ISIS Joins with ‘Moderate’ Hamas for Terror in Sinai

Screen-Shot-2014-03-25-at-1.14.12-PM.sized-770x415xcPJ Media, by Patrick Poole, June 19, 2016:

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on growing incidents of terrorism by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I noted the arrest of an IED terror cell composed of Muslim Brotherhood members in Alexandria who had been attacking government and military targets since January.

Now, Egypt is facing escalating threats in the Sinai from the Brotherhood’s affiliate in Gaza — Hamas. Multiple reports in recent weeks place Islamic State (ISIS) figures with Hamas officials in Gaza, and claim Hamas is training ISIS troops with heavy anti-tank weaponry.

The Washington, D.C. foreign policy “smart set” continues to describe Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood as “moderate” jihadists who serve as a firewall between “violent extremist” groups like ISIS.

News reports placed ISIS-Sinai leaders in Gaza meeting with Hamas officials on June 2nd:

The Times of Israel reports:

Top Islamic State commander in Sinai Shadi al-Menii met with Hamas officials in Gaza Thursday in order to discuss cooperation between the two terrorist groups, according to a Channel 2 report.Al-Menii, who belongs to one of the Bedouin tribes in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, fled to the Gaza Strip in May of 2015 after his organization attacked a military base and killed an Egyptian soldier,Haaretz reported. A bounty worth one million Egyptian pounds was placed on his head.

According to Channel 2, al-Menii’s branch of IS in Sinai were to help Hamas operatives smuggle arms into the strip via tunnels in return for sophisticated weapons.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that heavy weapons training and the free flow of weapons between the groups was documented back to 2015:

Egypt shared intelligence with Israel last year about cooperation between Sinai Province and members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, according to a Western official. Israel was surprised to learn of the ties given previous clashes in Gaza between Hamas and Islamic State sympathizers, the official said.Israeli officials said they learned in April of 2015 that Hamas was allowing Sinai Province fighters to be treated in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital. The hospital declined to comment.

Later last year, Hamas operatives spent a month in the Sinai region teaching the militants how to fire antitank missiles, Israeli officials said. The officials declined to provide more details. Hamas subsequently received Russian-made antitank missiles via the smuggling network Sinai Province controls, an Israeli defense official said.

Some analysts were noting the cooperation between the two groups last year:

Israel military officials are taking the ISIS threat from Sinai seriously:

With the borders of Gaza locked down by both Israel and Hamas, the only way for ISIS fighters and officials to enter the area is through the Hamas-controlled smuggling tunnels:

Islamic State fighters have recently arrived in the Gaza Strip to train with their Hamas counterparts, a senior IDF official said in an Arabic interview published Friday.The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told the Saudi news website Elaph that IS members entered the Gaza Strip from the Sinai Peninsula through smuggling tunnels maintained and controlled by Hamas.

The fighters entered the Hamas-controlled territory in coordination with Sa’id Abed al-A’al, a resident of the Gaza Strip city of Rafah connected to Hamas, he said.

Mordechai, the head of the Defense Ministry body responsible for the Israeli border crossings with the Gaza Strip and Civil Administration in the West Bank, said the military cooperation between the Islamic State and Hamas is unfolding with the full knowledge and consent of Hamas’s leaders.

Reports of Hamas fighters jointing up with ISIS have circulated all year.

Remarkably, a letter from one ISIS fighter in Sinai to ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi published on social media earlier this year — helpfully translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) — details the cooperation between the two groups:

“Allow me, Caliph of Muslims, to inform you of some aspects of the suspect ties between Sinai province and Hamas:”1. Sinai province is smuggling weapons for Hamas in Gaza, because of the province’s fighters’ expert knowledge of the [smuggling] routes from Libya, Sudan, and Egypt.

“2. Sinai province depends very much on Hamas and Al-Qassam for weapons and for explosives and ammunition. There are direct and continuous supply routes from Hamas to Sinai province. The Al-Qassam factories operate assembly lines for manufacturing explosive devices and bombs for the Sinai province, but do not stamp the Al-Qassam logo on them, as they usually do.

“3. Sinai province leaders are regularly visiting the Gaza Strip, and holding cordial meetings with Hamas and Al-Qassam leaders, even [Hamas] government [representatives]. Animals are slaughtered for them, feasts are held, and they are embraced in Gaza.

“4. Hamas and Al-Qassam are accepting all wounded Sinai province [fighters], and they are treated in Gaza Strip hospitals under Al-Qassam’s direct protection.

“5. Hamas is providing wireless communication hubs for Sinai province, because of the difficulty of operating them in Sinai and because they are vulnerable to swift destruction by the Egyptian army.

The ties between the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and militants in the Sinai now operating as the official ISIS affiliate go back to the beginnings of the Arab Spring.

Sheikh Nabil Naeem — one of the founders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who I interviewed exclusively at his office in Cairo for PJ Media — reported that jihadists in Sinai were funded by a deal with Khairat al-Shater (deputy supreme guide for the Muslim Brotherhood), Hamas, and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the previous incarnation of the ISIS Sinai affiliate.

Immediately prior to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi’s election as president, reports surfaced that Hamas ordered rocket attacks from Sinai by militants there targeting Israel at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood to bolster his election prospects.

Once elected, attacks in Sinai under the one-year Morsi administration subsided somewhat, particularly the targeting of the gas pipeline from Sinai to Israel and Jordan that came to a halt:

While the low level attacks continued in Sinai under Morsi, they spiked drastically after he was ousted from the presidency in July 2013, following mass protests demanding his resignation on the anniversary of his first year in power.The gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel and Jordan, has been attacked often since 2011. There were more than 17 attacks on the pipeline between February 2011 and June 2012 and between July 2013 and February 2014. Morsi’s time in office was the only period in which the gas pipe attacks halted.

As soon as Morsi was deposed by the military after massive protests against his administration, Egyptian authorities were killing and arresting large numbers of Hamas fighters operating in Sinai.

The mounting evidence about the direct cooperation between ISIS in Sinai and Hamas comes as Republican congressional leaders continue to obstruct companion bills — S. 2230 and H.R. 3892 — calling for the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as many U.S. allies in the region, most notably Israel last November, already have.

***

Supporting Deep Democracy

1896925188An otherwise worthy criticism of Obama’s Muslim-World foreign policy misses a crucial point.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | April 20, 2016

Alex Rowell, a British-born journalist with substantial experience in the Middle East, has penned what is overall an excellent criticism of US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the Muslim world.  His basic thesis, which is correct, is that Obama’s tenure has empowered autocrats instead of democrats across the Middle East.  In violation of what he claimed were his basic principles, Obama has stood by while more than a million have been killed in Syria.  He stood by while Iran’s hardliners suppressed their democratic opponents, within two weeks of Obama’s famous Cairo address promising support to democrats in the Muslim world.  His Iraq policy and his State Department actively empowered then Prime Minister Maliki to act as a “Shi’a strongman,” which they decided Iraq needed.  This, along with his inaction in Syria, enabled the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the loss of the hard-fought peace in Iraq he inherited from the American military’s sacrifices in the Surge.

Where Rowell goes wrong is in assuming that failing to support a democratically-popular policy or leader of the moment is the same as failing to support democracy.  To be durable, a democracy has to balance a permanent constitutional system against the passing desires of the majority.  Such a constitutional system can be called “deep democracy.”  The danger facing it in the Islamic world is often the danger expressed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who compared democracy to a train.  You get off, he said, once you have reached your destination.

Erdogan may at the moment be able to withstand a democratic election, but supporting him is not being a friend to democracy.  His government has suppressed academics and free inquiry, committed war crimes against his own population, and is devoutly Islamist.  That he won an election does not make him a democrat.  To support democracy in Turkey, one has to support the deep democracy:  the defense of basic rights and values that make a lasting democracy possible.

By the same token, Rowell criticizes the Obama administration for failing to continue to back the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt once it had suspended the Egyptian constitution.  In fact, the error was ever to support a movement that is founded on the principle of overthrowing democratic states and instituting a form of government that bans democratically-enacted laws as blasphemous.  A deep devotion to democracy is incompatible with such a view.  That they might win an election does not make them democrats.

There is much to criticize in the Obama administration’s approach to foreign policy in the Muslim world.  Much of what Rowell says is fair and accurate, and his piece is well worth reading.  However, readers should take this caveat:  to defend democracy, more is necessary than to defend whoever happened to win the last election.  Democracy is only sustainable within a constitutional system that protects the beliefs and basic rights that make democracy possible.  The enemies of such systems are the permanent enemies of democracy, even if they win today at the ballot box.

Will Egyptian schools strip religion from curriculum?

Students pray at Nile Garden School before the upcoming Eid al-Adha festival in Cairo, Nov. 11, 2010. (photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Students pray at Nile Garden School before the upcoming Eid al-Adha festival in Cairo, Nov. 11, 2010. (photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Al-Monitor, by 

A call made by Nadia Henry, deputy head of the Free Egyptians Party’s parliamentary bloc, to replace the religion course — which is mandatory for students in public schools — with an alternate course on “values” has raised considerable debate within the parliament, accompanied by an attack launched by the Salafist Nour Party and Al-Azhar.

Egyptian schools teach religion from elementary school through high school, and Christian students are separated from their fellow Muslims during religion courses. However, despite the importance of this course in Egyptian education, the students’ grades in religion are not included in their final grades because religion exams taken by Christians differ from those taken by Muslims, and this way everyone can be graded equally. Meanwhile, the Orthodox Church and Al-Azhar contribute to developing the curricula for the religion courses for both Christian and Muslim students.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Henry emphasized that she did not call for eliminating the religion course, but rather wanted to replace it with a course on values that would combine verses from both the Quran and the Bible that underline values and ideals. “The values course should be taught by educators who have knowledge in the science of counseling and psychology, in order to plant the idea of citizenship in students’ hearts and teach them how to love one another,” she said.

Henry refused the idea of teaching the values course along with religion, stressing that the religion course and its results over the past years must be evaluated.

Henry pointed out that the religion course did not produce clear results in changing the concepts of ethics and values in society. She also criticized the way religion is taught in schools by separating young Muslim students from Christians, which increases sectarianism. “The values course would teach students the principles of citizenship, without discrimination and without separating between minority and majority. All institutions must work hand-in-hand; the religious institution establishes doctrine, and the educational institution applies it through educational and behavioral rules.”

She called on all those opposing her proposal to join her at the dialogue table to develop the proposal, stressing that she does not aim at eliminating religion from schools but to establish a more advanced way to teach it.

Henry responded to attacks on her proposal by saying that changes to long-standing methods are always accompanied by societal shock, but it is necessary to reconsider the method of teaching religion in schools. According to her, the results of the religion course are negative because students are separated based on their religion and have teachers who are not specialized in teaching religion. She also argued that it would not lead to a decline in religion, claiming, “The values course would hamper any inclinations toward atheism among students, because they would [be taught] to understand and tolerate one another.”

“I will continue to defend the proposal after the Free Egyptians Party’s educational committee finishes preparing it in order to submit it to the parliament,” she asserted.

The veteran member of parliament revealed that she is preparing to hold a workshop for educators, clerics, experts in humanities, as well as media and cultural figures in order to establish regulations and standards for a new educational course under the name of “values.” Henry noted that she will not be affected by the attacks against her. She welcomes all opinions, and she will continue to implement her proposal. Henry expressed her hope that some religious leaders would be welcoming, noting, “The new religious leadership within the Evangelical Church shows how committed it is to teaching religion to the new generation.”

Henry explained that the values course would “emphasize the concepts ofmoderate Islam for Muslim and Christian students alike. Christian students will learn Quranic verses about tolerance and love, while Muslim students will learn Bible verses about being loving and giving. Thus, citizenship is truly achieved without any [sectarian] slogans.”

Al-Azhar’s committee of senior scholars issued a statement March 10 describing calls to remove religion from state curricula as “harmful to Al-Azhar’s status and the Islamic identity of our country.”

Al-Azhar’s statement was welcomed by Salafist Nour Party’s members of parliament, with parliamentarian Ahmed Sharif applauding Al-Azhar’s stance and stressing that the proposal to remove the religion course was not appropriate.

Meanwhile, Abdel Moneim El-Shahat, a spokesman for the Salafist Call — the Nour Party’s political wing — warned about responding to those calling for eliminating religious education from schools. In press statements published March 15 he said, “All societal classes are in desperate need of an increase in religion in schools, universities and the media.”

For his part, Mohamed El Shahat al-Gundi, a member of the Islamic Research Academy, told Egyptian daily Al-Youm Al-Sabeh in early March that replacing religion for values in school curricula would open the gate to the breakdown of key provisions in the Muslim and Christian religions, and that it was an attempt to resemble the West, which is not the right thing to do.

Henry’s proposal was met with various reactions within parliament. For one, member of parliament Amina Naseer supported the proposal, saying, “Islam and Christianity emphasize the need for ethics and an upright behavior in dealing with others. The values material should include the values contained in Christian and Muslim texts agreed upon by everyone.”

However, independent member of parliament Mohammed Ismail announced that he would make an urgent statement to the Minister of Education to demand including the grades students get in religious course in their final grades, in response to calls to replace the religion course with values. Ismail expressed the need to do away with the current pass/fail grading system for religion, which in his view would eliminate religious illiteracy and prevent the infiltration of extremist ideas into society.

Israel says it gave written consent to Saudi island transfer

island transferDefense minister reveals coordination between Jerusalem, Cairo and Riyadh, hints at burgeoning strategic interaction

 April 12, 2016,

Israel gave written approval to the Egyptian transfer of the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran to Saudi Arabia, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon revealed Tuesday.

His acknowledgement, given in a briefing with reporters Tuesday, hints at growing, though quiet, Israeli-Saudi cooperation in recent years.

According to Ya’alon, Israel was told in writing about the island transfer between Cairo and Riyadh, which came as part of a series of cooperation agreements signed last week between Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo. The Cairo-Riyadh agreements cement the alliance of the two Sunni Arab states in a region undergoing chaotic change and facing the growing sway of Shiite Iran to the east.

“An appeal was made to us – and it needed our agreement, the Americans who were involved in the peace agreement and of the MFO,” Yaalon said, referring to the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping forces at the Israeli-Egyptian border. “We reached an agreement between the four parties – the Saudis, the Egyptians, Israel and the United States – to transfer the responsibility for the islands, on condition that the Saudis fill in the Egyptians’ shoes in the military appendix of the (Egypt-Israel) peace agreement.”

The raft of agreements also includes some $16 billion in Saudi investments in the ailing Egyptian economy.

The two Red Sea islands figure prominently in the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement signed in 1979, which promises safe passage to Israeli civilian and military ships through the narrow waterways of the Straits of Tiran. The Egyptian blockade of the waterway to Israeli shipping in 1967 was a key casus belli for Israel that led to the onset of the Six Day War.

Under the Egyptian-Saudi agreement, the islands are to be transferred to Saudi control in 25 years, giving Riyadh a direct hand in ensuring the fulfillment of the peace treaty with Israel.

Saudi officials in recent days said they were committed to “all Egyptian commitments” related to the islands. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview that his country would honor the Israel-Egypt peace treaty’s terms as regards the islands. Saudi Arabia won’t negotiate with Israel about the islands, he said, since “the commitments that Egypt approved [in the peace treaty] we are also committed to, including the stationing of an international force on the islands. We looked into the matter and we know our legal position. We are committed to what Egypt committed to before the international community.”

But according to Ya’alon, the coordination with Israel went further. Saudi Arabia agreed to ensure free shipping for all parties through the straits. Israel was notified in writing about the new arrangement weeks before it was made public, and gave its approval in writing to Egypt and, indirectly, to Saudi Arabia.

Israel also agreed to the construction of a bridge between the islands and the Egyptian and Saudi mainlands.

Israel’s agreement to the transfer necessitated a reopening of the military appendix to the peace treaty, Ya’alon said. The discussions between all three parties were facilitated by the US, the defense minister noted, according to the Ynet news site.

The Straits of Tiran are Israel’s only water passage from Eilat to the open sea, allowing for shipping to and from Africa and Asia without requiring passage through the Suez Canal, as well as passage to and from the Suez Canal. Israel Navy ships use the waterway to reach open seas, where they carry out naval exercises that are not possible in the narrow confines of the Gulf of Aqaba.

map Tiran island

In the briefing Tuesday, Ya’alon also addressed the security situation in Gaza.

Hamas, the terror group that rules the coastal territory, is “deterred” by Israel, “and therefore doesn’t act against us. But it is building its strength,” he said.

Ya’alon said there was “no siege on Gaza, but there is a security closure in which we forbid the import of dual-use materials that could be used to create rockets. Gaza merchants important goods from abroad through the ports of Ashdod [in Israel], Port Said and Alexandria [in Egypt].”

While Hamas was choosing not to attack Israel, the group “is growing stronger,” the defense minister said. “Its main challenge is to smuggle weaponry, since the smuggling route through Sudan no longer exists, but the route from Libya to Sinai is still open. Hamas is also growing stronger when it comes to development and construction of unmanned aircraft, with funding and expertise from Iran, and in the improvement of its naval forces that can penetrate [into Israel] from the beach.”

***

Also see:

Sitting Ducks? ISIS threatens American troops in Egypt’s Sinai

unnamed (34)Fox News, by Lucas Tomlinson, Jennifer Griffin, April 7, 2016:

Concerned that hundreds of American forces based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula are vulnerable to attack by a nearby Islamic State affiliate, top administration officials are worried about their safety and what to do next.

The State Department said Wednesday the U.S. troops will not be withdrawn from Sinai.

“We remain fully committed to our multinational force and observers mission,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “So no change in policy, no change in our force structure.”

But troop safety has U.S. military leaders weighing what to do next.

More than 1,600 international forces occupy outposts in the Sinai, including 700 mostly U.S. Army National Guard troops. But these forces are unable to carry out offensive operations against ISIS-affiliated groups such as Wilayat Sinai since they are bound by an agreement made months after the 1978 Camp David accord, which made peace between Egypt and Israel.

At the Pentagon Wednesday, a senior U.S. military leader said discussions at the “highest levels” were taking place among the U.S., Israeli and Egyptian governments about the future size of the U.S. commitment to Sinai.

“My focus is making sure that they have the force protection measures in place and we have increased the force protection measures,” said Rear Adm. Andy Lewis, Joint Staff vice director for operations, in a briefing with reporters.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s top officer, visited the force in December, accompanied by Fox News, shortly after four U.S. soldiers were injured by a roadside bomb. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

In early September, the Pentagon added 75 more troops, as well as additional armored vehicles including four Bradley Fighting Vehicles, after another ISIS attack injured two peacekeepers from Fiji. Their base is typically hit by incoming fire once a day.

As part of the routine harassment attacks, mostly from small arms fire, ISIS-aligned forces sometimes launch mortars without warheads to land inside the camp in order to send a message, one official told Fox News.

“The threat is increasing,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The warning signs have been mounting.

In November, a group claiming allegiance to ISIS said it downed the Russian airliner that crashed over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board.

In December, the Middle East Institute’s Geoffrey Aronson got the Pentagon’s attention when he wrote in an article: “Sinai is ground zero in the ongoing insurgency against the Egyptian government led by ISIS.”

Another foreign policy expert said it is unlikely the United States will be able to change its treaty agreements regarding the international force.

“The Israelis and Egyptians do not want them to [pull out], they don’t want to appear to be giving into ISIS,” said Paul Salem, of the Washington-based Middle East Institute, in an interview with Fox News. “They’re pushing the Americans hard not to … redeploy.”

Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced pushback when he tried to pull the U.S. troops out over a decade ago. Israel and Egypt have resisted calls for American troops to withdraw, leaving the Pentagon and the White House with a dilemma considering 700 U.S. troops are now positioned in the middle of an increasingly dangerous region.

“Almost everything has changed in the last few years,” Salem said. “Now there’s a full-on battle between ISIS and the Egyptian army.”

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel . She joined FNC in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.

 

Blasphemy Convictions Intensify in Sisi’s Egypt

Gatestone Institute, by Raymond Ibrahim, April 6, 2016:

  • “There have been more blasphemy cases and convictions during the Sisi era than during the Morsi era.” — Ibrahim Eissa, Muslim television host in Egypt.
  • Their crime was to have made a 20-second video on a mobile phone mocking the Islamic State — an act interpreted as mocking Islam. In the video, the boys appear laughing and joking, as they pretend to be ISIS members praying and slitting throats. “The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment [five years].”
  • Egypt is becoming more like Pakistan. Although that nation also prohibits the defamation of all religions, only Christians and moderate Muslims are targeted and imprisoned; some, such as Asia Bibi, a 50-year-old Christian woman and mother of five, are on death row. Conversely, Muslims who openly defame Christianity — and they are many — are regularly let off.

Despite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s many pluralistic words and gestures, which have won him much praise from the nation’s Christians and moderates, he appeases the Islamist agenda in one very clear way: by allowing the controversial defamation of religions law, colloquially known as the “blasphemy law,” to target Christians and moderates in ways arguably worse than under the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi.

Last month three Christian teenagers were jailed for five years for breaking the defamation of religions law. A fourth defendant, 15, was given juvenile detention for an indefinite period. [1]Earlier, they were detained for 45 days and subjected to “ill-treatment,” according to a human rights group.

Their crime was to have made a 20-second video on a mobile phone mocking the Islamic State — an act interpreted as mocking Islam. In the video, the boys appear laughing and joking, as they pretend to be ISIS members praying and slitting throats. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent rights group, confirmed that the four teenagers were performing scenes “imitating slaughter carried out by terrorist groups.” Even so, according to their defense lawyer, Maher Naguib, the Christian youths “have been sentenced for contempt of Islam and inciting sectarian strife…. The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment.”

Considering that even Egypt’s Al Azhar — the Islamic world’s most prestigious university —refuses to denounce the Islamic State as being un-Islamic, it is not surprising that mockery of ISIS is being conflated with mockery of Islam.

The Christian youths made the brief video in January 2015, when three of them were aged 17 and one 15. It is believed that the court kept delaying their case until the three 17-year-olds turned 18, so they could receive the full penalty as adults. Their teacher, who also appeared in the video, had earlier been sentenced to three years in jail.

Despite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s many pluralistic words and gestures, he appeases the Islamist agenda by allowing the “blasphemy law” to target Christians and moderates. Pictured above: Sisi became the first Egyptian president ever to visit the St. Mark Cathedral during Coptic Christmas Eve Mass, on January 6, 2015. (Image source: YouTube video screenshot)

Several other Christians have been prosecuted under Sisi’s tenure for insulting Islam and Muslims. One young Christian man was sentenced to six years for “liking” an Arabic-language Facebook page administered by Muslim converts to Christianity. A female Christian teacher was imprisoned for six months after Muslim parents accused her of insulting Islam and evangelizing.Bishoy Armia Boulous, a Muslim convert to Christianity, remains behind bars on trumped up charges of blasphemy, according to his lawyer.

While Christian minorities are the most prone to being targeted by the blasphemy law, secular Muslim thinkers and writers are also on the hit list. In January, Muslim writer Fatima Naoot was sentenced to three years in prison after she criticized the sadistic slaughter of animals that takes place during the Islamic festival, Eid al-Adha. The month before that, television host Islam al-Behairy was sentenced to one year in prison for questioning the validity of some of the sayings (hadiths) attributed to Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Although Egypt’s constitution outlaws the “defamation of religions,” the plural indicates that, along with Islam, Judaism and Christianity are protected. In reality, however, the law is almost exclusively used to prosecute Christian minorities and secular Muslims. Despite the fact that there are many more Muslims than Christians in Egypt, rarely are Islamists arrested and prosecuted for defaming Christianity.

In this, Egypt is becoming more like Pakistan. Although that nation also prohibits the defamation of religions — which technically includes Christianity — only Christians and moderate Muslims are targeted and imprisoned; some, such as Asia Bibi, a 50-year-old Christian woman and mother of five, are on death row. Conversely, Muslims who openly defame Christianity — and they are many — are regularly let off one way or the other. A few weeks ago, a Muslim broke into a church and proceeded to burn its Bibles. Although several Christians caught him and handed him over to police, the perpetrator claimed he was mentally unstable and could not stand trial. In another case, a Muslim shopkeeper started selling shoes that depict the Christian cross on their soles. Christians demonstrated but police did nothing.

On January 26, soon after the sentencing of the writer Fatima Naoot, another moderate Muslim and television host in Egypt, Ibrahim Eissa, scathingly criticized the Sisi government, including by saying that “there have been more blasphemy cases and convictions during the Sisi era than during the Morsi era.” He continued:

There is no greater contradiction between what the state says and claims about itself and the reality on the ground… The Egyptian state is schizophrenic because it says what it does not do…. It’s amazing and baffling to see a state who’s president regularly preaches about the need for religious discourse and renewal — and yet, during Sisi’s 18-19 month tenure, the nation has witnessed more reports, cases and convictions, and the imprisonment of writers, in the name of defamation religions than during the one year tenure of the Muslim Brotherhood president…. The [Sisi] revolution dropped the Brotherhood but kept the ideology unchanged.

Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (a Gatestone Institute and Regnery publication, April 2013).


[1] Although only now making English language media, this story was translated here in April 2015, soon after riots and attacks on Christians broke out when Muslims learned of the video.

The Bipartisan Enemy of the Good

secretary_kerry_with_president_al-sisi_july_2014Frontpage, by Caroline Glick, April 5, 2016:

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

On March 25, The New York Times published an editorial effectively calling for US President Barack Obama to abandon the US alliance with Egypt.

The Obama White House’s house paper urged the president to “reassess whether an alliance that has long been considered a cornerstone of American national security policy is doing more harm than good.” The editorial concluded that Obama must “start planning for the possibility of a break in the alliance with Egypt.”

The Times’ call was based on an open letter to Obama authored by a bipartisan group of foreign policy experts that call themselves the “Working Group on Egypt.” Citing human rights violations on the part of the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Working Group urged Obama to tie US financial and military assistance to Egypt to the protection of NGOs operating in Egypt.

The self-proclaimed bipartisan band of experts is co-chaired by Robert Kagan from the Brookings Institution and Michele Dunne from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Among its prominent members are Elliott Abrams, Ellen Bork, Reuel Gerecht, Brian Katulis, Neil Hicks and Sarah Margon.

The Working Group has a history.

In January 2011, it called for Obama to force then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to resign from office. In so doing, it provided bipartisan cover for Obama’s decision to abandon the US’s most critical and dependable ally in the Arab world. Then, as now, the group’s esteemed experts argued that due to the regime’s infringement of human rights, the US could not in good conscience support it. Back in 2011, Israelis found a rare wall-to-wall unanimity of purpose in vocally and forcefully defending Mubarak from his American detractors. From the far Left to the far Right, from the IDF General Staff to the street, Israelis warned anyone who would listen that if Mubarak were forced out of power, the Muslim Brotherhood would take over and transform Egypt into a jihadist state.

Due in large part to the presence of senior Republican foreign policy hands on the Working Group, by and large Israel’s warnings were ignored in Washington. Facing the unusual Israeli consensus backing Mubarak was an American consensus insisting that “democracy” would ensure that a new liberal democratic Egypt would emerge out the ashes of the Mubarak regime.

The Americans chided us for repeating over and over again that the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of al-Qaida, Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad and every other major Sunni jihadist terrorist group around at the time, was a terrorist group.

We were attacked as “anti-democratic,” for insisting that the Facebook posters and twitterers on Twitter were in no position to replace Mubarak.

Who were we, the Americans scoffed, to point out that the “Facebook revolutionaries” were but a flimsy veneer which barely hid the Islamists from willfully blind Western officials and reporters who refused to admit that liberal values are not universal values – to put it mildly.

In the ensuing five years, every single warning that Israel expressed was borne out in spades.

Just as we said, right after Mubarak was forced from power, the Islamists unceremoniously dispatched with the Facebook crowd. The two million Islamists who converged on Tahrir Square to hear Sheikh Yussuf Qaradawi call for jihad and the Islamic conquest of Israel weren’t interested in democracy.

The women and Christians of Egypt soon realized, Mubarak’s overthrow, which paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood electoral victories in 2012, did not expand their rights, it endangered their lives. As for the hapless Americans, immediately after Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi was inaugurated to serve as president of Egypt, the government began demanding that the US release from prison Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. The US embassy in Cairo was the target of jihadist riots on September 11, 2012.

Then, since Morsi was elected democratically, none of this was any sweat off the back of Washington’s Egypt experts. They supported sending F-16s to his air force even after he hosted then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Cairo, let Iranian warships traverse the Suez Canal and became a strategic ally of Hamas. They also supported his government, even though he enabled Libyan arms to flow through Egypt to Syria, transforming the war in Syria from a local dispute into the incubator for Islamic State – the precursor of which Morsi also gave a free hand to operate in the Sinai, in conjunction with Hamas.

The Americans didn’t reconsider their belief that Morsi was the guy for them, even after he allowed his Muslim Brothers to torch Coptic churches and massacre Christians. They didn’t revisit their support for the Muslim Brotherhood government even after Morsi arrogated to himself dictatorial powers that even Mubarak never dreamed of.

Perhaps if Morsi had been a responsible economic leader, and maintained the liberalization policies Mubarak enacted during his last five years in power, then defense minister Abdel Fatah Sisi wouldn’t have felt the need to remove him from power. After all, Morsi appointed Sisi to his position.

But in addition to ending even lip service to human rights, Morsi gutted the economy. By the time the military overthrew Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in the summer of 2013, Egypt had a mere $5 billion in reserves, and according to the World Health Organization, a quarter of Egyptians were starving.

So had the Muslim Brotherhood remained in power, Egypt would not have remained a democracy.

It would have become a jihadist state as dangerous as Iran, with the economic prospects of North Korea.

In other words, five years ago, there was no chance that a post-Mubarak Egypt would become a liberal democracy. There were only two options – a US-allied tyranny that fought jihad and maintained the peace with Israel, or a jihad state, aligned with Iran, that posed an existential threat to Israel, Jordan, the US and the international economy.

Those are still the choices today, but the stakes are even higher. Due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s year in power, the jihadist elements that gathered force in the Sinai over the past 20 years were able to organize as a more or less unified force, under the rule of Islamic State (ISIS), and in strategic alliance with Hamas. Like ISIS in Syria, ISIS in Egypt is an aggressive, dangerous group that stops at nothing to achieve its aims of expanding the ISIS empire.

The war it now fights against the Egyptian state is a total war.

To his credit, Sisi recognizes the nature of the threat and has taken steps to counter jihad that Mubarak never contemplated. The Egyptian leader recognizes that to defeat ISIS nothing less than a reformation of Islam is required. And so, in addition to fighting ISIS with everything he has, he is risking everything by taking on the jihadist belief system.

Sisi has mobilized the clerics at Al-Azhar seminary to develop an Islamic narrative that rejects jihad.

Sisi risks everything because everything is already at risk. If ISIS wins, Egypt is finished.

To win this war, he has publicly embraced Israel as an ally. He has openly sided with Israel against Hamas. Unlike Mubarak, Sisi has been fully willing to acknowledge that just because Hamas’s primary victims are Jews doesn’t mean that it isn’t a terrorist group that has to be destroyed.

Without putting too fine a point on in, for his fearless fight to the death with the forces of jihad – both in the mosque and on the battlefield – Sisi has already entered the pantheon, alongside Winston Churchill, of word historical figures. And yet, rather than embrace him and support him in his fight for Egypt and humanity, the same “experts” who called for Mubarak to be overthrown now urge Obama to abandon Sisi.

It is depressing that there is no magic bullet – like democracy – for the pathologies that afflict the Islamic world. But there is no magic bullet. And there are no easy choices for people who refuse to recognize that the natural state of man is neither liberal nor democratic.

But it is hard to accept the credibility of those who refuse to learn from their mistakes. It is harder still as well to listen to the “moral calls” of those who refuse to accept that because their past advice was heeded, thousands have died, and if their current calls are heeded, millions of lives will be imperiled.

Also see: