Why is the State Dept Undermining President Trump’s Egypt Policy?

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Aug. 23, 2017:

President Trump has been very clear that he wants to pivot away from Obama’s backing for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And the Arab Spring’s whole democratization program.

Senator McCain has been equally clear that he wants to double down on it.

Guess whom the State Department is listening to?

Egypt passed a law restricting foreign funding of NGOs. Egypt joins a number of countries, including Hungary, Poland and Israel, that are working to curb the influence of the Leftist/Islamist network which operates internationally through non-profit NGOs. Each such effort has led to hysteria and angry threats from the political figures associated with those networks.

Now the State Department is taking action against Egypt over the NGO law.

Officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had decided to withhold $65.7 million in military assistance and $30 million in economic aid to Egypt that has been on hold since fiscal 2014, the officials said. That money will be reprogrammed, meaning it will now be sent to other countries, they said.

At the same time, the officials said Rex Tillerson had signed a waiver saying that $195 million in military assistance to Egypt is in the U.S. national interest but had decided to hold off on spending it. Under federal law, Tillerson had until the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, to either sign the waiver, certify that Egypt is meeting the human rights conditions or return the money to the Treasury. The waiver gives Egypt additional time to meet the requirements for the $195 million, which Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2016.

When Trump met with el-Sissi in the White House in April he made no mention of Egypt’s human rights record in the post-meeting statement, an omission that many took as a sign that the issue was not a priority for the administration. Yet, two months later, two senators from Trump’s Republican Party slammed as “draconian” the law that effectively bans the work of non-governmental organizations and urged that it be repealed.

Can you guess who those 2 senators are?

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called it “draconian legislation” and they said the US Congress should in response “strengthen democratic benchmarks and human rights conditions on the US assistance to Egypt.”

US Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and nine other senators sent Trump a letter on June 19 urging the president to press Sisi on the issue.

Unless I missed something, President John McCain is not in the White House. So why is Tillerson listening to him instead of to Trump?

According to Egyptian officials, this is an effort to stem funding to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Alaa Abed, chairman of the Free Egyptian Party’s parliamentary bloc, told The Daily Caller in a recent interview that although the idea behind NGOs is charitable and very needed in his country, a good number of them have taken a wrong turn.

“And the proof of that are the billions that have been given to these NGOs without any noticeable results that you can see,” Abed said.

According to Abed, about 48,000 NGOs are in Egypt and some are supported by the state. Of that number, though, “Only 500 receive foreign funds and 10 operate within the norms of the law…the rest (490) take the money into their pockets and 30 or 40 use the money to transfer to the [Muslim Brotherhood] or small terror cells.”

It obviously also starves some leftist NGOs of funds.

Why is McCain so agitated over it? The media won’t tell you. Few sources will.

But McCain chairs the International Republican Institute. The IRI was a Reagan idea to fight Communism. It’s since gone way off course and was involved in the Arab Spring. Sam LaHood was at the center of it. The international advisory board includes Mo Ibrahim whose daughter is a board member of the Clinton Foundation.

The question here is who is running the country. Whom did American vote for?

It was Trump who was running against nation building. Particularly of the ugly kind we’re seeing here. But Tillerson is obeying President McCain instead of President Trump. Our foreign policy is still being made by the same old people. That’s why the Iran deal is in place (and has not been made public), it’s why Israel is still being pressured to make concessions to terrorists and there’s yet more pressure on Egypt’s President Sisi to open the door to the same folks who brought you the Arab Spring.

It’s why Tillerson backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s backers in Qatar while Trump initially backed pressure on the terror state.

T o change the outcome, you have to change the policy. To change the policy, you have to change the people. Under McMaster and Tillerson, the foreign policy will be set by President McCain, not President Trump.

***

Also see:

In Egypt, Clashes Between The Institution Of The Presidency And The Institution Of Al-Azhar

MEMRI, By: C. Meital, Aug. 21, 2017:

Introduction

Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the most important institute of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, and its head, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, are currently facing a political and media attack led by the institute of the Egyptian presidency, headed by President ‘Abd Al-Fatah Al-Sisi. This is the latest episode in the past two years of ongoing tension between the two institutions, over Al-Azhar’s apparent refusal to comply with the president’s dictates in matters of religion.

One aspect of the attack on Al-Azhar is President Al-Sisi’s direct criticism of Al-Azhar Sheikh Al-Tayeb; another is criticism of Al-Azhar in the government press; and yet another is parliamentary moves led by Al-Sisi’s associates aimed at limiting the authorities of the Al-Azhar sheikh. There have also been calls for Sheikh Al-Tayeb himself to step down.

The main criticism against Al-Azhar is that the institution has failed to join the ideological war on terrorism that is led by President Al-Sisi. Critics say that Al-Azhar is not complying with Al-Sisi’s major goal, announced in 2014 and frequently reiterated by him, to promote a renewal of the religious discourse in Egypt, and also point out that it is refusing to level the accusation  of heresy against the Islamic State (ISIS), which has claimed responsibility for several terror attacks in the country.[1] It is also being said that Al-Azhar’s curricula encourage young people to turn to terrorism. In addition, there is criticism of Al-Azhar’s refusal to change how divorces are handled, as Al-Sisi has also demanded.

Al-Azhar representatives, headed by Sheikh Al-Tayeb, have rejected these criticisms, calling them deliberate lies that damage Islam. To show that it is indeed fulfilling its role and that it is a moderate Islamic institution, Al-Azhar has in recent months held international conventions on the subject of fighting extremism, as well as meetings with young people, and has waged anti-extremism and anti-terrorism campaigns.[2]

It should be noted that despite the harsh criticism of Al-Azhar, and of Sheikh Al-Tayeb, it still has the public’s sympathy, and significant support from many members of parliament.

This report will focus on the tension between the Egyptian presidency and Al-Azhar, as reflected in statements by the leaders of both institutions, in parliamentary activity against it,  and in articles in the Egyptian press.

Al-Azhar Institute (image: balkans.aljazeera.ne)

Tension Between President Al-Sisi And Al-Azhar Sheikh Al-Tayeb

As stated, in recent months it has become evident that there is considerable tension between President Al-Sisi and Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, as reflected in the president’s criticism of the sheikh both in public and in closed meetings. Currently, the main criticism against Al-Azhar is that it is not making sufficient efforts to advance the renewal of religious discourse in Egypt, as Al-Sisi has demanded. 

President Al-Sisi Repeatedly Reprimands Al-Azhar Sheikh – And Reportedly Threatens To Replace Him There have been several Egyptian newspaper reports concerning President’s Al-Sisi’s displeasure with Al-Azhar’s lack of action on this issue; he has made this clear in individual meetings with Sheikh Al-Tayeb and at public events.

At January 1, 2015 festivities marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad at the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments, Al-Sisi said to Sheikh Al-Tayeb: “The preachers are responsible to Allah for the renewal of the religious discourse and for improving the image of Islam. [On Judgment Day,] I will argue against you before Allah [if you do not do this].”[3]

Following a November 30, 2016 meeting between the two, the independent Egyptian daily Al-Misriyyoun reported on their chilly relationship and noted that the president was furious at Al-Azhar’s failure to vehemently attack political Islam organizations, specifically ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and for its continuing aggressive anti-Shi’ite position.[4]

There are, however, only a few such reports; for the most part, Al-Sisi is careful to express respect for Al-Azhar while at the same time clarifying his position vis-à-vis how it functions. Thus, he told the editors of government newspapers in a May 2017 interview: “Our general line is to protect the institutions of the Egyptian state, to urge them to fulfill their roles, and to develop them in a way that will suit the challenges and dangers that we face. Al-Azhar has a monumental status both inside and outside Egypt, and that is why we insist that it fulfill its role, because both the region and the world need it to do so.”[5]

At a June 21, 2017 event marking Laylat Al-Qadr, the night when, according to Muslim tradition, the Quran was first revealed to Muhammad, Al-Sisi praised Al-Azhar as a source of pride and for the position it has held for over a millennium. He went on to reiterate the need for a renewal of the religious discourse, calling it “a matter of life and death for the people and the ummah.”[6]

On July 26, 2017, four months after the April 8, 2017 Palm Sunday attacks on Mar Girgis church in Tanta and St. Marks Cathedral in Alexandria, Al-Sisi confirmed his decision to establish a Supreme Council for the Fight Against Extremism and Terrorism,” to be headed by him, and whose members would include the parliamentary speaker, the prime minister, the Al-Azhar sheikh, the Coptic Patriarch, various government ministers, the head of Egypt’s general intelligence service, the head of the Administrative Supervisory Authority, and public figures such as former Egyptian mufti Ali Goma’a.[7] However, even though the Al-Azhar sheikh is on the council, Egyptian media members who are close to the regime interpreted the establishment of the council as a blow to Al-Azhar’s authority; some even called it proof of Al-Azhar’s “demise.” The establishment of this council, they said, meant that the institution of the presidency had decided that it itself would act on the matter of renewing the religious discourse, instead of waiting for the Ministry of Endowments or for Al-Azhar to do so.[8]

Another serious dispute between Al-Sisi and Sheikh Al-Tayeb erupted over the issue of talaq ­– that is, a Muslim husband’s power to divorce his wife on the spot by merely telling her three times “I divorce you.” Al-Sisi again reprimanded Al-Tayeb in public. During a January 24, 2017 speech marking Police Day, he addressed him directly, saying: “You’ve tired me out, my friend.”[9] Al-Sisi went on to call for an end to this divorce practice, which is common in Egypt, and for divorce to be documented legally in order to reduce the rate of talaq divorces in the country.[10] In response, MP ‘Amr Hamroush hastened to prepare a bill regulating divorce.[11]

This demand by President Al-Sisi, which also garnered support from the Egyptian media, was perceived by the Al-Azhar institute as an affront to Islam, an attempt to secularize Egypt, and an attempt to circumvent the authority of the institute. In an announcement, Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars clarified that “by virtue of Al-Azhar’s religious responsibility and its status in the Egyptian ummah, as determined by the constitution of Egypt,” it had in recent months convened to discuss current social issues, among them the issue of divorce in a religious context, and that it had decided that talaq is permitted. In this way, the council made it clear that Al-Azhar does indeed have decision-making authority in matters of Islamic law.[12]

Al-Azhar cleric Dr. Yahya Ismail said: “The war against Islam and its rulings is an old war. There is an ongoing, focused campaign to secularize Egypt…” He added: “This is a conspiracy against Islam and its guidelines… The rulings and conditions regarding divorce are known… The game of [legally] documenting divorce is an old one, and it is Christian clerics who were behind it [and who] tried to persuade some of [Egypt’s] presidents in this matter…” Al-Azhar lecturer Ahmed Karima also criticized Al-Sisi’s demand, saying: “Who will successfully eradicate this [talaq]? Only Allah or His Messenger… “[13]

Following the media uproar over the divorce issue, there was an attempt to calm the waters by both sides, and to show that things had returned to normal. On February 26, 2017, Al-Sisi stressed, in a meeting with Sheikh Al-Tayeb, that Al-Azhar is like a lighthouse for moderate Islamic ideology.[14] Al-Tayeb advisor Muhammad ‘Abd Al-Salam also denied that there was any disagreement between the two institutions of Al-Azhar and the presidency.[15]

Measures Against Al-Azhar: A Bill To Limit Al-Azhar Sheikh’s Authority And Establishment Of A Committee To Examine Al-Azhar Curricula

One manifestation of the anger at Al-Azhar was recent parliamentary measures against it and its sheikh aimed at limiting his authority and independence. Recently, MP Muhammad Abu Hamed, known to support Al-Sisi, proposed a change to the 1961 Al-Azhar Law regulating the authority of both the institute and its head. This bill was supported by parliamentary speaker Ali ‘Abd Al-A’al, who argued that the bill did not harm Al-Azhar.[16]

The main points of the amendment bill proposed by Abu Hamed make it clear that it is aimed at limiting the Al-Azhar sheikh’s authority and at increasing governmental control of the institute itself. For example, Section 2 of Abu Hamad’s bill states that the Al-Azhar sheikh is the Grand Imam of all Muslim clerics and that he represents the institute, but also states that his term is six years and that he can be reelected only once. The 1961 law did not mention the length of the sheikh’s term. Also according to the bill, the candidates for the position of sheikh are to be selected not just by Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars, as has been the case to date, but jointly by the council and Al-Azhar’s Academy of Islamic Research. Further, according to Section 5 of the  bill, if two-thirds of the members of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars feel that the sheikh is not fulfilling his role appropriately, he is to be sent before an investigative committee comprising seven of this council’s leading members. This committee has the power to warn him, reprimand him, or “revoke his authority.” The original 1961 law included nothing regarding internal oversight of the Al-Azhar sheikh.[17]

Section 8 of the bill authorizes the president to appoint the imam and preacher of Al-Azhar’s mosque, from among three candidates that are to be put forward by Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars.[18] Also, Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars is to determine the content of the Friday sermons delivered at Al-Azhar mosque, and set regulations for religious, social, and cultural activities at the mosque.

It should be noted that an addition to the general definition of Al-Azhar’s role focuses on the importance of its role in developing religious discourse in a manner highlighting humane principles and unifying the Muslim ummah, and undermining the sources of the extremist discourse that crudely interprets Islam.[19]

Abu Hamed said of the bill that in today’s circumstances it is inconceivable that the Al-Azhar sheikh cannot be fired, and emphasized that three senior members of Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars are MB members.[20]

A further parliamentary step taken against the Al-Azhar institute relates to its educational curriculum. The chairman of the Religious Affairs Committee in the parliament, Osama Al-‘Abd, said that the committee has established a working group to examine the curriculum at the institute as part of a process to renew religious discourse in Egypt.[21]

Despite Abu Hamed’s bill and the examination of the curriculum, it is evident that there is much support in parliament for Sheikh Al-TayebAbu Hamed’s bill was criticized by several MPs who said that they had been unaware the law harmed the status of the Al-Azhar sheikh and asked that their signatures be removed from the bill. Further, MP Osama Sharshar wrote a memorandum to the parliamentary speaker that was signed by the majority of the 406 MPs demanding that the bill be opposed and not submitted because it was clearly aimed at harming one of the institutions of Egyptian society. Al-Azhar is a red line, he said, much like the military, and firing the Al-Azhar sheikh is practically heresy.[22]

For his part, Abu Hamed rejected the MPs’ request that their signatures be removed, and said that he would try to enlist the support of additional MPs and re-submit the bill during the next parliamentary session.[23] In this context, parliamentary sources revealed to the Egyptian daily Al-Shurouq that top-echelon officials had ordered that the bill be shelved.[24] Nevertheless, on several additional occasions Abu Hamed stressed that he intended to submit the bill, and that he had the signatures of 80 MPs who support it.[25]

On May 9, a delegation of MPs met with Sheikh Al-Tayeb, who thanked them for their opposition to those aiming to harm Al-Azhar and warned that any affront to it was a blow to Egypt’s position as defender of Islam and its moderateness.[26]

Allegations In Media That Al-Azhar Is Not Acting Against Terrorism; Calls For Sheikh Al-Tayeb To Resign

Read more

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s Long Road to Islamic Reform

Egyptian Leader Al-Sisi.

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, April 20, 2017:

“There has been a lot of positive symbolism” from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regarding Islamic reform but little action, stated former American Ambassador Alberto Fernandez on April 3 in Washington, DC.  He and his fellow Hudson Institute panelists examined the enormous difficulties confronting any reform of the doctrines underlying various jihadist agendas even as America’s new President Donald Trump prioritizes counterterrorism.

Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea opened the panel before a lecture room filled with about 70 listeners by noting the Sisi-Trump White House meeting at that very moment.  Shea observed that America’s important ally Egypt is the most populous Arab country (94 million people) with a quarter of all Arab speakers in the world.  Egypt also has the Middle East’s largest Christian community, the Copts, accounting for an estimated ten percent of Egypt’s population, more than all the Jews in Israel.

Addressing Trump’s meeting with Sisi, Fernandez stated that the “number one issue in for this administration in this regard is obviously writ large the counterterrorism issue,” particularly concerning defeating the Islamic State.  He emphasized the necessity “to find creative, smart, aggressive ways to challenge the appeal of the default ideology in the Middle East today,” namely “some type of Islamism.”  Such ideologies had a long history, as in the 1970s “Egypt was the proving ground for all of this stuff that we saw with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State” involving atrocities against Mesopotamia’s Christians and other minorities.  He recalled visiting Egypt as a young diplomat for the first time in 1984 and seeing policemen guarding every Christian church and cemetery, an indication of this community’s peril.

Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Samuel Tadros, himself a Copt, stated that “there is no doubt that the Islamist message is appealing in Egypt” and reprised his previous analysis of Islamism.  “Islamism seeks to create a state that connects heaven and earth,” an ideology that is still credible in the public imagination and has no viable contenders in the marketplace of ideas.  Despite repeated failures to create this idealized state by groups like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, the “basic premises of Islamism make sense for an average Egyptian.”

Fernandez and Tadros accordingly dashed any high hopes raised by Sisi’s 2015 New Year’s Day address on Islamic reform to Al Azhar University in Cairo, often considered Sunni Islam’s preeminent theological authority.  Tadros stated that the speech “was general, it was unprepared” while Fernandez noted that “Sisi kind of put out a very enticing marker but there is a lot of work that has to happen which hasn’t even begun yet.”  Although globally the “speech that Sisi gave was very well received,” the follow-on reminded Fernandez of the Arab proverb “she was pregnant with a mountain but gave birth to a mouse.”

While “there is a tremendous amount of space for Islamist extremism in Egypt still” as the 2015 blasphemy conviction of an Egyptian talk show host showed, Fernandez remained unimpressed with Sisi’s Islamic reform advocacy.

There has been a nibbling around the edges.  But you cannot say that the Egyptian government has done something which would be truly revolutionary, that has never happened in the Arab world, which is to have a government on the level of ideology, on the level of textbooks, on the level of the religious establishment really embrace a kind of liberal reinterpretation of problematic texts and concepts that are used by Salafi-jihadists and by Islamists.

“While Washington has welcomed this talk a lot, there are actually a lot of limits to what Sisi can offer in this regard,” Tadros warned.  Sisi “would like to see a reform of the religious discourse, but he has no plan, plus he has to deal with the reality of Al Azhar” as his appeals to reform easy divorce laws had shown.  The “answer from Al Azhar was a very clear public humiliation of the president….This is not debatable, this is the religion as it is; basically don’t talk about these issues.”

Given Sisi’s societal circumstances, Fernandez noted that “even the weak tea that we see with that symbolism actually provokes a reaction” from Islamists like an Islamic State video attacking Sisi as a “slave of the cross.”  Fernandez and Tadros likewise discussed rampant antisemitism permeating Egyptian society as exemplified by Fernandez’s last visit to Egypt three years ago.  The bookstore of the five-star Intercontinental Semiramis Hotel where he was staying had an entire shelf of anti-Semitic literature including the Jew-hatred staple, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and books featuring vampires with Stars of David.

Such intellectual poison is unsurprising given Tadros’ assessment that the “Egyptian educational system remains a disaster; it simply teaches nothing about the outside world.”  A Christian Egyptian friend astounded him once when she related the inquiry of her fellow journalist about where her fiancée would spend his wedding night.  On the basis of the movie Braveheart, the inquiring journalist had obtained the bizarre belief that Coptic women spend their first night of marriage having sex with a Coptic priest.

For Tadros, the journalist’s pitiful ignorance about Copts is no anomaly, even though they are the indigenous people of an Egypt Islamicized after a seventh century Arab conquest.  Among Egyptian Muslims there is an “absence of any actual information about people that they have shared 14 centuries of living together.”  This allows “all these superstitions, these conspiracy theorists, this propaganda by Islamists to fill that vacuum.”

The only bright spot in the panel appeared in Tadros’ estimation most Egyptians considered Sisi, who came to power in a 2013 military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the only current acceptable political alternative.  “There are huge human rights abuses in the country, but it is also a very popular regime.  I have no doubt that even in free and fair elections President Sisi would win.”  He represents a “certain rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood, a demand for a return to normalcy, to stability.”

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt’s Anti-Christian Bigotry

by John Rossomando
IPT News
April 12, 2017

Suicide bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt Sunday by ISIS terrorists should not be viewed in isolation. The bombings killed 44 people and injured 100 more, and mark the deadliest in a series of attacks targeting the country’s Christian minority.

ISIS warned of future attacks in December after another of its suicide bombers killed 25 worshipers in a chapel adjacent to the Coptic Pope’s cathedral in Cairo. In this case, one of the bombers struck just after the Coptic Pope finished celebrating Mass at the Coptic cathedral in Alexandria.

The attacks reflect a larger epidemic of anti-Christian bias and hate found among a sizeable portion of Egypt’s majority Muslim community. This bigotry remains entrenched despite President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s symbolic statements about reforming Islam and building a major Coptic church.

Many Islamists remain angry with the Coptic community for supporting al-Sisi after the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party after a year in power.

“The Minority Copt’s (sic) Of Egypt Should Never Have joined Sisi Against The Sunni’s of Egypt Now They Are Paying The price! No End Soon Either,” an ISIS supporter identified as @HaqqRevolution wrote on Twitter.

Last month, ISIS’s Al-Naba newsletter vowed that attacks against the Copts would intensify unless they convert to Islam or pay the Quranic tax known as jizyah. Al-Naba also attacked the Copts for supporting al-Sisi.

Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution, spews anti-Christian statements and fatwas that label Christians as heretics. Al-Azhar distributed a free book in June 2015 describing Christianity as a “failed religion,” and suggested that the Bible contains “seeds of weakness.”

Building churches is a crime under Al-Azhar’s curriculum which also suggests that churches should be barred in Muslim countries.

“Hence, it is a mistake to say that the attacks currently taking place against Copts in Minya and elsewhere are the acts of individuals [and not part of a larger phenomenon]. [Al-Azhar] students will continue to study until they attain a certificate or a license to preach at a mosque, and then they will spread what they learned among the worshipers,” Egyptian researcher Ahmad Abdu Maher wrote last August.

Much of the anti-Coptic hatred found among Egyptian children stems from school lessons that say “Christians are infidels destined for Hell,” Al-Masry Al-Youm columnist Fathia Al-Dakhakhni wrote Feb. 26.

“Fanaticism in Egypt is a matter of education, so there is need to reform the education received by [the members of our] society, who are raised on the concept of discrimination against the other,” Al-Dakhakhni wrote. “[The change] must start in school – because fanaticism begins with religion classes that separate Muslims from Christians, so that the child discovers in his earliest formative years that there is an ‘other’ who is different and who must be shunned.”

Government forces either are unable or unwilling to protect civilians, especially Christians, from ISIS in Sinai.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued last month criticized Egyptian security forces’ response to ISIS attacks against the Copts. Over the past two months, 355 families have fled the northern Sinai city of Al-Arish, located near the border with Gaza and Israel. Of those, only 59 Coptic families have received housing.

After ISIS murdered seven Christians in northern Sinai, Coptic families who fled their homes described security forces as “apathetic,” the HRW report said.

Egyptian troops did nothing when ISIS established checkpoints hunting for Christians, according to a Daily Beast report. In one instance, ISIS fighters demanded to see a Christian man’s ID card to check his religion and to see if he had a wrist tattoo common among Coptic Christians.

“Convert, infidel, and we will spare your life,” the ISIS fighters said as they dragged him out of his vehicle. He refused. They shot him 14 times.

Christians in the Minya governorate, about three hours south of Cairo, face intimidation from terrorists, civil society and government alike, according to numerous news reports. Christians account for one-third of the 5 million people living in the Minya governorate. They have faced at least 77 sectarian attacks since the 2011 revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

Radical Muslims known as Salafists burned several Christian homes in Minya on July 16.

Police arrested several suspects, but the court declined to prosecute them. Instead, they were let go after reconciling with their victims. HRW notes that such enforced reconciliations deprive the Christians of their rights and allow their attackers to evade justice.

While al-Sisi promises to build Egypt’s largest church, he ratified a church construction law in September giving governors latitude to deny building permits without the chance for appeal. HRW slammed the law, partly because it contains security provisions that could subject permitting decisions to the whims of violent mobs.

Muslim mobs destroyed four Coptic homes and six buildings including a nursery in the village of Koum al-Loufi, near Minya, in late June and mid-July, after Muslim neighbors claimed Christians intended to use them as churches, HRW notes.

In March 2016, an Egyptian court convicted four Christian teenagers and their teacher of contempt for making a video mocking ISIS that also appeared to mimic Muslim prayers. Three were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years, while the fourth was sent to a juvenile detention facility.

In January, an Egyptian court dropped charges against Muslim men accused of beating 70-year-old Christian grandmother Soad Thabet and ripping her clothes off during a sectarian riot. Instead, the court prosecuted her son, Ashraf Abdo Attia, for adultery for an alleged affair with a Muslim neighbor’s wife. Mob anger over the alleged affair led to the assault against Thabet last May.

A Muslim mob burned and looted at least 80 Christian-owned buildings in Al-Beida, south of Cairo, last June. A rumor that a building under construction could be a church sparked the rampage. Al-Beida police were unwilling or unable to stop the violence.

Following Mohamed Morsi’s forced removal as Egypt’s president in 2013, Muslim Brotherhood supporters conducted a reign of terror against the Coptic community, burning at least 58 churches.

A mob of 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters set fire to two churches in Minya after Egyptian security forces cleared Cairo’s Rabia Square in August 2013.

Muslim Brotherhood members torched the main Coptic church in the southern Egyptian city of Sohag. “And for the Church to adopt a war against Islam and Muslims is the worst crime. For every action is a reaction,” a memo posted on Facebook by a local branch of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Egypt’s Helwan governorate said.

Islamists previously raised an al-Qaida flag over the church.

Sunday’s attacks mark the continuation of a violence spree targeting Egypt’s minority Copts. Al-Sisi needs to bring the full power of the Egyptian state to bear in the cause of reforming society to end it and end the Copts’ second-class status.

***

Also see:

Forty-Four Dead Christians: Islam’s Latest Victims

The real driving force behind Sunday’s church bombings in Egypt.

Front Page Magazine, by Raymond Ibrahim, April 10, 2017:

Egypt’s Christians started Holy Week celebrations by being blown up yesterday.  Two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday mass were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers; a total of 44 were killed and 126 wounded and mutilated.

Horrific scenes of carnage—limbs and blood splattered on altars and pews—are being reported from both churches.   Twenty-seven people—initial reports indicate mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, north Egypt.  “Where is the government?” yelled an angry Christian there to AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.”

Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, which—since the original church building founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century was burned to the ground during the 7th  century Muslim invasions of Egypt—has been the historic seat of Coptic Christendom.  Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—evaded the carnage.

In death toll and severity, Sunday’s bombings surpass what was formerly considered the deadliest church attack in Egypt: less than four months ago, on Sunday, December 11, 2016, an Islamic suicide bomber entered the St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo during mass, detonated himself and killed at least 27 worshippers—mostly women and children—and wounded nearly 70.  Descriptions of scenes from that bombing are virtually identical to those coming from Egypt now: “I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene.  I saw a headless woman being carried away.  Everyone was in a state of shock. We were scooping up people’s flesh off the floor.  There were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes.”

Before the December 11 attack, the deadliest church bombing occurred on January 1, 2011.  Then, while ushering in the New Year, 23 Christians were blown to bits.

The Islamic state claims both December 11’s and yesterday’s bombings. (Because there was no “Islamic State” around in 2011, only generic “Islamics” can claim that one.)  This uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video recently released by the Islamic State in Sinai.  In it, masked militants promised more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross,” a reference to the Copts of Egypt, whom they also referred to as their “favorite prey” and—in a bit of classic Muslim projection—as the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.”

It should be remembered that for every successful church bomb attack in Egypt, there are numerous failed or “too-insignificant-to-report” ones.   Thus, in the week before yesterday’s bombings, an explosive device was found by St. George’s in Tanta and dismantled in time.  Before that, another bomb was found planted at the Collège Saint Marc, an all-boys school in downtown Alexandria.  Similarly, a couple of weeks before December 11’s church bombing, a man hurled an improvised explosive at another church in Samalout.  Had that bomb detonated—it too was dismantled in time—casualties would likely have been very high, as the church was packed with thousands of worshippers congregating for a special holiday service.  In a separate December incident, Islamic slogans and messages of hate—including “you will die Christians”—were painted on the floor of yet another church, that of the Virgin Mary in Damietta.

Yesterday’s church bombings also follow a spate of murderous hate crimes against Christians throughout Egypt in recent weeks and month—crimes that saw Copts burned alive and slaughtered on busy streets and in broad daylight and displaced from the Sinai.  In a video of these destitute Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether!  Where’s the [Egyptian] military?”  Another woman yells at the camera, “Tell the whole world, look—we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people!  Why? Our children are terrified to go to schools.  Why? Why all this injustice?!  Why doesn’t the president move and do something for us?  We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!” (Note: Donations that go directly to Egypt’s persecuted and displaced Copts can be made here).

In response to yesterday’s church bombings, President Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency, adding in a statement that such attacks will only strengthen the resolve of Egyptians against “evil forces.” For his part, President Trump tweeted that he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” but that he has “great confidence” that Sisi “will handle the situation properly.”

Sisi further said in his statement that “Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt.”

But what of what happens right inside of Egypt?  Is Sisi “handl[ing] the situation properly” there?  Whether those terrorizing Coptic Christians are truly card-holding members of ISIS or are mere sympathizers, the fact is they are all homegrown in Egypt—all taught to hate “infidels” in the mosques and schools of Egypt.

Sisi himself openly acknowledged this in 2015 when he stood before Egypt’s Islamic clerics of Al Azhar and implored them to do something about how Islam is taught to Muslims.  Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” are  “antagonizing the entire world” and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

Just how seriously his words were taken was revealed last November when Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb—who appeared sitting in the front row during Sisi’s 2015 speech—defended Al Azhar’s reliance on that very same “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas … sacralized over the centuries” which many reformers are eager to see eliminated from Egypt’s curriculum because they support the most “radical” expressions of Islam—including killing apostates, burning infidels, persecuting Christians and destroying churches.

Egypt’s Grand Imam went so far as to flippantly dismiss the call to reform as quixotic at best:

When they [Sisi and reformers] say that Al Azhar must change the religious discourse, change the religious discourse, this too is, I mean, I don’t know—a new windmill that just appeared, this “change religious discourse”—what change religious discourse?  Al Azhar doesn’t change religious discourse—Al Azhar proclaims the true religious discourse, which we learned from our elders.

And the law that the elders of Islam, the ulema, bequeathed to Muslims preaches hate for “infidels”—which, in Egypt, means Christians.  This is Egypt’s ultimate problem, not, to quote Sisi, foreign “countries and fascist, terrorist organizations,” which are symptoms of the problem.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). 

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Also  see:

Former Egyptian Ambassador: Trump Should Undo Obama’s Sponsorship Of Muslim Brotherhood

Breitbart, by Ali Waked, April 2, 2017:

TEL AVIV – President Abdel Fatah Sisi’s visit to the United States later this month will be an opportunity to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood’s standing in Washington, a former Egyptian ambassador to the US said.

Abdel Raouf al-Ridi told Egyptian paper Alshorouk that “Egyptian-American relations are entering a new phase, and the degree of their success relies on Egyptian efforts.”

“Presidents Trump and Sisi can break the ice created during the Obama administration,” he said. “Without doing injustice to Obama, he adopted the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

He added that during Obama’s presidency, “the Muslim Brotherhood shifted their international center of gravity from London to Washington. In recent years the Muslim Brotherhood penetrated American institutions and think tanks, and disseminated their ideology as an alternative to extremism.”

The Muslim Brotherhood forged ideas and promoted people “that were recruited even by the National Security Council, and from there they disseminated the marketable view that their Islamic model is a moderate one that serves as a counterweight to terror and extremism, and this view found resonance in the United States.”

Conversely, the former ambassador said, “Egypt should distance itself from the concept of an Islamic international, i.e. advocate a democratic nation-state, modern and knowledge-based that steers clear of extremism, and separates church and state.”

Sisi’s visit will be an “important opportunity to lay out Egypt’s vision for the region, especially after years of cool relations [with the US],” Al-Ridi said. “I think Trump is a president with original ideas, and what characterizes him is his ability to champion them bravely and resolutely.”

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Lets hope Donald Trump listens to Sisi and not King Abdullah:

Trump Administration Intel – White Hats Confer With Reform Agents Within Political Islam…

The Last Refuge,  by sundance:

To understand the activity within any intelligence action any observer must do two things:

  • #1 You must stay elevated. If you try to get into the weeds you will be lost because your insight will be lacking specificity briefs.
  • #2 You must always reflect upon the recent historic context of the engagement you are observing. Including, most importantly, the engagements of the parties therein.

The recent example of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo traveling to Saudi Arabia last weekend, at the request of President Donald Trump, to personally present Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef with an award named after former CIA director George Tenet, is an example of the need for this approach.

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If you want to understand what’s going on, you must understand the recent relationship of the parties.  It begins with understanding modern political Islam.

Within “political Islam” there are various factions. However, again with the intent to remain elevated, let us just approach two larger congregations as: “Authentic supporters” and “Reform Agents”.

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The modern extremist elements fall under the category of “Authentic Supporters” or Salafists (politically, The Muslim Brotherhood).   The “Reform Agents” are represented by people like Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah III.

Within “Political Islam” these two elements (Authentic -vs- Reform) are fighting for the heart, soul, intellect and -in larger measures- the future of Islam in a modern world.

All the various Muslim factions fall along a continuum of authenticity to the principles of Islam. The more authentic the expression, the more violent and confrontational the group. The more moderate the expression, the reformers, the less violent… etc.

Over the course of the past decade each political side has surged and/or retreated during the larger struggle for the heart of those who adhere to the Muslim faith. The so-called “Arab Spring” was a surge of the Authentic group, and was empowered/emboldened by the foreign policy activity of exterior nations. In particular, the ideological sympathy of former President Barack Obama.

In the face of the growth of the various Authentic expressions, the Reform elements were in a retreating position attempting to contain the internal damage being carried out by the extremist groups. Reformers and more moderate voices were simply trying to hold on to the construct of a civil society amid the growing crisis created by emotional demands of extremists requiring adherence to Sharia, the authentic political law of Islam.

On January 19th 2015, three days before Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz died from a lung infection, Egypt’s President Fattah al-Sisi was urgently summoned to met with him.

It was only a few weeks earlier (New Years Day 2015) when al-Sisi delivered an impassioned speech to a scholarly audience in Al-Azhar University in Cairo comprised of Islam’s most important religious leaders.

As the most notable and visible reformer (<- important link) President Fattah al-Sisi made the case for “a religious revolution in Islam that would displace violent jihad from the center of Muslim discourse“:

“The corpus of texts and ideas that we have made sacred over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. You cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You must step outside yourselves and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.” –LINK

el-sisi-in-saudiPresident al-Sisi’s visit to Saudi Arabia to visit with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was a meeting specifically requested by an aging 90-year-old Saudi King to recognize Sisi for his courage and leadership.

King Abdulaziz was intent on honoring his friend.

Saudi Arabia had been coping with the same internal conflict as all other Muslim nations who were caught between the internal struggle.

President Sisi left Saudi Arabia with the full support of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, and upon his death a few days later the new Saudi King Salman; who  honored Sisi in a similar fashion as did his brother.

With the support of Saudi Arabia, the demands of al-Sisi to remove the extremism of the Muslim Brotherhood gained traction. The Gulf States finally, and collectively, pressured Qatar to stop aiding/financing extremism.

Under pressure Qatar conceded and expelled The Brotherhood along with the five leading voices of leadership within the Muslim Brotherhood. Recep Erdogan gave them refuge in Turkey.

This was the origin of the turning tide, when the Reform Agents began to stabilize and reassert their politics and internal domestic economies – the underlying wedge issue used by The Brotherhood to stir turmoil.

Unstable Yemen is to Saudi Arabia -> as unstable Libya is to Egypt -> as unstable Syria is to Jordan… and so it goes.

Each unstable nation being stirred by the extremist voices of various agents operating under the umbrella of the destabilizing politics expressed by The Muslim Brotherhood.

Remove the destabilizing agents and the Reformers believe they will be able to stop the extremists. This is the longer-term objective of those within the fight inside political Islam.

Now look again at the nations of Trump’s visa restrictions and you’ll note the presence of the destabilizing agents: Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran [and Sudan, Somalia].

This is the necessary backdrop to understand events as they unfold and relate to President Donald Trump and his own foreign policy objectives and engagements.

It is not accidental that newly appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo traveled to meet with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Muhammad bin Nayef, after a phone call between Saudi King Salman and President Trump took place.

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Director Pompeo’s visit was to recognize the efforts of Saudi Arabia in the larger fight against Islamic extremism/terrorism.  However, based on internal consumption, Pompeo could not be seen publicly in this regard with King Salman himself.  The visible face of Saudi Reform is the crown prince.

  • Jan 20th – President Trump takes office.
  • Jan 26th – President Trump has a phone call with King Salman
  • Jan 26th – On the same day, State Dept. Nominee Rex Tillerson visits State Dept. HQ and the media report on the resignation of many existing State Department personnel.
  • Feb 1st – Secretary Rex Tillerson is confirmed by the Senate.
  • Feb 2nd – The three Muslim Awan brothers are terminated amid accusations they accessed congressional intelligence committee computers without permission.
  • Feb 8th – FOX reports administration considering labeling The Muslim Brotherhood as an official terrorist organization.
  • Feb 11th – CIA Director Pompeo travels to Saudi Arabia to deliver thanks.

By all appearances it seems the Trump administration was given a head’s up of sorts as to specific [Muslim Brotherhood] agents within the U.S. State Department. And also with key Democrat staffers, in highly sensitive intelligence positions, amid Congress.

Additionally:

To wit, Egyptian media announce that Fattah el-Sisi will be traveling to Washington DC to meet with President Trump:

[…]  Informed sources said that the presidency is currently coordinating with the US to arrange a visit next month. The sources referred to the visit as the first official one for an Egyptian president to Washington since 2009, as the last visit since then was paid by former President Hosni Mubarak.

Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu will leave Washington next Monday going back to Tel Aviv. Israeli TV reported on Sunday that Netanyahu is planning to form the ‘Israeli-Saudi-Egyptian’ axis.  (read more)

It is ironic, but not coincidental, that no official Egyptian delegation has visited the United States since President Obama traveled to Cairo and started “The Islamist Spring” which led to the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood extremism in Egypt.

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Irony, because now the Trump administration is facing the internal extremist purging of the Muslim Brotherhood embeds remaining within the U.S. government leftover from President Obama’s aftermath…. and now, President Fattah el-Sisi, the destroyer of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt comes to officially visit President Trump in Washington.

I hope everyone can clearly see what’s going on in the bigger picture.

After eight years of Obama’s intense political embedding of extremist sympathy in every aspect of governance, and culture – President Trump is now tasked with removing it, all of it; and finding allies amid those who have already mounted the same effort.

sisi-trump

It is also important to remember the political enterprise of The Muslim Brotherhood not only employs congressional staffers, but also has key connections to elected officials within both parties.   Representative Adam Kinzinger and John McCain are two of the more obvious sympathizers on the right side of the UniParty.

Again, reference the seven states of turmoil/concern and you’ll notice a pattern:

Senator John McCain and Senator John Kerry in Cairo, Egypt – 2011

john-mccain-and-john-kerry-in-cairo-on-sunday-egypt-stock-exchange

What came next?…  The installation of the Muslim Brotherhood:

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Senator John McCain and Ambassador Christopher Stephens, Benghazi Libya 2012

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What came next?…. The rise of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood

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Senator John McCain travels to Syria in 2013

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What came next?  Yup, you guessed it – Muslim Brotherhood (via ISIS)

Isis soldiers in Syria