[notice]As Christians in Egypt reel from a wave of violent attacks by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, many international news reports have portrayed the Islamists as victims in the drama that is playing out in Egypt, reports Dr PATRICK SOOKHEDO, International Director of Barnabas Fund, a ministry to persecuted Christian minorities. In this analysis of events in Egypt he calls on Western media to report the truth. [/notice]
Originally published by Barnabas Fund
Over the past week, Egyptian Christians have been targeted with unprecedented Islamist violence as enraged Mohammed Morsi supporters torched scores of churches, Christian institutions and private property.
Egyptian scholar Samuel Tadros, a Research Fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said that 14 August – the day the military cleared the pro-Morsi sit-ins – appears to have been the worst single day of violence against the Egyptian Church since the 14th century.
There have been too many attacks to detail, but more than 60 churches throughout the country have been destroyed along with other Christian institutions, including 11 schools, an orphanage, a hospital and two Bible Society bookshops, as well as countless homes and businesses.
In one particularly distressing incident, Islamists broke into a Christian school in Bani Suef, looted its contents and replaced the cross on the gate with an al-Qaeda-style flag before setting the building ablaze. As two Christian female members of staff fought through the mob to escape, they were sexually assaulted, and at the end, the Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets, as one of them said, “like prisoners of war”.
Five Christians have been killed since the 14th, adding to the seven who had already lost their lives in attacks by Morsi supporters before the sit-ins were dispersed. And in Assiut, a pastor and his wife were reportedly kidnapped.
Attacks have continued over the ensuing days with signs of worse to come. Christian homes and businesses in Minya have been marked with black X’s to identify them for attack, while Muslim ones have been given a red X to protect them from violence. And in various places, Christians have reportedly received threatening leaflets telling them to leave or face reprisals. Many churches have stopped holding services, such is the risk.
It should be noted that, in this context of animosity towards Christians, there have been a number of encouraging reports of moderate Muslims defending churches and Christian property, and helping Christians escape danger, at great personal risk.
Christians have, astonishingly, been blamed by the Muslim Brotherhood for the fall of Morsi, and the Islamists are thus waging a retaliatory war against them. It is an utterly absurd notion that Christians, who comprise only around ten per cent of the Egyptian population, could have the clout to bring down a regime. Not only are they numerically weak; they have also been marginalised and disadvantaged for decades, leaving them without the societal influence necessary to inspire the popular movement that resulted in Morsi’s ouster by the military.
More than 22 million Egyptians signed the petition calling for Morsi to go organised by the opposition Tamarod (“Rebel”) movement. There are only around eight million Christians in Egypt, so even if every single one, including children, had put their name to it, they would still have been significantly outnumbered by Muslim signatures.
So why are the Brotherhood blaming the Christians, and why are its rank and file members falling for such a blatant untruth?
Firstly, it enables the Brotherhood to avoid having to admit that many Egyptian Muslims were opposed to its autocratic, Islamist rule. Secondly, it allows them to portray the military as pro-Christian and anti-Islamic, thus attracting more support among the Muslim majority for their cause. Thirdly, it taps into the pre-existing contempt in which its supporters hold Christians, similarly to the Nazis’ channelling hostility towards the Jews in 1930s Germany. And fourthly, Christians, as a vulnerable minority, are an easy target, allowing the Brotherhood to wreak unbridled havoc and thereby destabilise the military-backed regime.
Remarkably, many reports in the international media on events in Egypt over the last week have been sympathetic towards the Muslim Brotherhood, who are being portrayed as victims rather than exposed for the manipulative and violent outfit that they are.
A case can be made for this view, but only if one completely ignores their unjust retaliatory campaign against the innocent Christian community, not to mention the wider context of what has been happening in Egypt over the last year or so.
The Western media seems largely to have swallowed the Brotherhood’s narrative on Morsi’s removal: the Islamists have argued that he was elected democratically and therefore should not have been removed by the military in a “coup”; and they have claimed to be staging “peaceful” protests against his removal, which have been brutally and illegitimately broken up by the military.
This narrative sounds quite plausible and persuasive to Western ear,s but it does not stand up to scrutiny. Yes, Morsi was elected democratically, but he did not rule democratically. I have previously written about how Morsi used the democratic process to stage a series of power grabs, seizing control of key institutions that should be independent, appointing his allies as regional governors, pushing through a contentious constitution and ruthlessly crushing dissent.
Morsi was removed by the military following a mass uprising against him, which is thought to have involved as many as 30 million Egyptian people. Only 13 million had voted for Morsi to become president. He was given warning of the military’s intervention but failed to respond to the legitimate protests of the people.
Then there are the Brotherhood’s “peaceful” protests over the last six weeks. In addition to attacks on Christian targets, which started immediately after Morsi’s removal and included the murder of a ten-year-old girl, the sit-ins that were broken up by the military last week were characterised by calls for violence against the army, police and other state institutions. Police stations, hospitals, banks, public utilities, a major blood bank and other public and private property have subsequently been attacked.
There has been little mention in the media of the weapons the Brotherhood had in the sit-in camps and used against the army and police. Video evidence shows Islamists using guns and grenades against the authorities and killing officers. There have also been reports of gross abuses being committed inside the camps, including incidents of rape and torture, and the murder of more than 80 people who were accused of being police informants or were trying to escape.
Call for truth
In the last few days, a number of senior Christian leaders in Egypt have put out statements urging the international media to present a more accurate picture of what has been happening in the country, and today, I add my voice to their urgent call.
The Coptic Orthodox Church, the country’s largest, said: “The attacks on our government entities and peaceful churches are terrorising our citizens both [Christian] and Muslim. These actions stand against all religions, morality and humanity…
We strongly denounce the fallacies broadcasted by the Western media and invite them to review the facts objectively regarding these bloodthirsty radical organisations and their affiliates instead of legitimising them with global support and political protection while they attempt to spread devastation and destruction in our dear land. We request that the international and Western media adhere to providing a comprehensive account of all events with truth, accuracy and honesty.”