On The Backdrop Of Copts Fleeing Sinai, Egyptian Establishment, Al-Azhar Criticized For Helplessness In Dealing With ISIS, Discrimination Of Copts

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On The Backdrop Of Copts Fleeing Sinai, Egyptian Establishment, Al-Azhar Criticized For Helplessness In Dealing With ISIS, Discrimination Of Copts
By: C. Meital/MEMRI/March 13/17

Introduction
In recent weeks, there has been an escalation of ISIS attacks against Coptic residents of northern Sinai, which included the murders of at least seven Copts.[1] These attacks were preceded by an ISIS video on February 19, 2017, that included threats of attacks on Egyptian Christians, as well as numerous threats made by ISIS on social media.[2] As a result, over 200 Coptic families fled from Al-‘Arish to Al-Ismailia and other governorates in Egypt proper.[3]

President Al-Sisi and Egyptian regime officials were quick to stress that they were working to handle the crisis and assist the Copts. Al-Sisi said that the state is able to eliminate terrorism in northern Sinai and uproot it, adding: “The attacks on civilians in Al-‘Arish are a cowardly plot by evil men [meant] to destabilize the country, harm national unity, and create hostility. [It] reflects the desperation they have reached, after all their previous attempts to destroy Egypt have failed.”

Al-Sisi revealed that several months ago, he had opposed a plan to evacuate the residents of Al-‘Arish in order to deal with terrorist organizations there, saying: “Evacuating villages and towns is not easy. We have not and will not do it.”[4] He also stressed that the state is providing aid to Al-‘Arish residents who receive threats from terrorist organizations.[5]

Prime Minister Sherif Isma’il instructed all relevant elements to care for Coptic families that had left northern Sinai for Al-Ismailia Governorate.[6] Concurrently, a church in Al-Ismailia Governorate announced on February 24 that it had received all the families that had arrived in the area and was continuing efforts to assist them in coordination with state institutions.[7]

A statement by the Coptic Church said: “The Church condemns the ongoing acts of terror in northern Sinai against the Christian people of Egypt, [terror] that deliberately undermines our national unity and attempts to rupture our solid joint position opposing the criminal terrorism that originates outside Egypt… We believe that the [victims’] blood is precious to God and will cry out to Him in demand of justice. [God] will observe and pass judgment.”[8]

The Muslim religious establishment also issued condemnations of injustices done to the Copts. Al-Azhar condemned terrorism against them,[9] while Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said at a conference on citizenship at the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs that Islam instructs to defend Christians by force of arms.[10]

However, despite efforts by authorities, Coptic citizens complained that military and police forces are helpless to defend them and that these forces defend only themselves.[11]

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in northern Sinai, Gibril Ibrahim, stressed that the Copts demand to reinforce the Al-‘Arish police with increased army presence, adding that what is happening in the region is nothing less than war, with all this entails. He expressed confidence that joint action by the police and the military can restore security to the region.[12]

Additionally, the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, headed by Coptic lawyer Naguib Gabriel, held a conference on February 26, whose closing statement placed responsibility for the situation on the state and its institutions, arguing that extremist discourse dominates not only terrorist organizations but state institutions as well. The statement reads: “Copts still feel discriminated against by the political leadership [in Egypt], even though it spares no efforts to state that Copts are Egyptians and partners in the homeland, and that they share all rights and duties.” The organization also claimed that Al-Azhar was not working to reform the religious discourse, and that fatwas issued by its clerics still accuse Christians of heresy.[13] MPs likewise harshly criticized the government for its ineffective response to the crisis. In a February 26 parliamentary session, Coptic MP Emad Gad said: “Sinai is burning and the [helplessness of the] government paints the picture that this region lies outside state control and is instead controlled by ISIS.” He stressed that families left northern Sinai with no protection and with no government or governorate representatives present, and had to turn to the churches for help.[14] Other MPs demanded that President Al-Sisi don his military uniform and personally manage the crisis in Al-‘Arish. MP Mortada Mansour demanded that Al-Sisi, ministers, and MPs arrive in the area to alleviate Coptic fears.[15]

Similar criticism of Al-Sisi and the government was expressed on social media as well. Thus, for example, social media users launched the hashtag “Sinai Outside [Security] Coverage” to criticize the government for not taking care of Sinai like the rest of Egypt. Facebook users changed their profile images to ones with a yellow background symbolizing the Sinai sands and with a small map of Sinai in solidarity with its residents.[16]

Criticism of the president, government, Al-Azhar, and the military was also voiced in dozens of articles in the Egyptian press, which attacked the state’s handling of the crisis, on both the security and civilian levels. The articles claimed that the military’s actions in the Sinai were ineffective, some calling on Al-Sisi to don a military uniform and personally manage the crisis. Writers also blamed state institutions in general, and Al-Azhar in particular, for the state of the Copts, due to their disregard of the anti-Copt discrimination ingrained in Egyptian society and of Salafi incitement against them.[17] According to them, ignoring the Coptic disaster would worsen the security situation in all of Egypt.

The following are excerpts from several Egyptian articles on this crisis:

Fear Of Lax Response By Authorities And Criticism Of Al-Sisi’s Helplessness In Addressing The Crisis

The reports that Copts were fleeing Sinai led to several articles warning the country to not take this crisis lightly or be lax in addressing it. They also criticized the way the country’s leadership, headed by President Al-Sisi, was dealing with the crisis, and called on the president to come to Al-‘Arish and personally supervise the military’s anti-ISIS operations there.

Coptic Bishop Warns: The State Taking ISIS Attacks On Copts Lightly Will Harm All Of Egypt

Coptic Bishop Angelos Gerges, a columnist for the official Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, warned in a February 26 article that Copts feel oppressed and deprived, and called on the state to act fiercely and decisively against those who harm them, for failing to do so would jeopardize all of Egypt. He wrote: “The events in Al-‘Arish are extremely serious and deal a death blow to national unity. Staying silent and ignoring them could cement a situation that would leave rifts [in the national unity] that will be very hard to mend in the future… The [terrorists’] goal here is not to harm Christians per se, but rather to harm the country’s prestige and create an atmosphere of sectarian [tension]… In the army’s and the people’s war against these armed terrorist groups, we have grown used to them appearing suddenly in order to murder [people] or blow [things] up. However, the danger lies in them entering the city, threatening Copts, and imposing their own law in Al-‘Arish that forbids Christians from living there. If they succeed in this, it will repeat itself elsewhere, and thus they will attain supremacy over the Egyptian state in other cities.

“I hope that the state deals with this situation with the necessary firmness in order to protect the unarmed civilians and break the image of control and power that these extremists wish to project to the outside world in order to redraft the equation of the war on terrorism – since the state’s power is embodied in defending its citizens… The greater danger is that Copts often feel oppressed and deprived in [this] homeland, [although] they have done everything and have suffered greatly throughout history for the sake of its security and exaltation and are still suffering… Failing to fiercely combat these extremists will harm not only the Copts, but all of Egypt. We must fight these destructive, racist, and sectarian ideas that create schism and division in the homeland. Building the homeland is not [measured] only by projects and cities, despite their importance, but also by kindling light in the darkness where the benighted bats hide who wish to declare a state of permanent darkness… I am warning here of the danger of staying silent or taking these events lightly.”[18]

Board Chairman Of Egyptian Daily: President Al-Sisi Should Lead Efforts To Solve Copt Crisis In Sinai Muhammad Amin, chairman of the board of trustees for the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, claimed in an article that it would be a crime to remain silent in the face of these events, and even implicitly criticized President Al-Sisi for failing to immediately don his military uniform and personally manage this important campaign. He wrote: “… Where is the prestige of the state that the president discussed two days ago when speaking to cadets at the police academy?! … Where is the state? Why did [the Copts have to] migrate in the first place? Why do the state security apparatuses and the local authorities put up with this sort of thing? How could the president accept the [Coptic] exodus?… Does he have a plan [of action]?… Has he taken a decision to manage the war himself? In truth, many of those outraged [at the events] assumed that the president would personally come to Al-Ismailia to manage the campaign [against ISIS] from the Second Army headquarters, if not from Al-‘Arish itself – for this is the moment when the state’s prestige is revealed…

“This is the moment for Field Marshal Al-Sisi to don his military uniform; this is the moment [for him] to lead the forces in his military attire. This is exactly the essence of the power we gave him. Mr. President, do you remember the day that we empowered you to combat terrorism? That empowerment was not just in order to hunt the terrorists in their lairs, but also to guarantee [the safety] of Egyptians from terrorist plots, racist discrimination, and ethnic cleansing. [It would be] a great crime if we remain silent over what happened, since it has grave implications! …

“We cannot accept the idea of emigration or think that the Copts in Al-Ismailia are guests. The Copts are not guests – they have rights in their homeland… We cannot remain silent in light of [the attempts] to terrorize them… I wonder – who guarantees that this won’t happen [again] in Al-‘Arish and later elsewhere as well, from Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid to Bir Al-‘Abd? Who guarantees that this is not the start of a calamity here or there? … We must not allow the [Coptic] Egyptians to feel like strangers in their homeland, for any reason! We must not take what happened in Al-‘Arish lightly. The intimidation [of Copts] by ISIS is reason to declare war [on ISIS]…”[19]

Conversely, Makram Muhammad Ahmad, former head of Egypt’s journalists’ union and a leading columnist at the daily Al-Ahram, claimed that the problem of terrorism could not be solved by having the president personally command the campaign against it, but rather by returning the Copts to Sinai in defiance of the terrorist groups. He wrote: “I don’t think our problem with the terrorist can be solved by having President Al-Sisi don his military uniform in place of a civilian suit, or having him come to Al-‘Arish to personally command the assault against the remnants of these organizations… I believe that the return of these families to Al-‘Arish as soon as possible, after fortifying their homes, is a real [act of] defying the remnants of these terrorist organizations and clear proof of restoring Egypt’s prestige…”[20]

Egyptian Writers: Military Activity In Sinai Is Ineffective; ISIS Operates Freely There

Several writers criticized the fact that ISIS has gained a foothold in Sinai despite security forces activity there in recent years. They argued that the functioning of state apparatuses in Sinai and the military’s methods of combating ISIS there are ineffective, and called to revise them.

Editor Of Egyptian Daily: The Conduct Of The State And Its Apparatuses In Sinai Encourages Local Support For ISIS

In a February 28, 2017 article, ‘Imad Al-Din Hussein, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian daily Al-Shurouq, argued that despite efforts by Egyptian security forces to target terrorists, ISIS still operates freely in Sinai. According to him, the state’s disregard for Sinai residents’ complaints causes some of them to grow close to ISIS, and in order to solve this problem, the state must act to restore the trust of Sinai residents. He wrote: “For many days, weeks, and months, we heard over and over again that Sinai would be declared free of terrorists. Now, after nearly four years, we are shocked to discover that ISIS was the one establishing its physical and ideological presence [in Sinai, as opposed to security forces]… We know that the security forces, the military, and the police invest immense efforts in defeating the terrorists, and we also know that they sacrifice their lives so that we can live in safety… All these efforts are appreciated… but it begs the question of how did the organization attain this level of lawlessness and thuggery? And how did we allow it to attain this level of barbarism?! Clearly, there is a real problem of lack of basic and specific intelligence regarding this organization among security forces, and it is also clear that the government has lost a substantial part of its popular support [in Sinai]…

“When some tribesmen in Sinai complain about the conduct of certain police officers and convene a large meeting… and no one cares, the result is another meeting in which they announce a rebellion involving not paying taxes, water and electric bills, and [bills for] other services.[21] In this case… It is vital for state [representatives] to sit down with them, listen to them, and solve their problems, and if there was an error, to apologize to them [as well]. [The state’s] refusal to acknowledge this mistake is what causes some of these people [in Sinai] to grow close to and sympathize with ISIS… The ultimate result is that the government loses popular support. [Furthermore,] ISIS is waging a guerilla war, yet we fight it using standard military methods. Have we considered changing our patterns [of action] and thought?! Have we pondered nonconventional methods that will send these terrorists and their supporters the clear message that they will pay a heavy toll [for their actions]? We need solutions that will restore the trust of Sinai residents [in the state], or at least the trust of most of them.”[22]

Egyptian Human Rights Activist: ISIS Is Establishing Itself In Sinai Because Lessons Were Not Learned From Middle East Tragedies

Similar remarks were made by human rights activist ‘Azza Kamel in an article in Al-Masri Al-Yawm. According to her, ISIS has managed to gain a foothold in Sinai because Egypt has not learned lessons from the tragedies afflicting the Middle East. She wrote: “Seeing the images of women, children, and men being banished, their faces full of fear and terror, I wondered: has the phrase ‘we will not become Syria and Iraq’ [which is often repeated by President Al-Sisi] become hollow and false? For [it seems that] no one learned [a lesson] from the tragedies of others or from near and distant history, and ISIS [continues] to entrench itself [in Sinai] by force, using the same methods it has used to harm Christians, Yazidis, and others in Mosul and other Iraqi cities…

“We want someone to tell us the truth about what is happening and why it is happening. Who is responsible for ISIS entering Sinai and taking it over? Is there a solution for this great disaster?”[23]

The State, Al-Azhar, And The Salafis Are Party To ISIS Incitement Against Copts
Some writers attacked the state institutions, including Al-Azhar, arguing that they not only fail to sufficiently combat anti-Coptic incitement by Salafi-jihadi elements but actually enable this incitement.

Egyptian Columnist: The State’s Silence Over Salafi Incitement Against Copts Empowers ISIS
Khaled Montaser, a columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, wrote on February 25 that the state’s silence over the incitement against and discrimination of Copts by Egyptian parties, or the fact that they are excluded from Al-Azhar university, empower ISIS. He wrote: “We must speak openly – the problem is not just the ISIS terrorist, but the people on the street or in the tribe who seem neutral, but many of whom are of a Salafi-Wahhabi character, [namely espousing views that] permit the blood, honor, and money of the Christian. [Thus, they] could conspire with the terrorist, guide him, and help him, or [alternatively just] ignore him and not alert authorities to his hiding place.

“The state’s silence in light of those who fan these flames and increase hostility [by means of] fatwas, which Muslims see as an important foundation of the religion, helps them to do so. The state is silent over [statements by Salafi preacher Sheikh Yasser] Borhamy, who openly says that Copts are infidels and must not be greeted [on their holidays] and that even a Muslim man who marries a Christian woman must not love her or express his feelings towards her.[24] The Egyptian Political Parties Commission views the [Salafi] Al-Nour Party as a civil party, and does not demand to dismantle it. The Interior [Ministry] still promotes traditional reconciliation meetings as a solution for barbaric crimes such as the torching of churches and the murder of worshippers there.[25] The government gives swift authorization for conversions to Islam, as though it is its duty to carry us to Paradise. The state still has a university [meaning Al-Azhar] that accepts only Muslims, not just to the Islamic studies [faculty] but to medicine and engineering studies [as well]. All these phenomena serve as a bridge for ISIS to pass over safely and even in ecstasy, with the help of their conspirator supporters…”[26]

Egyptian Poet: Al-Azhar Refuses To Proclaim ISIS Heretical, Thus Helping The Organization
Fatma Naout, an Egyptian poet and columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, wrote on February 26 that the Al-Azhar institute, which refuses to proclaim ISIS heretical, leads some Sinai residents to sympathize with and assist the organization.[27] She wrote: “Where do the ISIS monsters hide, and why is it so difficult for our security personnel to discover them in the groves of Al-‘Arish and the mountain caves? Rocks are not their shield – unfortunately, people are.

“This is one of the most difficult moments in the history of Egypt – the mind cannot grasp what the ugly ISIS monster is doing to the Christian Copts in Al-‘Arish right now. This lowly, satanic monster wants to cement its barbaric image in the global collective consciousness, [because] this is the only thing it has with which to proclaim its existence… However, [despite this,] the honorable Al-Azhar does not proclaim them heretics or exclude them from the fold of Islam [i.e., proclaim them apostates]. How and why is this the case? Because Al-Azhar does not level accusations of heresy at someone who has recited the two testimonies,[28] God forbid, no matter how much they have murdered, burned, raped, usurped, stole, or harmed Allah’s image… Therefore, the ISIS monsters find [people from among] the residents, families, and tribes in Sinai to help them, give them shelter, and hide them from the eyes of our soldiers and policemen. How can residents and families in Sinai help them hide and provide them with shelter in their homes? [Apparently] they see the ISIS monsters as Muslims according to an official ruling by Al-Azhar, which has the sole final say regarding the faith of Muslims, or their heresy or apostasy. Is it not time for Al-Azhar to realize that the magical staff that will bury terrorism in Egypt, defeat ISIS around the world, and defend the lives of Christians in Al-‘Arish is solely in its own hands? Issuing one clear and decisive fatwa proclaiming ISIS heretical will remove this human shield that provides shelter for the ISIS monsters…

“Oh, honorable Al-Azhar… By refusing to proclaim ISIS heretical, you make it the ‘brother’ of every Muslim in Sinai, the protégé of every tribal sheikh, and the son of every woman in her home. You, honorable Al-Azhar, without meaning to, have turned the ISIS [fighter] into a Muslim brother that it is one’s duty to assist, [even if he] sins, without condition or reservation, so long as he is a Muslim…”[29]

Cause Of Current Situation Is Discrimination Of Copts, Which Is Ingrained In Egyptian Society
In an attempt to trace the roots of the current crisis, Egyptian writers also discussed the sectarian discrimination ingrained in Egyptian society, which begins in childhood, with Christian kids being called names at school, but is also manifested in legal and institutional discrimination against Christians, such as discriminatory laws and the exclusion of Christians from certain government positions.

Egyptian Columnist: Discrimination Against Egyptian Copts Starts At School; Egyptian Society Needs To Be Reeducated
Al-Masri Al-Yawm columnist Fathia Al-Dakhakhni wrote in a February 26, 2017 article that Egyptians, who imbibe fanatical ideas and notions of discrimination from an early age, need to be reeducated. She wrote: “Luckily for me, or perhaps unluckily, I went to school outside Egypt and therefore never heard the question ‘Are you Muslim or Christian?’ or the [derogative names applied to Copts in Egypt, such as] ‘udhma zarqa [“blue bone”],[30] arba’a risha [“four feathers”][31] or Kufts [a distortion of “Copts”] until I came back to Egypt to complete my university studies. Although both my parents are Egyptian, neither of them spoke of these things at home, [so I never heard] these expressions until one day I happened to hear one of my younger brothers use them. He refused to eat the sweets that a Christian neighbor had sent us because she was a ‘blue-bone’ ‘four-feathers.’

“I pondered long, trying to understand how my little brother’s behavior could change this way although we had grown up in the same home. I realized that my parents’ closest friends were Christians, although this had never occurred to me before. I knew that I had grown up among Christian friends, and could not understand what had made my brother talk this way.

“The answer [turned out to be]: school. That’s where my brother heard these terms and learned that Christians are infidels destined for Hell. Worse than that, [he heard that] their food is disgusting and Muslims must not eat it. From that moment I started noticing the hidden signs of the fanaticism and sectarianism that exist in our society, whose leaders are always brandishing the slogan of unity and repeating the mantra ‘the Crescent lives alongside the Cross’…

“The problem will not be solved by laws, declarations or presidential decrees. Fanaticism in Egypt is a matter of education, so there is need to reform the education received by [the members of our] society, who are raised on the concept of discrimination against the other. [The change] must start in school – because fanaticism begins with religion classes that separate Muslims from Christians, so that the child discovers in his earliest formative years that there is an ‘other’ who is different and who must be shunned.

“The next stage arrives when some teachers secretly poison the children’s minds, [spreading] the racism and discrimination they [themselves] were raised on and treating the other as an infidel destined for Hell. The inculcation of racism continues in the mosque and [in interaction] with friends, until we arrive at the current situation…

“We must reconsider the proposals to abolish religion studies in schools and remove the religion clause from identity cards, change the culture of [our] teachers and punish those of them who teach our kids to be fanatics. We must also act to make [the principle of] citizenship, enshrined in the constitution, a reality and not just words on paper.”[32]

Copt Affairs Researcher: Copts Are Discriminated Against In Egypt; We Must Continue Struggling For Them
Criticism of discrimination against Copts in Egypt could be heard in the Egyptian media prior to the current crisis. Thus, for example, on February 19, the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’ published an article by journalist and Copt affairs researcher Suleiman Shafiq, in which he wrote: “…Copts face discrimination in three fields: The first – from the state – meaning legal discrimination. There are several laws that distinguish among citizens [solely] based on their religion. For instance, the law [concerning] Al-Azhar University, which is funded by all Egyptians, [but] only admits Muslims… [and also] the personal status law, as well as several bizarre [court] rulings that contradicted the civil law on child custody in cases of divorce or separation. [The latter law] grants custody [of the children] based on their age, but in cases where one of the sides converted to Islam, [courts have granted] custody of the children to the Muslim parent, regardless of their age.

“The second field where Copts face discrimination is… in appointments for top positions such as government offices, universities, and embassies, where Copts constitute no more than 2%. And there is no better proof [of discrimination] than the fact that there is not a single Coptic governor.

“The third field of discrimination is [harm] to [Copts’] public safety on the part of radical Muslim groups. From April 2011 to June 2012, and after Islamists won most seats in the People’s Assembly and Parliament and the ousted president [Muhammad Mursi] rose to power, 62 Copts were murdered, 914 were injured, and 30 churches were attacked… During Mursi’s term in office, 12 Copts were murdered, 613 were injured, and 12 churches were attacked, most notably the cathedral,[33] which was the first such attack in the modern history of the state. Since the ouster of the spy president Mursi on July 3, 2013 and until today, 14 Copts were murdered, 214 were injured, and 82 churches were looted or either partially or fully burned down. This is without even discussing [damage to private] property. If we examine the reasons for this, we will find that the cause is the spread of the culture of incitement to hatred and disregard, such as a fatwa banning church construction that was published in the Muslim Brotherhood magazine in 1980, as well as 14 fatwas by Dr. Yasser Borhamy that show contempt towards Christianity…”[34]

*C. Meital is a research fellow at MEMRI.
[1] It should be mentioned that tension between Muslims and Copts in Egypt is not new, and there have been many interreligious clashes in the country over the years. For more, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 646, Rising Tensions between Muslims, Christians in Egypt, November 15, 2010; and Inquiry & Analysis No. 693, In Egypt, Muslims’ Attacks on Copts Increase, June 1, 2011. In order to alleviate these tensions, a law was passed in August 2016 that regulates the activity of Churches in Egypt as part of the efforts to cement Christian religious rights in the country. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1273, Egyptian Regime Approves Church Construction Law, Satisfying Coptic Church; Interfaith Conflict Continues, October 6, 2016.
[2] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1301, Copts Flee Sinai Amid ISIS Campaign Of Murder, Threats, February 27, 2017; and MEMRI JTTM report In New Video, ISIS Threatens To Increase Attacks On Copts, February 20, 2017.
[3] Al-Watan (Egypt), February 26, 2017; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 27, 2017; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 1, 2017; Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’ (Egypt), March 5, 2017.
[4] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’ (Egypt), February 28, 2017.
[5] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 27, 2017.
[6] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 27, 2017.
[7] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 26, 2017.
[8] Aswatmasriya.com, February 24, 2017.
[9] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 26, 2017.
[10] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), March 5, 2017.
[11] Rassd.com, February 26, 2017.
[12] Al-Watan (Egypt), February 25, 2017.
[13] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 28, 2017.
[14] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 26, 2017.
[15] Rassd.com, February 28, 2017.
[16] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 2, 2017.
[17] It should be mentioned that this criticism of Al-Azhar is not new, and that several articles in recent months criticized the institute’s conduct with regard to terrorist organizations. For more, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6585 ‘Al-Ahram’ Columnist: Despite Al-Sisi’s Call For Revolution In Religious Discourse, Al-Azhar Scholars Continue On Their Extremist Path, August 24, 2016.
[18] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 26, 2017.
[19] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 25, 2017.
[20] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 1, 2017.
[21] On January 13, the Egyptian Interior Ministry announced that security forces had killed ten youths from Al-‘Arish who were suspected members of ISIS. See Arabi21.com, January 13, 2017. The announcement sparked fury and outrage among local residents, who held protest meetings and decided on a civil rebellion that included refusal to pay taxes and other utility bills. Rassd.com, January 15, 2017; Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), February 9, 2017.
[22] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), February 28, 2017.
[23] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 27, 2017.
[24] There have been several reports on anti-Coptic incitement by Salafi Sheikh Yasser Borhamy, vice president of the Salafist Call movement in Egypt. For example, following the deadly December 2016 attack on a Church in Cairo, Borhamy claimed that the Copts murdered in the attack were not martyrs. Al-Watan (Egypt), December 18, 2016. Borhamy has also been sued for incitement against Christians. Al-Watan (Egypt), December 17, 2016. After he issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims to greet Christians on their holidays, Dar Al-Iftaa, Egypt’s institution for religious rulings, ruled that greeting them was in fact permissible, and the Deputy Sheikh of Al-Azhar, ‘Abbas Shuman, published an article with a similar argument. Far-alifta.com, December 27, 2016; Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’ (Egypt), December 30, 2016. For more on fatwas issued by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Front forbidding to greet Christians on their holidays, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No.5293, In Advance Of Orthodox Easter In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood And Salafis Issue Fatwas Forbidding Greeting Copts On Their Holidays, May 2, 2013.
[25] The reference is to reconciliation committees comprising representatives of the Muslim and Coptic communities that meet to resolve conflicts between these communities in Egyptian villages, as an alternative to resolving them in court. This practice has come under fire from Egyptian Copts and others, who stated that these meetings are aimed at dropping the charges against Muslim aggressors while persuading the Coptic victims to give up their rights and even to leave their villages. For a 2015 incident in Beni Suef in which Coptic families were evicted from their village, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No.6097, Expulsion Of Coptic Families From Their Homes Sparks Uproar In Egypt, July 8, 2015.
[26] Al-Watan (Egypt), February 25, 2017.
[27] For more, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5910 Al-Azhar: The Islamic State (ISIS) Is A Terrorist Organization, But It Must Not Be Accused Of Heresy, December 21, 2014.
[28] Meaning the two testimonies of faith a person recites upon accepting Islam: “There is no God but Allah” and “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
[29] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 26, 2017.
[30] According to some, this epithet dates from the time of the sixth Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim (985-1021), who required Christians to wear a heavy cross around their necks. The chain, rubbing against the nape of their necks, painted it blue, hence the epithet.
[31] Apparently a reference to the cross that consists of four lines.
[32] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 26, 2017.
[33] This refers to the deadly attack on St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo in April 2013.
[34] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi’ (Egypt), February 19, 2017.