Egypt has never really been a haven for freedom of speech, especially for the Christians there. Recently, however, things have taken a turn for the worst, as State Security Officials (AKA “Hired Thugs”) have been plucking people off the street, left and right. Even Moslems.
That’s right, now any Moslems who stink of Islamic “moderation,” or who have been infected with the “free-thinking” disease have been detained, arrested, or outright kidnapped off the Cairo streets.
This is in addition to the “sectarian” clashes that have been going on, either in protest of something the government did, or else against people belonging to a religion other than one’s own.
This is a long article, I know it. But half of the rich details here are not in my own words, but in the words of those who lived them. Furthermore, I have provided small snips of material that may shed further light on the happenings. A resource list follows.
But let us begin at the beginning, at one of the first big resistances in the past few years:
22nd February, 2005
Lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam Hamad (Alaa’s father) tells us what’s what in the following excerpt from his courageous declaration: “Let it be clear: Yes, I refuse the oppression and dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Yes, I refuse a renewal of his mandate as president. Yes, I refuse being passed as a piece of heritage to his son. Yes, I shall not stop criticizing the president, no matter who he is.” (Posted in May, 2005 at http://www.manalaa.net/the_anti_mubarak_laptops )
25th May, 2005 “Black Wednesday.” Hired thugs beat peaceful protestors and grabbed women, doing very bad things to them. Alaa (son of lawyer Ahmed Seif from above) was among the first to write about this infamous and horrible day. This post is purportedly the one that marked Alaa’s worldwide fame. (http://www.manalaa.net/the_bastards_stole_my_laptop )
Other accounts include one from Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/05/26/egypt11036.htm) and BBC News UK (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4582469.stm ).
October 14th 2005The first of the week-long rioting sprees in Alexandria, where Christians were stabbed, surrounded, beaten, and other things. Much property damage occurred during this orgy of hatred.
October 21st, 2005The mother of all riots to this date (in Alexandria). Set off because of a DVD (“I was blind but now I can see”), this night set off a chain of events that is still being felt months later. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/145/43.0.html )
October 23rd, 2005 Egyptian blogger Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman writes his earth-shattering article, “The Naked Truth of Islam As I Saw It In Maharam Bey Riots.” It said:
“The Muslims have taken the mask off to show their true hateful face, and they have shown the world that they are at the top of their brutality, inhumanity, and thievery.
They have clearly shown their worst features and have shown that in dealing with others they are not governed by any moral codes.
From what I have seen yesterday of the events at Maharram Beh, which were quite shameful, and have shown me more facts that they have tried to cover over the centuries.
They have indicated that Islam is a religion of peace and forgiveness, but their true face has been uncovered to show barbarism and thievery and fanaticism and not acknowledging others, and attempting to remove them from existence.
Some may think that the actions of the Moslems does not represent Islam and has no relationship with the teachings of Islam that was brought by Mohamed 14 centuries ago, but the truth is that their actions is not different from the Islamic teachings in its original form when it has urged people to deny others and hate them and kill them and take their property, things that they know well but they try to deceive people by falsely defending the teachings of Islam by extremists and they are hiding from the truth and they prefer living a lie.
I have seen with my own eyes the thugs as they break into our Christian brothers’ stores after the whole area of Maharram Beh was completely out of control of the government authorities, and I saw them as they ransack the contents of the store right and left, amidst cheering and shouting extremist Islamic slogans, and I saw them stealing the money from inside the drawers of the cash registers and splitting it among themselves as if it is justified by being owned by what they call the infidels and the worshippers of the cross.
I saw them break into a liquor store owned by a Coptic merchant Labib Lotfy and I saw them smash everything they can get their dirty hands on, including the refrigerator and the scale and the boxes and liquor bottles. I saw some of them stealing liquor bottles so they can get drunk after a hard day’s work against the Coptic infidels.
It is worth mentioning that although some people may think that this Christian-owned liquor store was particularly targeted because the owner is selling the forbidden alcoholic beverages that is forbidden in Islam, but another liquor store in front of the Christian-owned store happens to be owned by a Moslem merchant, and none of the thugs dared to attack, as they did with the Christian-owned store. Now you can see the hateful sectarian actions.
What the Moslems did yesterday in a very vulgar and criminal and horrible way proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that they don’t acknowledge others or their rights of existence or their rights to live with the freedom of expression and also consider them less than them, and these actions should be fought and exterminated for is it right to leave these horrible human beings to do what they want and kill, destroy, steal, and burn??!!
The Islamic teachings that was brought by Mohammed 14 centuries ago should be faced with courage and boldness, we should expose and show its faults and warn humanity of its dangers. We should, even though we are different –look with reason to these teachings that urges people, human beings, to become monsters that don’t know anything in life except killing and looting and plundering and raping and pillaging.
We should stand courageously and boldly against these teachings that became a plague on humanity and is not supported except by extremists like bin Laden and al Zarqawi and al Zawaheeri and the thugs that assaulted our Coptic brothers and burned their homes and stole their properties, and tried to assault their religious men and destroy their churches.
We should take off the religious and sectarian gown and look at matters in a more humane way. We should hold trials to all the acts of terrorism and extremism, that our Islamic history have kept their names and their criminal actions starting with Mohamed ibn Abdullah and his company of murderers like Khalid ibn el Waled and Omar ibn el Khattab and Saad ibn Abbi Waqqas and Moiizah Bin Shaabah and Samra bin Gandab and the kings of Beni Ummaya and Beni al Abbass and al Osman, and ending with the Moslem criminals of the modern day that became more famous than movie stars and singers.
We should show the world the truth of these criminals that unfortunately have become role models for our youth and our children and our women. We should expose their false teachings and show the world that they are a big danger that should be exterminated and removed from its roots.
Before you put on trial the people that are responsible for the crimes that occurred on Black Friday in Maharram Beh, you should first put on trial the dirty teachings that caused them to go on a rampage of stealing and plundering and looting.. put Islam on trial and sentence it and its symbols with a figurative execution so that you can be sure that what happened yesterday will never be repeated again.
For as long as Islam exists on this planet all your efforts to end wars and disputes and upheavals will fail because Islam’s dirty finger will be found behind every catastrophic event to humanity.”
October 26th, 2005Abdelkareem’s article leads to his arrest today, and his 18-day detention in prison.
Mid-November, 2005In response to Egypt’s “Emergency Law,” which prevented this meeting from taking place there, several Coptic and Egyptian organizations came together for the famous “Washington Conference,” which was endorsed and attended by several organizations such as Copts United, American Copts, U.S. Copts Association, Ibn Khaldun Center, USCRIV, Freedom House, Leadership Council of Human Rights, as well as many other freedom fighters and free-thinkers such as Ahmad Abaza (ex-Islamic author), Dr. Saad El Din Ibrahim and Dr. Wafaa Sultan (both Moslem but supportive of the Copts), Egyptian-American journalists Mona El Tahawy, Dr. Sally Bishai, and Magdi Khaleel, Engineer Adly Abadeer, Michael Meunier, Milad Eskander, Mounier Dawoud, Senator Rothman from NJ, as well as many human rights activists from around the globe. The conference was covered by al-Jazeera, along with many other media outlets.
The End of 2005—The Birth of 2006The Moslem Brotherhood wins 88 (of 454) seats in the Parliamentary Election. (http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/773/eg5.htm). Hosny Mobarak appoints a Christian to be one of his 26 Egyptian governors, and appears to ease up on the Hamayouni Decree, by allowing governors to deal with church requests. Several riots occurred, however, some even in the very village governed by the Christian governor.
January 18th, 2006 The village of Udaysat is the site for clashes over church-building, and over 5,000 Moslems storm a Coptic mass, attacking the church and those inside it. (http://americandaily.com/article/11479 )
Mid-February, 2006Journalist Atwar Bahjat brutally murdered in an attempt to “shut our eyes and minds and silence the media.” (http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=3946 )
February 26th 2006 Dr. Wafaa Sultan engages in a big debate with Moslem Cleric Ibrahim el Khouly on al Jazeera’s program “The Opposite Direction.” The clip gets downloaded over a million times, and is covered on such non-Arab blogs as writer Michelle Malkin’s (http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004716.htm ). The topic was Islam and the “clash of civilizations” that it was seen to cause. At one point, el Khouly, an Azhar lecturer, asked Dr Sultan—point blank:
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: “Are you a heretic?”
Wafa Sultan: “You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural…”
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: “If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran…”
March 17th, 2006 Egyptian blogger Abdelkareem is expelled from Al Azhar University Law School for his “radical” views.
April 14th, 2006 Three men simultaneously attack three Christian churches in Alexandria, using knives. Many have tried to make it seem like one insane man did everything, but this article discusses a discrepancy in the police’s official stance on the matter.
April 16th, 2006Moslem blogger Jar el Amar (http://jarelkamar.manalaa.net/node/273 ) has the following to say about the riot at a murdered Christian’s funeral in Alexandria. (Translation by “The Skeptic” blog, http://elijahzarwan.net/blog/?p=95 ):
“Yesterday we were a minority, and today I am a minority. Yesterday, [Alexandrian blogger] Solo and I were the only Muslims in a crowd of dozens of friends. We would laugh from our hearts, share cigarettes, split the bill after dinner, and walk in the streets of Ibrahamiya and Sporting with Imad, Gamaloon, and Mark. Mark made a joke about the way you write the name of the Protestant church in Ibrahamiya. Then he told us about this man who would always refer to anyone he met as “our third brother.” We laughed so hard it hurt.
We said goodbye to them, then I said goodbye to Solo. I decided not to go home straight away. On my way to the seaside, I passed a church next a mosque. I was amazed at how tall the mosque had become, as if it were in competition with the church.
When I returned from the Corniche, I was astonished for the thousandth time by the drawing of a snake curling around an apple, biting it from the opposite direction. One day I had told my friend Socrates about this drawing and she explained it to me.
I remembered two friends who worked 24 hours a day in the church hospital. I used to love how quiet Khalil Hamada Street was, dozing peacefully in the heart of Alexandria. I crossed the street and walked about 50 meters to my home. I burrowed under the covers and went to sleep.
My mother woke me up the next morning. I rose grudgingly, washed my face, got dressed, and went off to pray the Friday prayers. I make a habit of doing this only because I meet my friends there once a week. I always pray in the Al-Shahid mosque. My great friend owns the Naggar Laundry across the street from the mosque. I’d stopped going to pray in Al-Sharq al-Medina Mosque ever since they got a sheikh whose sermons–irritatingly–never seemed to end.
As the prayers ended, I heard shouting and angry babble coming from the length and breadth of the street. I crossed the square toward two buildings side by side: the Al-Qadisine Church and the Al-Sharq al-Medina mosque. As far as the eye could see, people were gathered and a number of women were screaming.
Then things became clear: A youth had stabbed a man who was waiting for his family outside the church after the Friday morning service. Lots of people said that he was wearing a ragged, white t-shirt and track pants and carrying a large knife. This he had plunged into the man’s stomach, shouting “There is no god but God.” The trail of blood led from the church door to the steps of the Mar Marcus hospital attached to the church.
He also attacked two young men who tried to stop him. One of them was taken to intensive care. They say the other is seriously injured.
I know the sweet old security soldier who’s always found living in his small wooden hut next to the two buildings, reading his Quran. “He was in league with the killer and didn’t lift his weapon to stop him. Instead he threatened anyone who tried to stop the killer and told them to let him go, so they did.” This is the story every Christian I met at the scene told me. I heard it from the wife of the victim’s brother, who stood there screaming until she fainted. Even the fruit-sellers, who were waiting until the end of the service to sell their goods, said the same thing.
What is certain is that the killer took refuge in flight. As for where he had come from, some said he had been seen coming out of the mosque. Others said he arrived and left by car. The official story, at least as the government told it early on, was that the young man was a noted criminal and was mentally unstable.
Unfortunately, the story of mental derangement did nothing to assuage people’s anger this time. The main reason was that people started getting news that the same thing had happened in a number of churches in Alexandria at the same time. In his laughable announcement, the governor [of Alexandria] confirmed that there was only one criminal, a young man who worked in a supermarket, involved. He wounded two people in Al-Hadra, then made his way to Sidi Bishr to kill one man and wound two more (you have to go more than halfway across town to get from one neighborhood to the other). At times like this, people don’t like to be lied to or told silly stories. And so it’s only natural that the once sleepy street of Khalil Hamada is now afflicted by bigotry and hatred.
In the twinkling of an eye, Central Security trucks appeared and closed off the street from all directions. The chief complaint was about Security’s statement, which contradicted tens of eyewitness reports and the blood of the victim himself.
A senior figure in the NDP called Mohamed as-Saadani (of course) started talking about national unity, Egypt, and the usual bulls**t. The crowd stopped him short, shouting “Persecuted! Persecuted!”
He tried to calm them, saying, “The government is investigating the matter.”
“The government? Tell the government I say ‘hello.’ What has the government ever done for us? Al-Kosha, Qarqas, and Muharram Bik [sites of previous sectarian violence in Egypt]. Where was the government then?”
The bystanders cheered. A youth raised an old, white-haired man on to his shoulders so he could face as-Saadani. He looked like he was a man of the church. He shouted at As-Saadani, “I’ve been teaching for 30 years now. I’m not happy with what’s in the curriculum. I have to calm the students down and stop them from being angry while I myself am not happy with it. And I know that they’re not happy with it. What’s happening here is wrong. The time of the martyrs has come again. We’re like dogs in this country.”
The people applauded vigorously. They seemed to have a lot of respect for the man. As-Saadani, having lost control of the situation, left. A number of thoughts hit me, and I was beset by contradictory feelings: religious anger, anger at the government, anger at the passivity of its leaders, and anger at the privileging of one group over another. The anger of the crowd reminded me of a similar anger I’d seen among Kifaya protesters, with the exception of the religious element. Some were demanding that the governor come forward. Others demanded that the Interior Minister himself should come forward. A woman told me of her frustration at the lack of justice: “If only they’d just get hold of him, and we knew that he’d be held to account, then I could relax.”
Their numbers increased, and so did their rage. One man didn’t like what another had said about calming down and controlling himself so he and his friends started beating him up.
A man called “Engineer Samir” arrived, who seemed to be very popular. He asked them to be calm so they wouldn’t lose their rights. Then he warned them against paying heed to the voice of Satan.
A woman interrupted him, shouting, “It’s you and your type who’ll ruin us all!”
Someone else backed up what she said: “It’s our passivity that’s going to ruin us!”
Samir failed to make any headway. I started hearing calls for everyone to sit down. People refused. Then a man shouted, “Who ever loves Jesus, sit!” Some sat down and some ignored him.
One of the bystanders screamed, pointing toward the mosque.
I couldn’t help but be astonished by the logic that both sides in this seemed to be using. I caught some of what the man next to me was saying: “Your enemy is the enemy of your religion. Everyone knows that.”
We all sat down and I felt a powerful sense of brotherhood with those who were sitting next to me. Two of them put their hands on my shoulders and patted me supportively. A man asked what my name was, and I said “Mina, Mina Ibrahim.” It’s the name of one of my friends.
I suddenly realized I was the only Muslim in the circle and that I was sitting the midst of an angry group who were attacking anyone who asked them to keep calm. So what do you think they would have done if they had found an enemy in their ranks? Perhaps I should have gone, but something compelled me to stay and follow the events to their conclusion.
As if fate were conspiring to terrify me, one of them suddenly shouted, “There are Muslims in your midst!”
I surreptitiously pulled down my rolled-up sleeves to hide the fact that I didn’t have a cross tattooed on my arm like everyone else around me did. For the first time, I felt as though I was a minority in a group that wouldn’t accept me on principle. I forced myself to talk to the man next to me to give the appearance of normality.
Suddenly I saw Ibram, an old friend of mine. We were together at school and we took part in lots of activities together at university. He’s my neighbor, and his father owns one of the biggest gold dealerships in the area. Ibram was carrying a gilt wooden cross and shouting at the top his voice, “Kyrie Eleison.” I never imagined Ibram amongst people like this. He was always one of the gentlest people I knew and one of the most respectful of others.
So now I have a problem. On my right is someone who’s calling on people to uncover the Muslims hidden among them, and on my left is Ibram, who’s leading a group of his friends in a chant. He was riding on one of his friends shoulders. He knows me well. Any indication from him about my true identity would make me a dead man.
As luck would have it, at that moment, one of the bishops came out with a priest who was a member of the local Coptic Council. People saw them and fell completely silent. I seized my chance and left the circle to stand by one of the walls of the church.
I watched the bishop as he talked with people and called for calm and civilized behavior. He spoke vehemently. “Don’t forget yourselves! If you really love the church and the people who pray there, then don’t strike in the street, strike inside the church.”
I have no experience of how Coptic churches work, but the calm and respect that descended on the street the moment these men appeared left me totally unprepared for the crowd’s response. The minute the father had finished speaking to the demonstrators, I was astonished to hear accusations of betrayal and treason fill the air. People were shouting that the man was an agent of the government, and that he was selling the blood of the martyr and their rights cheaply, that it was people like him who were putting the Copts of Egypt through these troubled times.
The authority of the bishop seemed terribly weak. Even when he tried to read out a prayer, “Deliver us, Lord,” only a very few repeated the words with him. The rest started screaming insults against him and against those who collaborated with the government and Muslims to persecute Copts.
Now banners tied to wooden polls were brought of the church, with “No to persecution of the Copts” written on them in English and Arabic. Drawn underneath these words, in the blood of the victim that still covered the church floor, was a small cross.
They started carrying each other on their shoulders and shouting together, “Kyrie Eleison, Kyrie Eleison! Hosni Mubarak, O pilot, Coptic security is up in flames! Hosni Mubarak, where are you? State Security is between us and you! The age of martyrs has returned again!”
As I leaned against the wall of the church, I heard people talking. A hysterical woman screamed, “It’s a religion of bloodletting. We don’t kill or do anything. They’re all criminals.”
Another lady shouted “Our God will take revenge on them. They die on the pilgrimage and die in the sea.”
I heard someone else say, “This country is ours, they’re the newcomers. We have to practice our religion in secret, while they’re just for show.”
A middle-aged man said, “They’re the police, they’re all a gang together. What are we meant to do?”
The first woman spoke of the weakness and the stupidity of the Quran and things like that. “If only they could explain just one verse. Just find us one Muslim who could tell us that he’s satisfied and understands the rubbish they fill their ears with day and night.”
Men shouted for them to ring the church bells, and a woman said to her daughter, “Yeah, just as they do to us day and night [with the call to prayer].” Her neighbor asked her about the nearby mosque, and asked what would the Muslims who couldn’t pray their afternoon and evening prayers do.
“Let it stay closed, then.”
I could almost cry. I’m not embarrassed to say that here. This religious bigotry was torture. Seeing Ibram shouting about burning the mosque hurt me deeply. Seeing a woman hit a small Muslim boy, the son of one of the neighboring bawabs, hurt me deeply. “Get out of here, you son of a dog!” she told him. “You’ve destroyed it and now you’re coming to sit on the ruins. [a proverb].”
On the pavement opposite the church, police colonels were sitting and sipping tea and fizzy water. One of them opened the door of the mosque. This incensed the demonstrators. A group of security troops surrounded the door.
Suddenly, Hussein Abd al-Ghani, the Al-Jazeera correspondent, turned up. People rushed toward him in terrifying numbers. He backed off and Security interposed themselves between him and the crowd. People calmed down when they were satisfied Al-Jazeera’s cameras were filming everything: the shouts, the banners, and the numbers.
I heard a man talking on the phone asking that all the Christians from Al-Hadra, Al-Falming, and Abu Qir return to their churches because the media had turned up in Sidi Bishr. Abd al-Ghani returned with his cameraman and tried to enter the church, but the crowd stopped him from entering. “No Muslim is getting in here,” some shouted, before the church custodians succeeded in getting him in by force.
The demonstrators got even angrier and carried on shouting. As they were trying to prevent Abd al-Ghani from entering the church, the demonstrators failed to notice that the police were going to the mosque and taking off their shoes. They ordered the imam to perform the afternoon prayers.
After 100 soldiers had lined up outside the mosque, the imam began the call to prayer and everyone turned around. A sudden silence descended, the silence that precedes the storm. The demonstrators started singing hymns to compete with the call to prayer. It was a terrifying situation… At any moment I feared the mosque could come under attack from Molotov cocktails or even gunshots. But the demonstrators just raised their voices until their throats burned. They tried to stop people from performing their prayers. Some of them asked the church custodians to ring the bells, but the church workers refused. Some tried to lay in wait for those praying inside the mosque, but Security lay in wait for them.
I suddenly felt weak and wanted to leave. Before I collapsed from exhaustion, I found an American journalist trying unsuccessfully to make herself understood. I offered to translate. And while the American lady was asking a young Coptic man about his views, I heard dozens of sick views about how the Muslims were planning to corrupt the joy of Christians this coming Christmas, other theories about Mossad and its role, and a third theory about Mubarak and his vested interests in causing civil strife.
Magdi Girgis, an accountant, insisted that the American journalist write the truth for the world. She must understand, he said, that Pope Shenouda didn’t want to let people know that there was a persecution going on to prevent a real explosion. More than once he said, “We don’t want America to intervene like in Iraq, we just want a fair deal, this is our country after all, and we’re far more worried about it than they are.”
I translated the slogans and the chants for her and then I immediately went to the nearest Internet cafe, where I am sitting now, writing what happened. I still don’t know how it all ended. As I’ve been sitting here, I received the pictures that you see above [he’s inserted some photos from BBC Arabic of the murdered man]. Everything I’ve written here hasn’t been edited or looked over. It’s just impressions of what I saw and I record of what I heard. I might fill you in later on the details, or I might not.
A final word: This country is far more beset by meanness, racism, and hatred than I’d imagined. Of course I understand the Copts’ response. But just because a criminal comes from one religion doesn’t mean you should criminalize all his coreligionists. All this does is foster resentment, persecution, and bigotry—and more importantly, charges of betrayal.
As one of the demonstrators hysterically told me: “For more than 1,400 years we’ve been treated like s**t. It’s enough. We’ve had enough of burying our heads in the sand like ostriches.”
And to Mark: There’s no brotherhood in this country, not a third brother, not a second brother, not a tenth brother. Nothing.”
April 18th, 2006 A sit-in is planned (until a hearing on the 27th) by the Judges Club. This is an excellent primer on the matter. ( http://baheyya.blogspot.com/2006/04/tribulations-of-self-determination_20.html ) and here is a great video of the disbanding of the protest (http://www.zippyvideos.com/7498406264945506/amn ).
April 24th 200612 Activists detained in Cairo, and (in an unrelated matter) 23 dead and over 150 injured in the Sinai bombings at Dahab. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/egypt/story/0,,1760781,00.html )
April 26th 200616 activists detained, including Ahmed el Droubi. (http://freedroubi.blogspot.com/2006_04_26_freedroubi_archive.html )
Says Droubi, “Time; seems so very valuable, all that that has been lost, yet seems equally worthless as at times it seems to pass ever so slowly. Every minute drilling frustration into my spirit as I remain locked in a box. The concept of being so helpless, unable to even stand up and walk out of the “room” is simply frustrating.I [have] reached a level of acceptance. Not thinking about what I’m missing or the simple things like picking up the phone and talking, like sitting down on a chair, like the choice not to leave your home and walking in the street.” (From http://freedroubi.blogspot.com/ )
April 27th 2006On the eve of the hearing… (http://baheyya.blogspot.com/2006/04/on-eve-of-hearing.html )
A further 12 activists taken in, including blogger Malek Mostafa (http://malek-x.net ).
May 6th, 2006 The detainees—including the diabetic Droubi—begin a hunger strike. (http://freedroubi.blogspot.com/2006/05/update-on-detainee-hunger-strike.html )
May 7th, 2006The most famous Egyptian blogger and activist, Alaa Abd el Fattah/Alaa Ahmed Seif El Islam, is detained. Read an excellent excellent account of it here: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2006/05/digging_deeperblogs_wiki_googl.html
May 8th 2006The s*** hits the fan, with Cairo clamping down on dissenters, both official (like the judges) and nonofficial-but-wildly-popular, like Alaa and Droubi and Malek, but also hundreds of unnamed others who are beaten in the streets.
May 10th 2006Alaa blogs from prison. He is said to have written in English to keep others from understanding, and allegedly smuggled the handwritten post to a visitor. (http://www.manalaa.net/alaa_blogs_from_prison)
He eventually inspires a huge internet campaign, including this petition from HAMSA (http://www.hamsaweb.com/alaa ), not to mention devoted comments (http://saraghorab.wordpress.com/2006/05/18/dear-alaa-and-the-other-freedom-fighters-in-egypt-and-elsewhere/ ) from other bloggers.
May 18th 2006Alleging that they were only following their orders in making sure the “Emergency Law” against gathering was followed, “Egyptian security forces beat up pro-democracy protesters.” The Guardian tells us that “police and security forces cracked down on demonstrators in Cairo… beating up pro-reform activists and arresting at least 240 members of the Muslim Brotherhood during protests in support of two judges who had complained about fraud in last year’s parliamentary elections. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/egypt/story/0,,1778426,00.html ).
Despite the ban, however, protests did occur in Cairo. “This is what is means to live in a police state under emergency law! Ministry of Interior issued a statement 2 days ago warning that any gathering in Cairo will be illegal. However, activists did protest in various places in Cairo today to support Judges, Ayman Nour, and to stress their right to freedom of expression and demonstrations.” (http://www.manalaa.net/node/31544)
May 19th 2006 Mohamed Salmawi’s controversial article, “What are the Copts Doing in Egypt?” is run in El-Masry Elyoom. Many people are upset by it, feeling it is a dig at the Copts, while others call it “satire” and poking fun at Salmawi’s fellow Moslems who really feel this way. The article says:
“There is a devil who says that the victim is the cause of
the crime, not the person who committed the crime. And along came the incidents
in Alexandria last week to prove the truth of his statement. Why would Copts
meet to pray in more than one church at the same time other than to incite anger
in Muslims who are protective of their religion?
That’s why when a devout Muslim saw Christians openly
praying in a church in Hadra, he was overcome with patriotic feelings and
attacked them. Then he went to another church on the other side of the city and
found more Christians praying, so he attacked them too. And he went to a third
church and found exactly the same thing. But why should we blame him for what he
We know from declarations made through the years by our
religious leaders and the media that Egypt is a Muslim country. In 1971, didn’t
Sadat find that the Constitution says Egypt is a Muslim country? And then,
finding that was not strong enough for him, didn’t he add that Sharia should be
the principal source of law? Isn’t it true that anyone who does not believe in
Islam is an infidel, as is being broadcast from mosques day and night? Then what
did this good Muslim, who was merely protecting his religion and his country, do
wrong? He just did what the government told him to do – to purify the country of
It is not enough to secretly make obstacles for Copts when
they want to build or repair churches or to apply for a sensitive – or
insensitive – job in the government. If that’s all that is being done, then the
government is not doing its duty. And so a good citizen, in order to safeguard
his religion and his country, decided to take matters into his own hands
according to his religious instruction, which directed him to right a serious
wrong. He did it not with his heart and his tongue, but with his hands. And in
that way, this good citizen proved that he is a patriotic Egyptian – I mean
Muslim, of course. For it is the Copts who are causing the problems in Egypt. If
they weren’t here, there would be no sectarian fighting.
The Church says that there are 12 million Copts in Egypt.
But the government, which is always trying to minimize the size of problems,
claims there are no more than 5 million. The question we have to ask frankly is,
no matter what their numbers, what are the Copts doing in Egypt? Is it enough
that their ancestors built the pyramids? And some temples in Upper Egypt? Does
that give them the right to live here with us in this great land? Egypt doesn’t
have room for all of them. And the Copts had plenty of time – many, many years –
to immigrate with their dignity in tact. Some did and achieved high-ranking
positions in Canada, the United States, Australia and Europe, where they became
so famous that people started to address them as Egyptians. We have no problem
with that. The problem we have is that we don’t understand why the rest of the
Copts didn’t go too. Then we wouldn’t have all of these problems.
The disappearance of the Copts would free up so many
segments of the economy that we are in dire need of. Look at how many jobs would
open up and how many housing units we could seize! It would be just like the
Israelis seizing the homes and belongings of the Arabs in Palestine. Israel,
too, is a religious country whose constitution specifies that it is a Jewish
nation. If Israel still has not succeeded in uprooting the invading Arabs from
their land, we cannot accuse the Israeli government of not putting forth its
best effort to do so.
In the meantime the Egyptian government has been so nice
that it has not seized housing, but merely discriminates against the foreigners – that is to say the Copts – without kicking them out of the country, putting
them in jail or killing them like Israel does to the Palestinians. For this
reason the government should not object to this loyal, patriotic citizen doing
what needs to be done, and it certainly shouldn’t accuse him of being insane
when he does it.”
May 22nd, 2006 A top leader of the banned Moslem Brotherhood is arrested. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4570421.stm )
Arab journalist writes great op-ed on Arabs and blogging (http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=5035 ).
May 25th 2006One year after Black Wednesday, we see that “Security forces have put press syndicate under siege, banning reporters and protestors from leaving. LA Times journalist Hossam el Hamalawy was attacked by plainclothes police who pepper-sprayed his face. Plainclothes police kidnapped Mohamed el Sharkawy, Youth for Change activist, following his release from Tora prison few days ago. Sharkawy took part in the pro-democracy demo at press syndicate this afternoon.” (http://www.manalaa.net/node/32668 )
Rallies ‘evidence of democracy’—The Arabist reports that “President Hosni Mubarak lashed out at coverage of Cairo street protests in which more than 600 Egyptians were beaten and arrested, calling the rallies “evidence of democracy” and coverage of them “libel and blasphemy”. Mubarak said: “Continuation (of the protests) is evidence of democracy”, adding that he was surprised by some media coverage,” some of which depicted “young activists being beaten in downtown Cairo in broad daylight by plainclothes police.” (http://arabist.net/archives/2006/05/25/mubarak-says-protests-evidence-of-democracy/ )
May 26th, 2006 One day after the one-year anniversary of “Black Wednesday,” one journalist gives his thoughts. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/egypt/story/0,,1783602,00.html )
It is ironic that so much of what we hear about the goings-on is brought to us through the work of a man who is locked in a cell. It is not surprising in the least, however, and it has been said that Alaa’s imprisonment was designed to try and suppress these cries and shouts to the world, from a few very brave people in what was once—and will again be—The Middle East’s, Africa’s and the world’s greatest country.
Assorted links that can give you more information on these happenings:
If you’re a Christian Egyptian, you may be bristling at the title of today’s article.
After all, if I cared so much about Egypt’s welfare, then why did I leave her? Why am I depriving myself of grilled corn and midnight walks on the Corniche? Why did I abandon a perfectly acceptable medical career in the land I was born in?
I’ll tell you why. It’s not because of the lack of equality in Egypt, it’s not even because of the lack of freedom of speech.
Very succinctly put, it’s because of the “Mashhy Halak Mentality.”
If I had obtained my dream job back home, it would not have been enough for me, as research plays a big part in the makeup of my professional interests. I know that most hospitals in Egypt would never be able to afford the excellent equipment that I routinely use here in the West.
For those who don’t know, “Mashhy Halak” is a way to say “Keep going, don’t get caught up in the small things.”
And this mentality that keeps me apart from my homeland has really become part of the national identity, not just for Christians in Egypt but for everyone in Egypt.
For example, I would like to say something that will very likely meet with disapproval, but I must say it anyway: I believe that Egypt is the way it is BECAUSE THE COPTS ALLOWED IT.
They did NOT fight back, they did NOT file complaints, they just put their chin to their chest and skulked off into the night, as they have been for thousands of years. How else could they stay around so long? On one hand, it’s good that they haven’t died out, but on the other hand, the only thing that lives on of Ramses and Mina and Tutankhamen is their DNA.
Well. We can’t change what has been accumulating since 1952, 1971, and all of the other significant dates in Egyptian history.
But we CAN join hands together—Christian and Muslim, atheist and devout, Egyptian and non-Egyptian—and begin to fight back now.
This will never happen if different Egyptians keep making trouble or letting their egos get in the way. One of the men who has made the most happen for the Copts is a man whom I know goes by an alias in everything he does. I cannot blame him, of course, but I CAN praise him to the sky, since he disregards all glory—even though he is the one most deserving of it—and trudges on, trying to change the status of Christians in Egypt, and Egypt in general.
But this brings me to my next point: This man isn’t even in Egypt now! He lives here in the west, and I know he wouldn’t be happy if I mentioned his new country of residence, so I won’t mention it. It doesn’t matter, though. He disregards all of the whiners back home and quietly tries to change things for his complacent and ungrateful brothers and sisters in Egypt.
Oh, yes, you can’t be surprised that I mentioned complacency, can you? It’s the disease of Egyptians, but specifically the Copts who elected to (or were forced to) stay back in Egypt.
Other diseases include (but are not limited to) indecision, taking a month to decide on a plan of action, “The Martyr Syndrome” (liking to be a victim, in other words), infighting (especially when it’s something important at stake)—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So what did I do? What did this man I so admire do? What have hundreds of others done?
They got out. They moved to a place where they would not be arrested for speaking their mind or standing up for something (as the poor activists were arrested recently, may God protect them from the mercenaries, from the hired THUGS who make up “State Security”), and where they would not have their efforts squashed by the very people they were trying to help. They closed their ears to the protests of their children and, like a good parent, did what had to be done.
They wrote articles. They visited their new country’s congress or other legal system. They gave money. They did all they could.
Oh, yes, I realize what I just said. “Like a good parent.”
As though the complacent Copts in Egypt are put into the role of a surly and troublesome child, while we men of action are put in the role of parent.
It isn’t a favorable commentary on the way things have become in Egypt, but perhaps it’s this ability to shake off our dreams and be ‘content’ with what is in front of us that has made the Copts stay in their homeland of Egypt for as long as they have, when other groups were absorbed or killed off or converted to another way.
With these recent arrests of (mostly) Muslim protestors, bloggers, and activists, I must turn to my Christian brothers and sisters back home, and ask: “Do you want to go on record for sitting idly by while the moderate Muslims fight your battle for you? Be strong. Stand with them. Join hands with anyone and everyone who cares about changing Egypt to the better, and shake off your fear, for all we have to fear is fear itself!!”
This Article showed up in my in-box separated by a few emails from the following:
ROCKFORD, Ill., USA, May 4 /Christian Newswire/ — A European Union law, scheduled to take effect yesterday, could force member states to recognize so-called gay marriages.
The measure orders members (including those which have rejected calls for such unions) to “facilitate” homosexual partners who have “married” in their home countries and wish to travel to or live in another EU nation.
Only the Netherlands, Spain and Brussels currently have homosexual marriage, though Britain, Germany and a number of other states have a form of civil recognition for such arrangements. The measure is believed to be aimed at Poland, Italy and Malta, which adamantly reject homosexual marriage.
World Congress of Families founder Allan Carlson noted that under the new EU law, a same-sex couple “married” in Amsterdam could relocate to Warsaw and force the Polish government to recognize their union.
Said Carlson: “This is an attempt to force sexual utopianism on EU states that adhere to traditional values. With every European state posting negative birth rates, you’d think that EU bureaucrats would be encouraging fecundity, instead of promoting such sterile unions.”
Rocco Buttiglione, a member of Italy’s recent Berlusconi government, charged the EU is advancing a leftist “soft totalitarianism” that seeks “a state religion. It is an atheist, nihilistic religion – but it is a religion that is obligatory for all.”
The International Planning Committee for World Congress of Families IV will meeting in Warsaw May 5- 7. The Warsaw Congress itself will take place May 11- 13, 2006. The preservation of marriage is sure to be among the foremost items on the agenda.
For more information on the World Congress of Families, go to http://www.worldcongress.org.
The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society is an independent, non-profit research and education center that strives to be the leading source of fresh ideas and new strategies for affirmation and defense of the natural family, both nationally and globally. The Howard Center is also the founder and organizer of the World Congress of Families project which unites people of goodwill who recognize that the family is the fundamental unit of society and coordinates the efforts of pro-family groups from more the 60 countries worldwide.