Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Egypt’s Christians Fear Violence as Changes Embolden Islamists

CAIRO — The headline screamed from a venerable liberal newspaper: Coptic Christians had abducted a young Muslim and tattooed her with a cross. “Copts kidnap Raghada!”

“They tied me up with ropes, beat me with shoes, shaved my hair,” Raghada Salem Abdel Fattah, 19, declared, “and forced me to read Christian psalms!”

Like many similar stories proliferating here since the revolution, Ms. Abdel Fattah’s kidnapping could not be confirmed. But for members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, the sensational headline — from a respected publisher, no less — served to validate their fear that the Egyptian revolution had made their country less tolerant and more dangerous for religious minorities. The Arab Spring initially appeared to open a welcoming door to the dwindling number of Christian Arabs who, after years of feeling marginalized, eagerly joined the call for democracy and rule of law. But now many Christians here say they fear that the fall of the police state has allowed long-simmering tensions to explode, potentially threatening the character of Egypt, and the region.

“Will Christians have equal rights and full citizenship or not?” asked Sarkis Naoum, a Christian commentator in Beirut, Lebanon. A surge of sectarian violence in Cairo — 24 dead, more than 200 wounded and three churches in flames since President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall — has turned Christian-Muslim tensions into one of the gravest threats to the revolution’s stability. But it is also a pivotal test of Egypt’s tolerance, pluralism and the rule of law. The revolution has empowered the majority but also opened new questions about the protection of minority rights like freedom of religion or expression as Islamist groups step forward to lay out their agendas and test their political might.
Read the rest here.


John from Washington said...

Egypt’s Christians, unfortunately, will most likely NOT end up with “equal rights and full citizenship”. They have been dhimmis for nearly 1400 years, and their non-equal status will continue. This whole sad Arab Spring movement is doomed to result in more discrimination against Christians throughout the Middle East, in spite of the well-intentioned Pollyannas in our government and media who have enabled this entire disaster (remember Iran in 1978/79?), and in spite of the hopes of Egypt’s youth, her unemployed, and those seeking justice and equality. Egypt is about 90% muslim, with Islam entrenched there since the 7th Century. Islam is a false, toxic religion, whose poison infuses the dominant culture. The current constitution of Egypt requires any legislation to agree with Islamic law – and there’s your deal-killer right there. A culture built on lies and evil, when left to rule itself through democracy and “majority rule”, will create institutions that reflect that underlying evil. The best one can reasonably hope for, short of a miracle of God (which I most definitely pray for), is that the current level of persecution will continue. More likely is the consolidation of power of the infinitely better-organized Islamist organizations, with a commensurate increase in the repression that our Christian brothers and sisters – and ultimately all of Egypt’s people – will be forced to endure.

Jon Marc said...

The hypocrisy of such headlines when it is more often than not (if not always?) Copts who are being abducted, raped, and forced into a different religion and an unwanted marriage is astounding.

rabidgandhi said...

When we as Christians make arguments about how Islam is an evil religion and how Muslims should be deprived of rights in order to protect the rights of our own tribe, we do nothing but feed the extremists to act in the abhorrent way they do.

John I understand your desire to protect your co-religionists, but your comments seem to have the history of the 'Arab Spring' a bit mixed up. The US has supported the military regime in Cairo the same way it has with so many other dictators (eg Marcos, Suharto, Shah Pahlavi, et al.): meaning full support with arms to aid in their oppression of their people until the very last minute, and then cut them loose. When the protesters were fired on in Tahrir they were fired on with US weapons. The argument for providing these weapons has been stability: Mubarak keeps an Islamic revolution from happening that would threaten Israel. If you're going to take the side of Mubarak then you are on the side of Obama who praised him as 'a good man' right up to days before his resignation. And if you are on the side of Mubarak then you are NOT on the side of those who speak for equal rights for all in Egypt, people like Pope Shenouda and the 25 Jan Movement that is powering the revolution.

Many Muslims have come to see us as hypocritical oppressors because of our support for their human rights being squashed. It would be great if we could prove them wrong.

Samn! said...


Problem is, it doesn't matter either way how Muslims perceive westerners. Muslim treatment of Christians has little to do with what the west does and everything to do with what Islamic law demands. The only way for there to be equal rights for women and non-Muslims in Islamic countries is either for it to be enforced top-down or for there to be profound social changes tantamount to a popular rejection of Islamic law, which would be unthinkable in a situation where believers in Islamic law control education....

rabidgandhi said...

OK Samn!, yours is a well thought out point and I'm glad you make it. Obviously, Christian behaviour should not be based on trying to sway opinions one way or the other. I said I would love for us to prove that we Christians are not oppressors. This would mean no matter how the Muslim world perceives us we must follow the teachings of Christ: loving our enemies, respecting the humanity of those who don't respect ours, helping the widow and the orphan... all that jazz. Unfortunately the actions of governments representing majority Christian communities have not provided this sort of witness; quite the contrary.

And should a Muslim tune in to what was said on this thread and much of the Christian blogosphere, he would find more evidence to believe that the Church is aligned with Mubarak's torture chambers rather than with the people fighting against them.

Yet this is not the Church's stance. Human rights are not zero-sum. We can defend those of our community and those of other communities as well. There is no excuse for the violence against the Copts, but Christianity provides a different type of response than the one proposed by the world, and this has been the stance of Pope Shenouda.