Attacks by Muslims in one of America’s Middle East allies, Egypt, on Christians are intensifying, and experts on the centuries-old conflict over Islam’s claim to pre-eminence say the violence isn’t a surprise.
Among the most recent attacks, which have included shootings, abductions and church burnings, were the assaults against Coptic Christians trying to use St. Michael’s Church in Talbiya for prayer, where officials staged an all-night operation to convert a house across the street from the Christian church into a mosque to oppose Christianity.
International Christian Union’s Joseph Hakim says the attacks aren’t new, as the Copts have been under Islamic attack for years.
“Over the last 10 years, there have been multiple Christian massacres in Egypt. There have been gangsters who have gone to Christian neighborhoods for the last 10 years now. It’s been happening periodically,” Hakim stated.
Listen to the first part of an interview with Hakim:
Islam watcher, intelligence analyst and writer Christopher Logan agrees, saying the persecution has deep roots.
“The Coptic Christians of Egypt have been persecuted under Islamic rule for centuries. Muslims invaded and took over what used to be Christian land back in the 7th Century,” Logan observed.
“Islamic rule was then imposed on Egypt and the Copts were forced to pay the jizya, which left them living as second-class citizens. Jizya was enforced as per Quran verse 9:29,” Logan continued.
That Islamic reference reads, “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
Egypt’s situation is complicated by its leader’s desire to balance Islam and the West.
A former CIA intelligence officer who asks not to be identified says that Egypt’s political elite want to ensure that the Mubarak family continues to control Egypt’s politics.
“Mubarak and his supporters are planning on ensuring that he and his son
become president-for-life. That’s not too bad from the U. S.’s point of view since they are pro-Western and need Western support to keep growing economically and to keep a lid on unemployment (and thus unrest) from Egypt’s burgeoning
population,” the former CIA analyst explained.
Yet, the former CIA officer adds that being pro-Western in the Middle East is dangerous.
“As in all Muslim countries (Musharaff in Pakistan comes to mind) to be
pro-Western means that orthodox Muslims will accuse him of being a ‘secular Muslim’ and not a true-believer,” the former CIA officer continued.
He explains that as Walid Shoebat pointed out in WND, Turkey is moving the other way.
“Turkey is a reverse example, where the true Muslim leadership is moving away from the West and closer to the Islamic world,” the analyst added.
These developments have brought a rift between the Christians and the Egyptian government.
The Assyrian International News Agency reports that there is a growing gap between Coptic Church Pope Shenouda III and the Egyptian government. In an address last week, Pope Shenouda III angrily denounced the government’s complicity in the November attacks on the Coptic Church in Talbiya.
Hakim confirmed that attack was carried out with the government’s consent.
“They attacked the Christians for building a church after all the permits were obtained,” Hakim observed.
He observed as an aside that the rules are different for Muslims.
“If you’re a Muslim, you can have a mosque in two hours. All you have to do is say it’s a mosque; in two hours, it’s declared a mosque,” Hakim claimed.
Hakim says the process for obtaining a building permit for a church is complicated.
“In order to build a church, you need to have a presidential signed document stating that you’re a Christian or a non-Muslim,” Hakim explained.
“The recent attacks have been done by the Islamic government in Egypt. The permits were issued. But after all the approvals, the inspectors came in and said, ‘No you have to destroy it and make it this other way,'” Hakim continued.
“Then when they built the stairway again, the inspectors came back to them and said, ‘No you have to destroy it again and redo it,'” Hakim explained. “That’s when it was serious and things started happening. The police surrounded the entire church and I’m telling you this from eyewitness accounts.
“We’re waiting for the end of the investigation to find out how many casualties there were,” Hakim added.
Logan adds that the situation between Christians and the government is exacerbated by the strong influence of one of Islam’s leading schools.
“Egypt’s Al-Azhar is considered the world’s most advanced Islamic schools and Al-Azhar has made it clear that the Copts of today are to be treated as second-class citizens,” Logan stated.
Logan reports that the school issued this statement regarding Egypt’s Constitution.
“Egypt is an ‘Islamic State’ according to the text of its Constitution, which represents the social contract between its people. From this stems the rights of citizenship, as taught to us by the Messenger of Allah in his pact with the Christians of Najran, in which he decided that they were to enjoy rights and duties as the Muslims. However, these rights are conditional to respect for the Islamic Identity and the citizenship rights as set by the Constitution,” the statement read.
There are signs that the government is under considerable pressure from groups like the radical Muslim Brotherhood. The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report said Tunisia’s president expects the Muslim Brotherhood to take over in Egypt.
Hakim says that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood is another reason the Copts are on the receiving end of Muslim hostility.
“The movement (the Muslim Brotherhood) is going in that direction and that’s why you see the increase in numbers of attacks on Christians,” Hakim stated.
“As the Muslim Brotherhood gains strength in the area, as they do in situations like this, they attack Christians. They’ll continue to attack Christians. This is their pattern,” Hakim added.
Listen to the second part of an interview with Hakim:
The former CIA officer agrees. He says the Muslim Brotherhood exploits the perceived “weakness” of a pro-Western regime, adding that the Brotherhood is “the worst of the lot.”
“These are true-believing Muhammad-lovers. They aim for world conquest one bite, one country, at a time,” the CIA officer observed.
The CIA officer points out the Brotherhood’s connection to the United States.
“They are the founders of a dozen front organizations in the U.S., like CAIR [Council on American Islamic Relations], ISNA [Islamic Society of North America], the MSA [Muslim Students Association],” the officer further explained.
The former CIA case officer believes the Muslim Brotherhood helped start the PLO and established Hamas.
Logan agrees that the Muslim Brotherhood is a danger to Egypt.
“As for the Muslim Brotherhood, we can see the threat they are to the current regime as President Mubarak cracks down on them in the run-ups to the ‘elections’,” Logan stated.
Logan says the perception of Mubarak as a corrupt leader is giving the Muslim Brotherhood ammunition in a campaign for control of Egypt.
The former leader of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, is seen as a potential candidate for president in Egypt’s election next year.
Hakim believes that the elections are likely to bring more persecution for Christians.
Logan believes that there is a direct, if not pragmatic, connection between ElBaradei and an emboldened Muslim Brotherhood.
“ElBaradei stands against the corruption of the Mubarak regime, and so does the Muslim Brotherhood. ElBaradei is also a big international name which would help legitimize the Brotherhood. It just makes sense that they would consider joining forces,” Logan observed.
Logan adds that he’s not sure of how long their partnership is going to last.
Middle East Forum President and Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes says he doesn’t believe Mohamed ElBaradei has enough political capital to influence the election.
“My sense is that ElBaradei has lost the standing he once had and has tried to
salvage a role by allying with one of the three contenders. I do not see him as a major factor in the unfolding of events post-Husni Mubarak,” Pipes stated.
The former CIA officer believes that ElBaradei’s willingness to work with the Brotherhood is a liability.
“The fact that ElBaradei would ally with them, plus his protection of Iraq and
Iran’s development of WMDs and nuclear weapons, reflects badly on him,” the analyst observed.
The former CIA officer draws a historical parallel in ElBaradei’s desire to appease the Muslim Brotherhood.
“ElBaradei ‘working with the Muslim Brotherhood’ would be like any politician
in pre-Nazi Germany or Eastern Europe working with the Nazis or Communist
Party to have their support in getting ‘elected’,” the officer remarked.
“It is not the politician who ends up controlling such allies, but vice versa,” the officer added.
Hakim adds that with or without ElBaradei, if the Muslim Brotherhood gains influence, the Christians will suffer continued persecution.
“The Christian existence will be absolutely demolished in numbers and they’ll have to turn into dead bodies or they’ll have to leave the country,” Hakim said.
Among other incidents of persecution of Copts that have been reported:
- A Coptic couple was forced to surrender their 20-year-old daughter who was being held against her will by her Muslim husband. The girl was 19 when she was forced to marry the Muslim man, even though the law says 20 is the age of legal consent.
- Sixty-one-year-old Christian Abdel Kamel was arrested, handcuffed for hours and held without charge for giving out Christian leaflets in downtown Cairo.
- Twenty-two-year-old Coptic Christian army draftee Mubarak Zakaria was beaten and died because he would not convert to Islam.
WND also previously reported an Egyptian judge ruled no one ever leaves Islam and that the Egyptian constitution makes Islamic religious law the “source” of Egyptian secular law.
WND also has documented the case of an Egyptian Christian who fled his home nation and was adjudicated by a U.S. court to have the right “not to be tortured.” The ruling allowed the Egyptian Christian to remain in the United States.