt are opposed to retracting of social freedoms allowed to women in the grander Egyptian community.

Al-Taqiyyah (Dissimulation)

Perhaps the strongest argument against the MB is the theological framework of Al-Taqiyyah.  Al-Taqiyyah, referred to many times in the Quran[7] and other Islamic theological works,  refers to the concealment by a Muslim believer of his/her beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of imminent danger, whether now or later in time.

While politicians are inherently inclined fault back on campaign promises or oaths made in positions of weakness, critics of the Brotherhood claim that Al-Taqiyyah offers moral justification of this undesirable behavior.  Opponents regard it as intentional concealment of Islamic doctrines in order to gain influence by deceiving opponents of the Islamic Sharia law.

Minorities General Opinion

The conclusion of many of Egypt’s secular and religious minorities offers tactical support for a regime, resembled in the National Democratic Party.  While corrupt and somewhat dysfunctional as a political party, it at the least offers the right of existence and equality compared to what would be provided by the worst case scenario, a utopian MB regime.  Such groups find comfort in the fact that the brotherhood holds 88 seats in a Parliament composed of 454, meaning that they cannot pass legislation.[iv]

[1] “And prepare against them what you can of force, and of steeds of war to terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.” Quran 8:60

[2] Sharia (legislation) is a set of sociopolitical laws set forth by and derived from the Quranic verses and other Islamic theological works that deal with all aspects of personal, sexual,  communal, political and economical issues.  Sharia application relies on Islamic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) for modern day implementation.

[3] The term caliphate refers to the first system of governance established in Islam, and represented the political authority and unity of the Muslim Ummah. It was initially led by Muhammad’s disciples as a continuation of the political authority the prophet established.

[4] The phrase Ummah in the Quran refers to all of the Islamic world unified

[5] “You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah; and if the followers of the Book had believed it would have been better for them; of them (some) are believers and most of them are transgressors.” Quran 3:110

[6] “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold forbidden that which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Quran 9:29

[7] “Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming.” Quran 3:28

[i] Nisan, Mordechai. Minorities in the Middle East A History of Struggle and Self-Expression. Boston: McFarland & Company, 2002. Print.

[ii] Nisan, Mordechai. Minorities in the Middle East A History of Struggle and Self-Expression. Boston: McFarland & Company, 2002. Print.

[iii] Cleveland, William L. History of the modern Middle East. Boulder, Colo: Westview, 2009. Print.

[iv] The Brotherhood Goes to Parliament – Samer Shehata and Joshua Stacher

[i] The Brotherhood Goes to Parliament – Samer Shehata and Joshua Stacher

[ii] &

[i] The Brotherhood Goes to Parliament – Samer Shehata and Joshua Stacher