Future Remains Clouded for the Christian Copts in Egypt
To date the fate of the Coptic Christian community remains uncertain in a post revolutionary Egypt. This uncertainty is vividly depicted in two recent court rulings: one hopeful, the other crushing. But I see only one hope for Coptic Christians, a fundamental change in the mindset of the Muslim people.
Coptic Christians demonstrate in front of the High Court in Cairo in response to the Abu Qurqas ruling
The first ruling reaches back to an incident that occurred on January 11, 2011, shortly before the revolution broke out. The incident involved a Muslim police officer on a Cairo-bound train who killed a 71 year old Coptic man and wounded his wife plus four others. Witnesses said they saw the deranged police officer roaming the train looking for Christians and yelling "God is great" as he shot them.
On March 12, 2012, a judge sentenced the police officer to death. Samia Sidhom, the managing editor of a Cairo newspaper, said the ruling came as a surprise. It was rare, she added, because it went against an unwritten rule that says judges are not to give the death penalty to Muslims for killing Christians. It was so rare that it had to be approved by the state appointed Grand Mufti.
Although this ruling seems hopeful on the surface, the second court ruling did not go so well. This case involved a riot that broke out in the village of Abu-Qurgas on April 18, 2011. The riot began after a bus driver became angry about a speed bump placed in front of the home of a wealthy Christian. The incident resulted in the death of an elderly Christian woman and two Muslim men and dozens of Coptic homes and businesses being set on fire.
As a result, 12 Christians and eight Muslims were arrested. The charges included murder, disturbing the peace, inciting sectarian strife, arson, and possession of unlicensed firearms. The trial ended on May 21, 2012. The judge found all 12 Coptic Christians guilty and sentenced them to life in prison, while all the Muslims were acquitted and released.
The ruling was a bitter shock to the Coptic community because, according to the article, all eight Muslims had been charged with the same crimes, and no Muslim property had reportedly been damaged. A Coptic human rights lawyer in Egypt, Athanasious Williams, said the trial was completely unjust.
He expects Christians will continue to be persecuted in Egypt regardless who wins Egypt's run-off election for president scheduled in mid June between the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Mursi and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, a former member of the Mubarak administration.
Williams said, "I am expecting the worst in all cases. Either the Islamists will take over, or Ahmed Shafiq will. If the Islamists take over, we will be like Iran, and they will enforce sharia law, and there will be no freedom of religion. There will be no freedoms of any kind. There will be no freedom in art, opinion or anything. If Shafiq takes over, it will be the same way it was before."
As far as I am concerned, hope for Egypt's Coptic Christian community does not rest on court rulings or the upcoming presidential election, although these are very important. What is really needed is a fundamental change in the mindset of the Muslim people. Without that, I do not believe there is hope for the Copts or Egypt or the entire region.
When I refer to the Muslim mindset, I am thinking of something Robert Reilly said in his book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind. He said the idea of "cause and effect" does not exist in the Muslim mind. Thus, they generally do not see an inner logic to things. Nor do they learn or develop critical thinking skills. Without a foundation of fixed knowledge, he says, there is only opinion and sophistry, which promotes irrational behavior and forces people to live in a world where myth and fantasy seem real.
This social condition can be explained in large part based on the Muslim understanding of ultimate reality, that is, God. Both Muslims and Christians believe that God is all-powerful, but for Muslims this quality is supreme and essentially negates all of God's other qualities. This one idea colors just about everything Muslim's believe about God, reality, human nature, and society.
Related to this exaggerated notion of God's sovereignty, is the idea that only God is real, that reality is illusion. Thus, Muslims believe that God is unlimited, pure will and power. For them, this means that Allah cannot be bound by order in the universe or reason or anything limiting. Allah can act capriciously, and without regard for the good of the person or creation. For Muslims, then, reality is not ordered; it is unknowable and without purpose.
Therefore, reason is not valued, but neither is morality, for human behavior has no moral ...
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