Why Coptic Christians worry about Egypt

Amr Nabil AP Egyptian Copt girls march in Cairo, as they carry pictures of some of the victims who were … Continued

Amr Nabil

AP

Egyptian Copt girls march in Cairo, as they carry pictures of some of the victims who were killed in clashes with the military Oct.9, during a mourning march in Egypt, Friday, Nov.11, 2011.

Following the recent news in Egypt, one cannot help being baffled by disturbing reports. And it was not surprising to many observers to see Field Marshal Tantawi stand Tuesday in the shoes of the former president Mubarak, just nine months later, accepting the resignation of the current government, appointing a new one, and vowing to step down in six or seven months.

Alarmingly, as an Egyptian American of Christian faith, I cannot overlook the fact that there is rapid shift towards Islamization sweeping the country, without any hint of a substantial opposition. Despite an Islamic majority, Egypt managed over her recent history to maintain a fairly secular government, although there has historically been documented discrimination against Christians.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been ruling the country since the fall of Mubarak on February 11, 2011, has freed prominent Islamist figures from jail and allowed exiled ones to return as soon as they took office. SCAF appointed a committee to change the Egyptian Constitution headed by an overtly Islamist thinker, Judge Tariq el-Bishri, writer of many books detailing Islamic ways of ruling the nation, and including leading Muslim Brotherhood (MB) figures. SCAF went on to authorize a general referendum on the new temporary constitution, even when opposed by revolutionary and key secular forces.

When the government chose a Christian governor in Upper Egypt, the Islamists refused to accept the appointment. They closed the railroad tracks and blocked the highways to the province for two weeks. Even while the current constitution forbids the formation of political parties based on religion, there exist today close to a dozen Islamic parties, and thousands of candidates ready to take on parliamentary elections due to start this month. Muslim leaders announced that they expect the Muslim Brotherhood to vie for 50 percent of the seats with an additional 30 percent of the parliamentary seats going to a coalition of other Islamic parties. The Muslim Brotherhood’s newly established Freedom and Justice Party “rejects the candidacy of women or Copts for Egypt’s presidency.”

MAHMUD KHALED

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Holding up portraits of Coptic Christians killed in early October, thousands of demonstrators converged on November 11, 2011, on Tahrir Square in down town Cairo during a parade in memory of the Egyptian Copts killed in early October during clashes with security forces.

Since the Jan 25 revolution, Christians have been killed all over Egypt at an alarming frequency. After the latest massacre of Christians in front of the Maspiro building, where more than 24 were killed and 250 injured, SCAF is said to be investigating the military’s involvement while denying any wrongdoing. Video shows the military taking part in this massacre, using armored vehicles to crush Christians.

As events unfold, it is only a matter of time until we find out whether the January 25th, 2011 revolution will bring about a new Egypt that looks more like Pakistan, with an unbreakable alliance between the army and Islamists in defiance of democratic and progressive values. Or, perhaps will Egypt be emerge like Turkey, where the Islamists are watched over by the army (or were at least until recently), and there exists a fairly democratic political system.

As a Coptic Christian of Egyptian descent, I hope that Egypt will be like Spain, where the removal of an army dictator engendered a truly secular and progressive democracy, even for a people with a strong religious background.

Dr. Sherif Meleka, a physician specializing in pain management with the rank of assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. He is also a writer in his native Egypt, the author of four novels, two collections of short stories, and four books of poetry in Arabic. He is a regular columnist in Arabic in the electronic Web site Modern Discussion, and a U.S.-based Arabic/English newspaper.

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