Egypt’s Christians in the Shadow of the Muslim Brotherhood

Christian Coptic Priest Father Samuel reacts as he stands  inside the burned and heavily damaged St. Mousa church in Minya, Egypt . Dozens of churches were burned as well as businesses and homes during a surge of violence against Egypt's Christian minority after security forces raided two Islamist protest sit in camps on August 14.(Photo by Heidi Levine/Sipa Press)./LEVINE_1327.21/Credit:LEVINE/SIPA/1308301358

Christian Coptic Priest Father Samuel reacts as he stands inside the burned and heavily damaged St. Mousa church in Minya, Egypt . Dozens of churches were burned as well as businesses and homes during a surge of violence against Egypt’s Christian minority after security forces raided two Islamist protest sit in camps on August 14.(Photo by Heidi Levine/Sipa Press)./LEVINE_1327.21/Credit:LEVINE/SIPA/1308301358

Washington Free Beacon, by Daniel Bassali, Aug. 11, 2015:

In the nearly five years of turmoil that have followed the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, no group in Egypt has suffered more than the 15 million Coptic Christians. Both a religious and ethnic minority, the Copts are descended from the native population of Egypt who lived and ruled there from the time of the pharaohs until the Roman conquest in 31 B.C. They are the largest Christian community in the Middle East today.

Copts have long been the target of discrimination and persecution in the majority-Arab nation. But this ancient people faced a terrifying new prospect in 2012: Muslim Brotherhood rule.

After Mubarak was ousted, the violence began almost immediately. Churches and schools were burned; peaceful protestors were massacred. When parliamentary elections were held nine months later, they were swept by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties. When Mohamed Morsi won the presidential election in May 2012, the party’s victory looked complete. The same year, Morsi gave himself unlimited powers and the party drafted a new constitution inspired by Sharia law.

Morsi benefitted from the organizational advantage of the Muslim Brotherhood. Backed by imams preaching the benefits of religious rule, the previously banned political party was able to defeat the fractured coalitions of the pro-West, liberal, and secular candidates.

“They used thugs to carry out political intimidation against Christians,” a former member of Egyptian Parliament told the Washington Free Beacon. Chants celebrating the Brotherhood victory echoed through the streets of Cairo. “Morsi won! Copts out!”

FILE - In this May 8, 2014 file photo, Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian court sentenced ousted President Mohammed Morsi to death, Saturday, May 16, 2015,  over  a 2011 mass prison break.. (AP Photo/Tarek el-Gabbas, File)

FILE – In this May 8, 2014 file photo, Egypt’s ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian court sentenced ousted President Mohammed Morsi to death, Saturday, May 16, 2015, over a 2011 mass prison break.. (AP Photo/Tarek el-Gabbas, File)

During Morsi’s rule, Christians were murdered and tortured by the hundreds. Attacks and abductions of Christian children spiked significantly. “Most Americans do not know how vicious and bloody the Muslim Brotherhood is,” Ahmed, a 24-year old secular Muslim, said. “They really can’t understand.”

Pope Tawadros II, Egypt’s Coptic Christian leader, criticized Morsi for negligence after six Christians were killed when police and armed civilians besieged Egypt’s largest cathedral. “We want actions, not words,” the Pope said.

Public accusations of blasphemy also became ubiquitous. A Facebook post interpreted as undermining Islam could bring a mob of fundamentalists with rocks and Molotov cocktails to the homes of Christians, surrounding them with families trapped inside. Sham trials with no legal representation would follow. Anti-Christian terrorism was not punished, but the wrong words often landed Copts in prison, forcing the church to make public apologies and families to leave their towns and villages.

Lydia, an activist who provides relief supplies to torn Christian communities in Upper Egypt, and who requested that only her first name be used to preserve her safety and that of her colleagues, witnessed the Muslim Brotherhood offer the very poorest Egyptians social services that bought their allegiance. “When you have no food or money, you will listen to anyone who gives you the resources your family desperately needs,” Lydia said. “They brainwash the illiterate with extremism so they hurt Christians.”

Still, Morsi’s authoritarian rule—rewriting the constitution, disbanding the Egyptian parliament, tossing potentially obstructive judges into jail—was not long lived. Barely a year after he assumed office, a reported 35 million citizens took to the streets to protest his rule, leading the Egyptian military, under Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to remove him from power in July 2013.

Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi protest at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 26, 2013 / AP

Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi protest at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 26, 2013 / AP

Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.) told the Free Beacon that had al-Sisi not responded, the promise of Egyptian Democracy would have died. “What it seemed the Egyptian people wanted was more opportunity to be able have some sort of functioning democracy, elections, input into their own government,” Lankford said. “It was the immediate understanding as soon as the Muslim Brotherhood was elected, that was the last election Egypt would have.”

In 2014, al-Sisi was elected Egypt’s new president. He won a solid electoral victory, giving him control of the Egyptian government with the responsibilities of forming a new constitution, a new parliament, and a new judicial system. The Coptic Church fervently supported al-Sisi’s candidacy because the new president promised Copts equality in citizenship, security in their communities, and the ability to build places of worship.

The new Egyptian president challenged the leaders of the Islamic world to push a more moderate message. In December 2014, hundreds of Christian and Muslim theologians gathered at al-Azhar, Egypt’s leading mosque and religious university, participated in a conference to fight “jihad” and promote inclusion. Al-Sisi ambitiously called for a “religious revolution” in January 2015, saying that clerics bear responsibility for the growing extremism in the Middle East.

As president, al-Sisi took many symbolic steps to integrate the Coptic community with the majority Sunni population. In a surprise to most Egyptians, al-Sisi attended a mass at Saint Mark Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo on Christmas Eve, a first for any Egyptian president. Al-Sisi regularly invites Pope Tawadros II to appear beside him when he announces major policy rollouts or requests public dialogue from senior advisers.

Al-Sisi also appointed two Copts as members of his cabinet. Under the constitution, the president of Egypt has the power to select 10 members of parliament. Political observers believe he will select Copts to fill a majority of those appointed seats to offer a more representative parliament.

“Our lives haven’t changed much but one positive result of the revolution is the Egyptian people have politically woken up,” said Hala, a Mubarak-era government official who also wished to be identified by her first name only because she fears political retribution. “We no longer accept what we are told. Egyptians are at least aware of the government’s actions and they are more aware of the troubles Copts face.”

But while al-Sisi’s administration provides a welcome change of tone toward the Coptic community, the day-to-day lives of Copts remain little changed from the Mubarak days.

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House of Representatives Backs Egypt in Fight Against Al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood

muslim_brotherhood_HQ_protester_APBreitbart, By Katie Gorka:

The past year has seen an ongoing debate among U.S. policy makers over what exactly happened in Egypt last summer. The Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton very visibly supported the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi. But over the course of Morsi’s one year in power, the majority of Egyptians did not like what they saw as a systematic undoing of democratic processes in Egypt.

Egyptians took to the streets by the millions in July 2013 to protest against the Muslim Brotherhood government. When the military stepped in, headed by General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Brotherhood were ousted and an interim government was formed. The Obama administration was careful not to label the events of July 2013 as a coup, but neither did they come out in support of Sisi. Additionally, Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham held a news conference in Cairo on August 6th and declared the events a coup.

It was an important distinction, because by law the U.S. must suspend aid to a country where a “coup” has taken place.

In the months since that time a debate has continued to rage both in the media and in policy circles over whether El-Sisi, who next week will likely be elected Egypt’s next president, is a savior who rescued Egypt from a theocratic despotism or whether he himself is the despot who is merely oppressing and imprisoning his political opponents.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives cast an important vote in this debate on the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains very specific language about events in Egypt. In essence, the passing of the NDAA will assert that Egypt is on the democratic track, that Sisi is not merely oppressing his enemies, but that Egypt is indeed in an existential battle with Islamist terrorists. While the NDAA does not specifically name the Muslim Brotherhood as a source of terrorism—another hotly debated issue—it does implicitly suggest that the MB has ties to terrorist groups, whether implicitly or explicitly.

The full text of the NDAA relating to Egypt is as follows:

The committee notes with concern the growing Al Qaeda presence and associated terrorist attacks in the Arab Republic of Egypt. Presently, at least six terrorist groups with links to Al Qaeda operate in Egypt, including the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and the al-Furqan Brigades. In recent months, terrorist attacks in Egypt claimed the lives of hundreds of Egyptians and over 350 soldiers and police officers. Within the past 6 months, there have been over 280 attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. On January 24, 2014, Al Qaeda-linked terrorists conducted a series of coordinated attacks that killed 6 and injured over 100 people in Cairo. 

Egypt is not only enduring the effects of terrorism from the Sinai Peninsula, it is also enduring the increasing flow of foreign fighters and military material from its western and southern borders with Libya and the Republic of the Sudan, respectively. 

The committee understands that the Secretary of State, in accordance with section 7041 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Public Law 113-71), will certify to Congress that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition and that the President has made the decision to deliver 10 Apache helicopters to support Egypt’s counterterrorism operations in the Sinai Peninsula. Given the significant increase in terrorist activity, the close relationship that the Egyptian military has with the U.S. military, and the interim Government’s support of the peace treaty with the State of Israel, the committee supports the President’s decision to provide the Apache aircraft to the Government of Egypt. The committee further believes that the United States should provide necessary security assistance to the Government of Egypt, specifically focused on areas of mutual security interest. 

The committee remains concerned that if the United States does not engage through security assistance with the Government of Egypt and the Egyptian military, then other countries, such as the Russian Federation, may fill this gap, which would work at cross-purposes with vital U.S. national security interests. 

The committee continues to closely observe Egypt’s transition towards a new democratic government structure and is encouraged by both the direction and progress that the interim Government has made in this realm. In January 2014, Egyptians participated in a referendum to approve a new constitution, which includes protections for individual freedoms, equal protection and rights for all Egyptians, government transparency and accountability, and improved civilian oversight of the Egyptian military. Additionally, the committee is encouraged that the presidential and parliamentary elections appear to be on track and likely to be completed by the summer of 2014, and urges the Government of Egypt to ensure that the elections are free, fair, and devoid of fraud. The committee is concerned by reports that there may have been human rights violations that have occurred in Egypt. The committee encourages the next President of Egypt to address the economic and political needs of the Egyptian people, including the protections for individual freedom and human rights reflected in the new Egyptian constitution. 

Should the NDAA pass with the above language intact, it will mean that the political elite in Washington finally recognize that Egypt is in an existential fight against the same type of global jihadists that were responsible for the attacks against America in 2001.

Katharine C. Gorka is president of the Council on Global Security.

 

CSP Intel Brief: helping Egyptians shut down the Muslim Brotherhood

Secure Freedom, Published on May 14, 2014

Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow Stephen Coughlin joined a delegation to Egypt for a fact-finding tour where he met prominent anti-Muslim Brotherhood figures.

Stephen discussed his findings with Senior Fellow Fred Fleitz.

 

On the Ground in Egypt: Patrick Poole and Stephen Coughlin

Secure Freedom, Published on May 13, 2014

Recorded at Center for Security Policy’s National Security Group Lunch on Capitol Hill on Friday, 9 May, 2014

Patrick Poole, National Security and Terrorism Correspondent for PJ Media; and Stephen Coughlin, Senior Fellow, Center for Security Policy

Topic: US Policy and Egyptian Counter-terrorism Efforts: Report on Recent Travels to Egypt

IPT Exclusive: An Al Jazeera Anchor’s Bloody Call

Egyptian Presidential Candidate Supports Killing U.S. Soldiers

sabahiBY RYAN MAURO:

Hamdeen Sabahi, an anti-American secularist, has announced his candidacy for the Egyptian presidency, pitting him against General El-Sisi, the current Defense Minister. Sabahi may be anti-Islamist, but he’s also said he supports Al-Qaeda when it kills U.S. soldiers. The election is slated to be held sometime between February 17 and April 18.

Today, Sabahi is one of the most popular opposition figures in Egypt. He took part in both the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi. As the Arab media focuses on El-Sisi’s almost-certain presidential bid, the number one concern is a reverting to Mubarak-type rule. Sabahi is apparently the answer.

Sabahi is a secular, democratic foe of the Islamists and a civilian, whereas El-Sisi’s candidacy risks transforming Egypt into a military-run state with limited democratic features. As concern over Egypt’s democratic future mounts, Sabahi will look increasingly positive to the West.

That is why a statement Sabahi made in 2005 must be repeated over and over. In a televised interview, Sabahi said: “One must salute this organization [Al-Qaeda] when it kills any American soldier—a soldier, not a civilian. The presence of Al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of the resistance is a positive phenomenon that should be supported. I support Al-Qaeda when it kills Americans.”

El-Sisi is currently the frontrunner thanks to his crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood as well as support from the military establishment and Egypt’s Coptic Christians. However, confidence in him and the military is declining over time. The main political issue in Egypt is shifting from preventing Islamist rule towards curbing the power of the military establishment.

The trend indicates an opening for Sabahi (assuming the election is genuine). He has an established fan base from his previous presidential run. Unlike the other candidates, his support grew as he got more attention and scrutiny. In the first round of 2012’s presidential elections, Sabahi came in third place with 21.5%. He lost to Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, who then competed in a run-off.

Sabahi has a real chance of defeating El-Sisi in a fair vote if it comes down to the two of them. El-Sisi will have strong arguments in his favor, but it’s hard to see a compelling argument against Sabahi. On the other hand, Sabahi can present himself as the one who will stop Egypt from returning to both the Mubarak era and the Muslim Brotherhood era.

Read more at Clarion Project

Egypt’s Draft Constitution 2014: Focus On De-Islamization, Expansion Of Military Power

The 2014 constitution sweeps away the MB (vetogate.com, December 3, 2013)

The 2014 constitution sweeps away the MB (vetogate.com, December 3, 2013)

By: L. Lavi:

Introduction

On January 14 and 15, 2014, for the second time in the three years since the January 2011 ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s citizens will vote in a referendum on a new constitution. The previous constitution, drafted under the MB regime of ousted president Muhammad Mursi and approved by a 64% majority in a December 2012 referendum, was suspended by Defense Minister ‘Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi in July 2013.[1] A referendum approval of the new draft constitution will be considered a vote of confidence in Al-Sisi and his road map.

The new draft constitution was drawn up in two stages: On July 20, 2013, Interim President Adly Mansour appointed a committee comprising 10 judges and academics to contribute their proposals for a new constitution, based on the review of thousands of drafts submitted to them by various elements.[2] A month later, the committee submitted its recommendations to President Mansour, who then appointed a Committee of 50, headed by Mubarak-era foreign minister and former Arab League secretary-general ‘Amr Moussa, and tasked with completing the draft of the constitution.

While the 2012 constitution drafting committee had been dominated by Islamic representatives, this new committee comprises predominantly civilian elements, with only five representatives from Islamic streams: three Al-Azhar members (the same number as representatives of the Christian churches); one representative from the Salafi Al-Nour party, and former MB member Kamal Al-Hilbawi.[3]

This new draft constitution includes 247 articles, some 40 of which are completely new. About 100 articles taken from the 2012 constitution have been amended, and the remainder, also from the 2012 constitution, remain unchanged.[4]

The Egyptian authorities are claiming that the new constitution is merely an amended version of the 2012 constitution.[5] Its most striking difference from the 2012 document is the eradication of the Islamization direction, notably the so-called “identity clauses” regarding the status of the religion; the new draft constitution is more civil and rationalist in its tone, and it attempts to be more enlightened and tolerant, and to more firmly anchor human rights and freedoms. At the same time, the new draft grants greater privileges to the military establishment, including the authority to prosecute civilians in a military tribunal; this move has enraged many in the Egyptian street, even within the youth movements that supported Mursi’s ouster by the military.

The new draft constitution reflects the political balance of powers that has emerged following Mursi’s ouster:

–The exclusion of the MB from public life;

–The increase in the strength of forces and institutions not identified with political Islam – particularly the Supreme Constitutional Court;

–The weakening of Islamic elements and institutions – among them Al-Azhar and the Salafi Al-Nour party. Although these last two have had some influence in the drafting of the new constitution due to their backing of Al-Sisi in his removal of Mursi, but, in the current political climate of de-Islamization, their impact is much less than in the drafting of the 2012 constitution.

–The expansion of the military’s powers and the reduction in the powers of the president. At this time, it is the military establishment that is actually controlling the state, not the civilian interim president;

–The increased status of members of the former Mubarak regime, following the lifting of Article 232 of the 2012 constitution that calls for a “cooling-off period”, banning leaders of the Mubarak-era ruling National Democratic Party from participating in political activity or running for parliament or the presidency for a period of 10 years.

The MB rejects the draft constitution, as it has rejected every move by what it calls the “coup regime.” In its propaganda, the movement depicts it as a “constitution of blood” that betrays the January 25, 2011 revolution and sets up a military state, and also as a “church constitution” aimed at secularizing Egypt and eradicating its Islamic identity.[6]For this reason, MB supporters, led by the National Alliance for the Support of Legitimacy, the Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya organization, and the Al-Wasat party, have called for boycotting the referendum, pointing out that its results will in any case be faked.[7]

The Strong Egypt Party, headed by former presidential candidate ‘Abd Al-Mun’im Abu Al-Futouh, has called for voting against the constitution in the referendum,[8] while most of the civil parties and movements, including Tamarrud and the National Salvation Front, except for April 6 Youth Movement, as well as the Coptic Church, Al-Azhar, and the Salafi Al-Nour party, have called for voting in favor.[9]

Read more at MEMRI

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