NO ILLUSIONS ABOUT EGYPT, BROTHERS — COPTIC CHRISTIANS, LIKE JEWS BEFORE, FACE TRAGIC FATE Posted on July 31, 2012August 1, 2012 by Isranet Publications NO ILLUSIONS ABOUT EGYPT Isi Leibler Jerusalem Post, July 26, 2012 The government of Israel is making all the right noises and appropriate statements expressing hope that the new government of Egypt will maintain the cold peace. But we should be under no illusions. Even the greatest optimists cannot gloss over the reality that the Islamic forces of the Muslim Brotherhood seeking to control Egypt are committed to ultimately revoking the peace treaty. Their motives stem not merely from nationalist xenophobia but are deeply rooted in fanatical extremist Islamic ideology which is infinitely more intense and inflexible. Although Mubarak treated Israel like a pariah and exploited popular anti-Semitism, in comparison to these Islamic zealots, he would be considered a “liberal”. The Moslem Brotherhood is the organization which spawned Hamas and remains adamantly committed to wiping the “Zionist entity” off the face of the map. This was reiterated last month by its leader Mohammed Badie, who called for “imposing Muslim rule throughout Palestine” and “freeing it from the filth of Zionism”.… Its leaders, who during World War ll allied themselves with the Nazis, are notorious for promoting rabid anti-Semitism. The imams continuously remind their followers that Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs and deserve to be killed as enemies of the Prophet Mohammed. They have a long tradition of assassinating opponents, terrorism and suicide bombings. However, the Moslem Brotherhood is pragmatic and politically savvy and thus disinclined to overplay its hand, initially avoiding extreme behavior which could result in a break with the US and Western countries and lead to a total meltdown of the already disintegrating Egyptian economy. They recognize that Mubarak’s ouster was principally propelled by economic factors and that if they are to retain power they must feed 80 million Egyptians. US Administration spokesmen are burying their heads in the sand when they imply that once the Brotherhood is in control it is likely to act responsibly and provide a pluralistic environment for Egyptians. Even more absurd are the reassurances that it is undergoing a liberal transformation and committed to maintaining a democratic system of government. Similar delusionary nonsense was disseminated about Hamas when it “democratically” gained control of Gaza.… The reality is that democracy cannot survive in a society dominated by Islamic extremists who brook no opposition. Indeed, much as we despise authoritarian, dictatorial and even totalitarian regimes, precedents clearly indicate that a regime ruled by Islamic fanatics is likely to be far more oppressive than a military autocracy. Although weakened, the military did dissolve the Islamic fundamentalist dominated parliament and still represents a barrier to total Moslem Brotherhood control. But it is likely to avoid a direct confrontation unless it is confident it has public support. In this explosive environment, US pressure on the military to stand down can only serve to further undermine Western interests and lead to intensified oppression. We should not expect newly elected President Mohamed Morsi to be a moderating influence. His recent undertakings to act on behalf of the entire Egyptian people are totally out of synch with his long standing record of support for hard line Brotherhood policies.… Morsi, who refused to accept a congratulatory call from Prime Minister Netanyahu, stated that he would honor Egypt’s existing international agreements including the peace treaty with Israel. Yet he repeatedly includes the caveat that it is necessary to re-examine the 1978 Camp David agreements and that if Israel’s leaders (who he previously referred to as “vampires” and “murderers”) did not keep their commitments to the Palestinian people, Egypt was not obliged to honor the peace treaty. Oft repeated chants expressed at his rallies included “Morsi will liberate Gaza “, “Jerusalem will become the capital of the United Arab nation” and “death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration”. Setting aside the current “standoff” with Israel, there is every likelihood that at a future time of his choosing, like Arafat, Morsi is likely to suggest that the Prophet’s violation of the Treaty of Hudaybiya in 629 AD on the grounds that agreements with infidels and Jews need not be honored, was a historical precedent that could be applied against Israel.… Now, notwithstanding undertakings to Jewish leaders that he would not invite Morsi to the White House unless he made a public commitment to genuinely adhere to the peace treaty with Israel, Obama has announced that he will be hosting the man who will urge him to release an unrepentant major global terrorist leader. We in Israel are on the front lines. We may enjoy relative tranquility from Egypt in the short-term due to the prevailing chaos and restraints from the military. However, Hamas now feels confident that in the event of a future clash with Israel, Egypt is likely to provide it with maximum support and may ultimately even join it in confronting us. This means that our border with Egypt will need to be strongly secured and Israel must gird itself for an increase in terrorist attacks emanating from the Sinai Peninsula. These are likely to include missile attacks, making the relationship with Egypt extremely fragile. The only bright side of this dismal picture is the awareness by our adversaries of incredible power of the IDF. This ultimately represents the greatest deterrent against further deterioration or escalation of assaults against us. THE PLIGHT OF EGYPT’S COPTIC CHRISTIANS Raymond Ibrahim FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2012 The following interview with Freedom Center Shillman Journalism Fellow Raymond Ibrahim was conducted by Wolff Bachner. Most of us in the West have little knowledge of what life is like for Christians in the Muslim world. Take for example, the Coptic Christians, who were once the dominant religious group in Egypt. Previously the mainstay of their nation, Copts are now living as an oppressed minority, denied religious freedom and equal status in Egyptian life. The Copts are routinely denied meaningful employment and may not hold positions in the Egyptian Civil Service. Copts are refused permission to build new churches and even a request to renovate a church that is badly in need of repair can lead to an outbreak of severe Muslim violence against the Copts. Recently, there have even been calls for a return to collecting Jizya from the Copts, a tax that the Qur’an instructs Muslims to charge to all Dhimmis (non-Muslims) whenever Muslims are in power. To give our readers an accurate picture of the situation in Egypt, we asked Raymond Ibrahim to answer several questions about the Coptic Christians. Raymond is the son of Coptic Christian parents who were born in Egypt and he has firsthand knowledge about Coptic life under Islam. 1. Who are the Coptic Christians and what is their history? The Copts are the indigenous inhabitants of Egypt, before the Arab/Muslim invasion around 641 A.D. The word “Copt” simply means “Egyptian”; however, because all Egyptians were Christian in the 7th century—Egypt was a major Christian center, so much so that Alexandria vied with Rome over ecclesiastical leadership—”Copt” also became synonymous with “Christian.” In short, the word Copt is similar to the word Jew: both words convey a people and a religion. Tradition teaches that St. Mark, author of the Gospel of the same name, proselytized the pagan Egyptians of the 1st century; by approximately the 3rd century, Christianity was the dominant religion; and by the 7th century when Islam burst into Egypt, Christianity was THE religion. 2. When did persecution of the Copts begin and why? Muslim persecution of the Copts begins with the Islamic invasion. It is true that, at the time, the Copts were already under nearly a decade of persecution by the Byzantine Empire over doctrinal disputes. However, with Islam’s entry, the persecution took on a different shape, and grew steadily worse, until the modern era and the age of colonialism. At first, and because the Copts were the majority people of Egypt, they were merely deemed a subject race, to be heavily taxed and kept in line by their Muslim overlords. Over the years, however, their subject status came to be codified in what is seen as Islam’s divine and immutable law, or Sharia. 3. What is Life like for a Copt today in Egypt? There are approximately 10 million Copts in Egypt, roughly 12% of the population. This is not an insignificant number. In fact, in the entire Middle East, Copts make for the largest Christian minority. Accordingly, the everyday average Copt is not “persecuted”; however, everyday forms of discrimination are common (for instance, only Muslims get hired for the best jobs, and so forth). The problem, though, is that persecution of the sort that occurred centuries ago—for instance, the ongoing attacks on churches—is on the rise, unsurprisingly so, considering the overall Islamization of Egypt in recent decades, culminating with Islamists, who were once in jail for their extremist views, now sitting in Egypt’s new parliament. 4. What can the Copts do to protect their lives and preserve their religion? What does the future hold for the Copts? Can they survive in the Middle East and remain faithful Coptic Christians? This is difficult to answer, as there are several variables and contexts. For starters, emigration is not the solution for most Copts; not only is it impractical for 10 million people to pack up and leave, many Copts do not wish to abandon Egypt, seeing it as their home more than Muslims; some even say they would rather die than abandon their motherland. Their best bet is for a secular and free government to form; the sort of government the youth who initiated the Revolution wanted. Of course, with each passing day it becomes clear that it is the Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood followed by the Salafis, who will play the greatest role in shaping Egypt’s future. Still, there are many secular Egyptian’s who oppose the Islamists just as much, if not more than the Copts. Copts need to—and often do—ally with these parties, which stress, not “Muslim” or “Christian” as an identity, but “Egyptian.” For the bottom line is, an Islamist government will not only be bad for Christians, but secularized Muslims as well, and these are not an insignificant group. Likewise, though this is out of the hands of Copts and seculars, U.S. diplomacy could help empower the former, though the Obama administration appears more interested in aiding Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood. So, overall, it is a bad situation, though only the future can tell what will ultimately happen, though one is not optimistic. HOW MOHAMMED MORSI, EGYPT’S FIRST ISLAMIST PRESIDENT, INTERPRETS SHARIA LAW WILL BE A CRUCIAL TEST Michael Nazir-Ali The Telegraph, June 30 2012 Egypt is going to be a test case. A declared Islamist has been elected president and any parliament in the foreseeable future is likely to have an Islamist majority. Not only is Egypt the most populated country in the Arab Middle East, it also has the largest number of Christians in the region and a sizeable secularised middle-class in the cities. What happens there will have implications for much of the Arab and Muslim worlds. So will it be another Iran, with minorities and professional people leaving in significant numbers, or is there a way of being Islamist that prevents such an exodus? We must be wary of cosmetic gestures and false accommodation. Mohammed Morsi’s promise of having a non-Islamist prime minister, with a Christian and a woman as vice-presidents, whilst welcome, says nothing about any Islamist system which may yet be put in place. It is good that he has had an early meeting with Christian leaders but it remains to be seen whether Muslims and Christians will continue to be regarded as equal citizens. The key to answering some of these questions lies in the place Sharia is likely to have in a future Egypt. We should not be in any doubt that it will have a prominent role. Already, under the previous regime, and because of Islamist pressure, the constitution was changed from recognizing it as one of the sources of law to being the sole source of all law. It is difficult to imagine an Islamist government settling for anything less. The question is what will be the extent of implementing such an understanding of Sharia, how will it be interpreted and what effects will it have on minorities. Many observers of events in Egypt were surprised by the strength of Wahhabi-Salafism there. This group wants nothing less than a Saudi-style system with women behind the veil, minorities reduced to the discriminatory dhimmi status and harsh punishments for those who drink alcohol, dress “immodestly” or violate the sexual code of Islam. Any overtures in this direction will surely result in panic amongst Christians, the extinction of tourism and an Iran-like isolation of Egypt. Unlike Iran, Egypt cannot rely on oil and the new regime will have to weigh very carefully what impact its actions have on the economy. Another, very different, scenario is, however, also possible. Egypt has a long history of Islamic scholars seeking to understand Sharia in terms of contemporary conditions and a concern for the common good. Muhammad Abduh (d.1905), the Grand Mufti, who is venerated by both the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood, wanted a “pure” Islam as well as one which was compatible with reason and the conditions of the modern world. He wanted to do away with traditional interpretations of Sharia and favoured a radical reconstruction of Islamic law.…He argued for a legal system which would take Sharia into account but in which considerations of the common good would be of primacy importance. This tradition of thought has been followed in Egypt by notable leaders such as Rashid Rida, Al-Azhar and the present Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa. The last two have pioneered new approaches to the notorious Islamic law on apostasy. Instead of the three days traditionally allowed to the apostate from Islam to repent or face execution, Al-Azhar scholars have argued that such a person should be allowed a lifetime to repent.… The West has been obsessed by the idea of a secular-led “Arab Spring” but, in fact, there never was such a thing. The revolutions, throughout the Arab world, have been led by Islamist-minded movements of one kind or another. Secular opponents of the ancien regime have joined in the overthrow of a dictatorship but their options for the future appear limited. Every effort must now be made to encourage a view of Islam, and particularly of Sharia, which can lead an open and tolerant Egypt. What Egypt does today will be globally significant tomorrow. Abduh held that the unchanging principles of Islam should be related to changing circumstances. The protection of the person, of reason, of property and of the family can provide the basic principles around which Egyptian law is developed. What is urgently needed is a reaffirmation of the principle that there will be one law for all Egyptians which will seek to accommodate the consciences and beliefs of different elements in society. The Church should beware of accepting a situation where it is allowed its own law, provided that…[s]ome kind of a Bill of Rights may be a first step. The armed forces cannot be the sole guarantors of a plural Egypt; political parties, government institutions and, in particular, Islamic organizations must commit themselves to such a vision. The alternative can be seen in many parts of the Muslim world and it is not attractive. Egypt deserves better.