Syria slams Trump, vows to recover Israeli-occupied Golan    Vietnam protests to China over South China Sea boat sinking    Attackers throw explosive at Russian consulate in Athens    Depay proves quality to Koeman as Dutch beat Belarus    Benban Solar Park wins WBG's best project award    thyssenkrupp wins major order for fertiliser complex in Egypt    Rice and Rashford give Southgate pre-match headache    AUC features Dame Minouche Shafik as acclaimed guest speaker at Nadia Younes' annual Memorial Lecture    Juhayna renews partnership with Baheya Foundation for 2 years    Fitch upgrades Egypt's credit rating to B+    New investments of EGP 6.3bn injected in Egypt during February: MIIC    Varied paths of reform in Africa    Tutankhamun goes to Paris    Disney closes $71B deal for Fox entertainment assets    Geography, history, future: Umbrella for Arab-African integration    Man United to subsidise fans by matching Barca's 'excessive' prices    Israel kills Abu Leila who stabbed to death Israeli soldier    Solidarity Ministry denies rumours about random drug tests on citizens    Darts for all    To be continued    Greta    Egypt's squash hub    International Universities to start its next academic year in the New Capital    A Broken Window play is the latest at Taliaa Theatre, don't miss it    Mustafa Al-Razzaz's art is on show at the Gezira Arts Centre    Don't miss Asmaa Waguih's photography show at the AUC Photographic Gallery    Egypt's Parliament began national dialogue over constitutional amendments    Mohammed Ali Palace celebrates Mother's Day with royal jewellery exhibition    Google Doodle celebrates Egyptian poet Jamila Al-Alaily    New horizons    Not German Christian Democrats    Christchurch terror    Another year for Syria?    Diaa Rashwan    National dialogue begins    Witness to War and Peace: Egypt, the October War, and Beyond: English memoir of Al-Sadat's Cabinet    Russia warns of external interference in Algeria: Lavrov    Africa anticipates CAF Champions League, Confederation Cup quarter-final draws    Shoukry in Muscat for Egyptian-Omani committee    Egypt parliament provisionally approves bill on protecting personal data    Uganda releases 14 Egyptian expats after embassy intervention    Soda, sports drinks tied to higher risk of early death    Smartphone mindfulness app helps curb loneliness    Right man for the right job    Op-ed review: Christchurch attacks, Press Syndicate's election    Borussia Dortmund's late, great victory comes with a warning    Irrigation Minister warns of water scarcity in Egypt    Egypt's Court of Cassation upholds verdict putting 169 Brotherhood members on terror list    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Christians in two minds over Islamist gains
Published in Daily News Egypt on 08 - 12 - 2011

CAIRO: An Islamist surge in Egypt has left a large Christian minority divided over whether to flee the country, stay silent or reach out to a political force that seems guaranteed a major role in the country's future.
The pessimists say a revolution that began with the uprising against Hosni Mubarak in January is unraveling because many Islamists, who won a first round of parliamentary elections, have little interest in civil liberties or religious freedom.
They say pledges from Islamists to protect the Copts, the mostly Orthodox Christians whose roots go back to before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century, contradict much of their campaign rhetoric.
The Muslim Brotherhood, whose party is set to take the most seats in the new assembly, has long said "Islam is the Solution" for a country where one-tenth of the population is Christian.
The runners-up were ultra-conservative Salafis, whose brand of Islam reflects the strict Wahhabi ideology born in Saudi Arabia, where no other religion is permitted.
"We fool ourselves if we think the Islamists will give Christians more rights or freedoms," said 29-year-old film critic Joseph Fahim, a Christian. "Many of my Christian friends fear for the future and what will happen if the Brotherhood and Salafis govern Egypt. Many are thinking of leaving the country."
Hope in democracy
The Copts face a paradox of the Arab Spring, namely that more freedom for the Muslim majority can mean more pressure on a non-Muslim minority. Iraq's Christian community was shattered by Islamists after dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.
But the Arab Spring revolts were a grass-roots surge for democracy, not an invasion led by the United States, and they introduced a new political system that may help balance competing interests in Egyptian society.
Coptic and liberal Muslim intellectuals say Islamist parties cannot claim victory yet with two more rounds of the election still to come. They are also divided, with the Brotherhood ready to cooperate with liberal parties but not the Salafis.
These intellectuals hope the liberal Egyptian Bloc can win enough of the final vote to be a decisive player in parliament.
If that fails, they are already contemplating Plan B — forge a working relationship with moderate Islamists — said Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of Orthodox Coptic newspaper Al-Watani.
"We have to be prepared for the day (when) we must make up our minds," Sidhom told Reuters. "Will we be satisfied with any sort of opposition, whether weak or strong, or can we take a step forward to working with each other?"
Even if the Brotherhood consolidates its first-round success, he said, its desire to appear like a government-in-waiting might ensure its more moderate wing prevails.
"They know they cannot honor the responsibility that has been bestowed upon them by the people by only preaching Islamic beliefs and a fundamentalist Islamic way of life," he said.
Brotherhood officials say they want to build a modern, democratic state based on sharia, the Islamic code of morals and law. Its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) speaks of spreading the values of sharia, while insisting that followers of other faiths would be governed by their own laws on religious matters.
While some Copts say Egypt is turning into an Islamic theocracy like Iran, others say this comparison to the Shia revolution there four decades ago is alarmist and unsuited to a traditional Sunni country in the era of Facebook and Twitter.
"We are betting on Egyptian society's vigilance and instincts that have always been against extremism," said Gamal Eid of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.
Copts have long complained of discrimination in the job market and before the law, and have reported problems getting licenses to build churches.
Such grievances spilled over into street violence in the months before Mubarak's overthrow and up to 23 people were killed by a Jan. 1 blast at a church in Alexandria.
Occasional clashes have erupted since the uprising and at least 25 people died in October when Christians clashed with military police in central Cairo.
If the Brotherhood opts to cooperate with the Salafis in the new parliament, they could make life harder for Copts, Eid said.
"They could, for example, find it hard to get hired in certain posts or get promoted and we could also see a narrowing of the space given to Christians to publicize their feasts and celebrations in state media," he said.
Church accused of silence
While fearing second-class status under an Islamist government, some Christians say Muslims could be bigger losers.
"I think the moderate Muslims will be harmed more than any other group under Islamic rule as they could find themselves forced to abide by rules that they do not necessarily want to follow," said Christian rights activist Mamdouh Ramzy.
Some Christians criticize their religious leaders for avoiding direct confrontation with the Islamists.
"The church is so silent," said Fahim, the film critic. "I saw a priest on an Egyptian Christian channel hosting an interview with a Salafi leader. It kind of implied that the church is sending a message to people to calm down and accept the result — accept to be ruled by Islamic laws."
Church leaders were reluctant to speak on the record as they feared stoking tension with Muslims who voted for Islamists, but said they were worried by the Brotherhood's mixed messages.
"The Muslim Brotherhood's leaders were not very clear about their plans," said a senior official in the Coptic church.
"Shortly after the uprising, they said they wanted a civil state, then they said a civil one based on Islamic laws and now they say they want a modern Islamic state. All this is so confusing and worrying."
The Muslim Brotherhood says Christian fears about an Islamist parliament are unfounded, adding that all Egyptians, regardless of religion, should be respected as citizens.
Such assurances left the church official skeptical.
"I feel we are heading towards a dark tunnel and we don't know what waits at the end," he said. "But at the end, I think we will make it through. I know many Muslims are not happy with Islamists winning in the parliament vote." –Additional reporting by Tom Pfeiffer.

Clic here to read the story from its source.