Hoping Against Hope for Equality in Egypt 15/07/2013
“At last, Egypt is now free from the oppressive rule of the Muslim Brotherhood!” This exclamation came from the Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, the Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa. Bishop Anis, who is also the current President-Bishop of The Episcopal/Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, expressed his joy, the joy of millions of Egyptians, upon the overthrow and arrest of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in a statement from the Diocese on July 3, 2013 entitled Mabruk ya Misr (Congratulations, Egypt!).
Sharing his statement with the entire Anglican Communion (and probably hoping that Anglicans will then influence wrong-headed political leaders), Anis recounts how “The Armed Forces took the side of the millions of Egyptians who demonstrated in the streets since the 30th of June against President Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood.” As so many others have said, Anis says that the Armed Forces “responded to the invitation of the people to intervene and force the President to step down at the request of the people of Egypt.” Anis and the 30 million Egyptians who marched against the Muslim Brotherhood see the result as a People’s Revolution, created by the people of Egypt – including some eight million Christians. Now, if only the Muslims who participated in the revolution against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood would acknowledge the rights of the Christians and other religious minorities and include them in the new plans for a new Egyptian government.
Just days before, on June 27, Anis had sent out an urgent request for prayer, entitled “Egypt is on the edge of. . . ?” He said that “Egypt is at the verge of violent demonstrations, another revolution, or civil war.” Then he went on to describe how the situation for Christians had deteriorated under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and that “Egyptians became divided between Islamists and non-Islamists.” Anis felt that this division was due to two things in particular. First, there was the Sharia-compliant constitution, which was “written and approved in haste.” The second reason for the division between Islamists and non-Islamists was the marginalization of moderate Muslims, Christians, and other from “participation in the political life” of the country. Also troubling was the appointment of Islamists “as ministers in the Cabinet and other prominent posts.”
Interviewed in April by The Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Jeff Walton, Anis had described the majority of Egypt’s Muslims as “ordinary, normal people without an agenda except to live peacefully.” But the remaining Egyptian Muslims are the Islamists “who primarily seek political power.” Within the Islamists, he explained, are the Salafis who “are more militant than the broader Islamist group, reject the use of modern things, and want to return to the ways of the ‘fathers.’” And within the Salafis are the Jihadists, “militant Muslims who count terrorists among their numbers and have an agenda to create an Islamic nation – the Caliphate.”
Anis told Walton that in spite of the fact that following the Arab “Spring” elections, the Egyptian parliament has been dominated by Salafis, and other Islamists were holding 70% of the seats, it is the more general Islamists who pose the greatest threat to Christians. “The Islamists have a much wider base of support within the population,” he explained, and they do not possess the same “anti-modernist teachings (such as opposition to women in the workplace) that make the vocal and self-defeating Salafis out of tune with Egyptian voters.”
In his June 27 call for prayer, Anis revealed the threats by those same Islamists towards those who were showing signs of rebellion against the Muslim Brotherhood government. He mentioned the “Tammarod” (Rebellion), a movement that formed in April and called for mass demonstrations against President Morsi. “They claim to have gathered the signatures of 15 million supporters,” he said. In response, he said, the Islamists held demonstrations in support of Morsi and threatened the Tammarod not to demonstrate against the President on June 30, saying, “Anyone who will sprinkle water at the President will be sprinkled with blood.” The Islamists also specifically threatened the Christians, Anis said, warning that “those who would demonstrate are ‘kafiroon’ or ‘godless’ and deserve to be fought against.” He concluded his June 27 statement with another plea for prayer for Egypt.
In the bishop’s July 3 statement he declares that prayers had been answered concerning the days of protest and the revolution by the Egyptian people. He added that several moves by the Egyptian Armed Forces signaled hope for the future. Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-SiSi “invited His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and The Grand Imam of Egypt Dr. Ahmed el-Tayyib, and other political leaders, to discuss the roadmap for the future of Egypt.” As a result of the meeting, Anis continued “it was announced that the head of the constitutional court will be an interim leader of the nation” and that “the current controversial constitution is now suspended.”
“As soon as Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced this, millions of Egyptians on the streets went around rejoicing, singing, dancing, and making a lot of fireworks,” said Bishop Anis. “I have never seen Egyptians rejoicing in such a way! They deserve this joy as they insisted to write their own history!” he declared. Sadly, it would seem that Egyptians are continuing to write an Islamist history. In National Review on July 10, Nina Shea writes that the new draft constitution “appears to give more even greater prominence to sharia by invoking its principles in the very first article of the draft, in an apparent move to appease Salafis.” She quotes her Hudson Institute colleague, Egypt analyst Samuel Tadros, who says, “By putting it there, the military has basically sent the message that the Salafis are more important than everyone else. It makes it harder to remove in the next phase.” The Coptic activists’ “Maspero Youth Union” has declared the constitution “shocking” and not compatible with the ideals of the 30 June uprising… that went out for a civil state that upholds religious and cultural diversity.”
In a solemn foreshadowing of what was to come, in his July 3 statement Bishop Anis asked for prayer for the healing of the divisions in Egypt that had taken place with the ascendency of the Muslim Brotherhood, and for protection against violent backlash from the supporters of Islamic supremacism. It turns out that prayers are definitely in order. Shea said that “Egypt’s various Christian communities are experiencing continuing attacks by jihadists, Salafis, (who joined them in the anti-Morsi coalition), and angry Morsi-supporters, alike.” Raymond Ibrahim has also written about this in his July 11 article for Front Page Magazine.
MidEast Christian News (MCN) is another source for details about Copts and other Christians under siege since Morsi’s overthrow. They report that on July 5, many Copts in the village of Dabaaya, in Luxor, Upper Egypt were attacked by Islamic militants. With no police presence anywhere to be found, the Islamists killed 4 people and burned 23 homes of Christians.
MCN also provided further information about the beheading of a Coptic businessman, Magdi Lamie, in Sheikh Zowaid, North Sinai. Lamie’s body was found on Thursday, July 11 “beheaded with the hands tied with chains from the back and signs of beating and dragging.” A priest interviewed by MCN said that contrary to most reports, Lamie’s murder was not because his family refused to pay a ransom. After an initial demand when Lamie was abducted from his shop on July 6, the family never heard again from the kidnappers. “It is clear that the kidnapping was not for a ransom but the victim was slaughtered in an inhumane way because he is a wealthy Copt,” the priest said. He said that the goal was to displace the Copts in the region and declare Sinai “an independent Islamic emirate.”
Bishop Anis and all of Egypt’s Christians continue to hope against hope for an Egypt in which they have religious freedom and equality, but so far, there seems to be little consideration for their rights. Most of the Islamists in Egypt would like to see all of Egypt as an Islamic emirate – whether they or not they would go to the lengths of the Islamists in Sinai to make it happen. “[On 30 June] we went out to bring down the failed constitution that built a state of hate and violence,” the Maspero Youth Union said in their statement. “We did not take to the streets to give legitimacy to religious-based political parties that were about to erase Egypt’s identity,” the statement continued. Unless the United States and other Western political powers start to support those who truly want freedom and secular democracy, not only will Egypt’s identity be erased, but the region will be redrawn as key element of the worldwide Caliphate.