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Persecution of Christian Copts in Egypt on Rise as Muslim Brotherhood Consolidates Power

By Michael Terheyden
August 27th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

President Mursi said he was going to be the president of all Egyptians, including the Copts. As we watch events unfold in Egypt, we have to ask ourselves, was that just a big lie, a ruse to gain power and Islamize Egypt? Does President Mursi mean to govern the Copts as a free and equal people or as the dhimmi class? Islamists seem emboldened in Egypt.

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - There is growing fear among the Coptic Christian community as open violence escalates against them in Egypt. According to reports, this violence is in response to a letter calling on Muslims to kill Copts. Again, the world watches to see if Egypt's new president, Mohammed Mursi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, intends to follow up on his promise to be the president of all Egyptians.

On August 14, 2012, a publication called El Fegr posted a copy of a letter inciting violence against Christians. The title of the letter is "An Urgent and Important Notice." The letter refers to Christians as enemies of Allah's religion and slaves of the cross. It calls for Allah to curse them and for all Muslims to physically attack or kill Christians throughout Egypt until they either convert to Islam or submit to their status as dhimmi in accordance with verse 9:29 of the Koran.

Verse 9:29 of the Koran 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."

Based on Islamic law, non-Muslims fall into one of two categories. The first category is made up of pagans. The second category is made up of "people of the book," meaning people whose religion is based on sacred texts. This includes Jews and Christians. Muslims refer to people who fall into this category as dhimmis.

The dhimmis were allowed to live in Muslim society and to practice their religion, but in return, they were required to pay a special poll tax known as the jizya. Payment of this poll tax was understood to be a mark of their submission to the Muslim authority. But it was more than that; it was a mark of total subjugation and humiliation, for the dhimmi class was more like a slave class in Muslim society.

The Copts, who, today, constitute about 10 percent of the Egyptian population and the largest religious minority in the Middle-East region, have suffered this humiliation many times since Egypt was conquered by invading Muslim armies in the seventh century. From the onset, the Copts were forced to convert to Islam or pay the jizya or die. Many Copts were martyred as a result. Those that paid the tax were forced into the dhimmi class.

Some Copts fear a return to the days of the dhimmi class and the jizya tax, as Islamist groups seem emboldened since the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power and their man, Mohammed Mursi, became president. The Islamists responsible for authoring the letter mentioned above are an example. Such things are usually done in secrecy and utilize cryptic language. However, in this instance, they acted as if they had nothing to fear from the authorities.

They made no effort to hide their intentions or conceal their identities. In the letter, they called for violence against their fellow citizens; they promised to reward Muslims who kill any Christian Copt in Egypt; they invited Muslims to a rally meant to incite violence and gave the exact location, date and time; and they distributed the letter, with this incriminating information in it, in public for all to see.

Furthermore, it seems that the letter and the rally have had the desired effect. In an article titled "The serial killing of Copts has begun in Asyut," Menna Magdi reports that violence against the Copts ensued just hours after Islamist groups distributed copies of the letter.

The article tells us about the random killing of a Christian shoe-store owner. The name of the store owner is Refaat Eskander. He did not have any known quarrel with anyone. According to the story, unidentified men stormed into the shoe store early in the morning. He was alone in the store at the time. And they simply murdered him. A witness saw one of the murderers fleeing the scene and claimed that he was dressed like a Salafi.

In another report, F. Talaat of Al Akhbar News, writes that in Al Gallaweya Village, Sohag, Upper Egypt, "Christians are being beaten, their stores destroyed, and their properties plundered. The attackers are declaring that 'any Christian who dares to leave his house will be killed'; and the Copts are complaining that the police only arrive after the damage has been completely done."

Nageh Hozar is one of the victims of this violence. He said that one of the villagers, Mo'tassem Sedky Rashwan, a known felon, came into his brother Fady's supermarket to buy cigarettes. But instead of paying for the cigarettes, he told Fady to pay him a tribute, so they argued and Sedky left without paying. Sedky later came back to the store with a gang of his relatives. Nageh and his brothers, Fady and Thomas, were there at the time, and the gang beat them with clubs.

Then the gang of attackers looted four Coptic-owned stores, set them on fire, robbed their homes, destroyed one car and three motorcycles, and caused minor damage to other Christian homes. They also threatened to kill any Christian who left their home. It was also reported that the village police did not arrive until after the gang had left the area and, except for three Christians, no one has been arrested.

In addition, Al Akhbar News also reported that hundreds of Christians gathered before the Asyut Security Directorate in the Manfalut Municipality on August 14. The protestors were demanding police protection from Muslim gangs attacking their homes and imposing tributes on them, which has become a problem for many Christians in the Middle East.

Just the week before, a gang kidnapped the son of a Coptic Christian and demanded a ransom of 3,000 EGP for his return. In another recent incident, a Muslim gang attacked the home of a Copt named Romani Murad al-Gawli, and they threatened to kill him if he did not give them money.

This is no way for human beings to live! I said something similar when hate-filled, Islamist mobs went on a rampage in Dahshur at the beginning of August and threatened the entire Coptic community. Dr. Naguib Gabriel, the head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, stated that the Copts have been systematically persecuted since Mursi became president.

President Mursi said he was going to be the president of all Egyptians, including the Copts. As we watch events unfold in Egypt, we have to ask ourselves, was that just a big lie, a ruse to gain power and Islamize Egypt? Does President Mursi mean to rule the Copts as a free and equal people or as the dhimmi class?

Let us pray that President Mursi is not another dictator and that the new Egyptian government is not another totalitarian state. We already have enough of these in the world. Let us also pray that the new Egyptian government will fulfill its proper functions and serve and protect all of its citizens.

But Christians in the Middle East need our help as well as our prayers. They are in a dire situation. You might consider contacting one of the organizations that is doing something to help them. I recently mentioned one such organization in an article titled "Call to Solidarity: Christian Refugees from the Middle East Need Your Help." Contact information is included in the article. The name of the organization is Arab Refugee Christians in the USA.

We can also let our leaders know that the persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, and throughout the world for that matter, is important to us, and we want our country to help these suffering souls and help bring peace and stability to these parts of the world. And if our leaders do not share our values, then we can vote new leaders into office who do.

 
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Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.

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