Tag Archives: Mohamed Morsi

Arab Discrimination against Christians Must Stop

By Michael Curtis

Now is the winter of Christian discontent in Arab Middle Eastern countries. In all those countries, Christians have been suffering a sad fate: killings; torture; rape; abduction; forced conversion to Islam; seizure of homes and property; and bombings of churches, Christian institutions, and schools, and Christian businesses. All too many well-meaning individuals and group have swallowed the fallacious Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood in the contemporary Middle East and fail to recognize that the Christians living there are the real victims.

It was fitting that Pope Francis on December 26, 2013 urged people to speak out about the discrimination and violence that Christians were suffering; “injustice must be denounced and eliminated.” For some time the puzzling question has been why human rights groups, non-governmental organizations, and mainstream Western churches have been so completely or relatively silent on the issue of the persecution of Christians, individuals, and groups rooted in their societies and loyal to them.

On December 10, 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.” In the Arab countries today, this worthy principle does not apply to Christians or to Jews. The world is aware that since 1948 Jews have almost completely departed from those countries and only a small number remain. It is less aware that Christian communities, many living in fear, have also been leaving or fleeing or forced to leave their countries. With 12.8 million (3.8% of the total population) estimated in the whole Middle East region, those communities now constitute less than 1% of the world’s Christian population.

Even the figures reported in the mainstream Western media of Christians in Arab countries are wildly overstated. The Pew Research Center report of December 2011, corrected February 2013, on Global Christianity provides what appears to be an objective statistical summary of present reality. Taking just three of the countries in the report, the estimates are as follows. Egypt has a Christian population of 4.2 million (5.3% of the population) ; Syria has 1.0 million (5.2%); and Iraq 270,000 (0.9%). Of these 43.5% are Catholics, 43% are Orthodox, and 13.5% are Protestant.

These figures have to be put into the context of the history of the Middle East. The Christians suffering today are the descendants of the oldest Christian communities in the world. In the early years of Islamic rule, Christian scholars and doctors played a considerable role in the life of Middle East countries. Monks translated medical, scientific, and philosophical texts into Arabic. But for four centuries, until the early 16th century, Christians were persecuted and massacred. Under the Ottoman Empire from that point on Christians, as well as Jews, were treated as second-class citizens.

Persecution of Christians in the Islamic Middle East has intensified in recent years, and the fear now is that Christianity may be becoming extinct in the area where it has existed for two millennia. They are criticized, absurdly, as Crusaders, or as colonialists associated with the West, or as infidels. The exception, and the only country in the area where Christians possess full religious rights and can exercise them, and have increased both in absolute number and proportion of the population, is Israel. There they have grown from 34,000 to 158,000. In contrast, the number of church buildings in Iraq, once 300, is now 57. The 1987 census in Iraq, the last one taken officially, counted 1.4 million Christians; it is now about one-fifth that number.

It is a poignant commentary that this Christmas period should have witnessed attacks and outbreaks of hostility against Christians. These were particularly violent in Iraq where the Assyrians, whose descendants are now part of the Assyrian Church of the East, are said to have adopted Christianity in the first century, and where the Chaldean Catholic Church dates back to the 16th century. Most of the Christians today are Chaldeans, some of whom still speak the old language of Aramaic; they are Eastern rite Catholics who recognize the Pope’s authority but remain autonomous from Rome.

Iraq already has been the scene of killing of the Archbishop of Mosul in 2008, the kidnappings of clerics in 2005 and 2006, and attack on a Catholic Church in Baghdad in 2010 and an outdoor market that killed 58 people. An Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda termed the 2010 attack as involving a “legitimate target.” In Christmas 2013 there were further senseless terrorists actions, especially against Christians. These included three bombings in Christian areas, including a car bombing in the Dora section of Baghdad as worshippers were leaving the Christian service; 38 were reported killed.

Egypt is embroiled in its internal hostilities between the military group now in control and the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and armed jihadists and supporters of the deposed President Mohamed Morsi, that have killed hundreds of people and led to the imprisonment of thousands. Though Egyptian Coptic Christians are not central to this conflict, they have been persecuted. It is true that Copts were largely sympathetic to the overthrow of Morsi. It was perhaps also impolitic for the Coptic Pope Tawadros II to appear on television with General Abdel Sisi, who removed Morsi from office. Yet these did not justify the savage attacks by Islamists against the Orthodox Christian Copts.

Since the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, more than a hundred Christians have been kidnapped. So far in 2013, the Islamist violence in Egypt resulted in more than 200 churches attacked and 43 totally destroyed. In addition, discrimination and violence has been frequently exercised against homes and businesses of Christians who feel imperiled. One Coptic Church in Minya province that had stood for a hundred years was burned. The Church of the Archangel Michael, outside of Cairo, was burned in August 2013.

Resolutions and calls for action in Middle East affairs are now frequent. Perhaps the call that is most urgent today is for the protection of Christians who should be accorded equality in law and culture in Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East. The mainstream churches and the groups purportedly interested in human rights ought to heed the plea of Pope Francis.

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.

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Hamas: Proud to belong to MB school of thought

Map of Gaza locating areas affected by cross-border violence between Israel and Palestinian rebel groups

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson, on Thursday commented on the Egyptian government’s ban of the Muslim Brotherhood by saying that Hamas is proud and honored to belong to the Brotherhood school of thought.
He said that those who criticize Hamas for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood should stop doing so because Hamas is fond of it.
“We are an Islamic Palestinian resistance movement that defends all of Palestine and the pride and dignity of the Arab and Islamic nation as a whole,” he added. “But, certain parties are trying to drag us away into tensions that we have nothing to do with.”
The Egyptian government on Wednesday declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization and banned its demonstrations. It also held the group responsible for the bombing of the Mansoura Security Directorate on Tuesday, which left 16 people dead.
“The siege and the constant media campaign against us will not undermine us or the brave Palestinian people,” he added. “We will not be dragged into tensions that only serve the Israeli enemy.”
The Egyptian army said on Wednesday that it allegedly foiled an attack by Hamas in Northern Sinai, where attacks have intensified since the ouster of Mohamed Morsy in July. Hamas denied it was responsible for the attack.
Edited translation from MENA

Scandalous Fatwas in Egypt

by

brothReprinted from Gatestone Institute.

As the full ramification of the Muslim Brotherhood’s year in power continues to be exposed, a new study by Al Azhar’s Fatwa [religious opinion] Committee dedicated to exploring the fatwas, or Islamic decrees, issued by the Brotherhood and Salafis—the Islamists—was recently published.

Al Azhar, in Cairo, is considered by many to be one of the oldest and most prestigious Islamic universities in the world.  The study, written by Al Azhar’s Dr. Sayed Zayed, and entitled (in translation), “The Misguided Fatwas of the Muslim Brotherhood  and Salafis,” reveals a great deal about how Islamists view women.

The Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm summarized some of the Al Azhar study’s main findings and assertions on November 15 in a report entitled (in translation), “Muslim Brotherhood fatwas: A woman swimming is an ‘adulteress’ and touching bananas is ‘forbidden.’”

According to the report, “fatwas issued by both groups [Brotherhood and Salafis] regard women as strange creatures created solely for sex. They considered the voices of women, their looks and presence outside the walls of their homes an ‘offence.’ Some went as far as to consider women as a whole ‘offensive.’”

The study addressed 51 fatwas issued during the rule of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Among them, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis “permitted wives to lie to their husbands concerning politics,” if the husband forbids her from being supportive of the Islamists or their agenda; she may then, through taqiyya [dissimulation] a Muslim doctrine that permits deceit to empower Islam, still be supportive of the Islamists while pretending to be against them.

The study similarly revealed that some of these fatwas decreed that women who swim in the sea are committing “adultery”—even if they wear a hijab: “The reason behind this particular fatwa, from their point of view, is that the sea is masculine [as with other languages, Arabic nouns are gender specific, and “sea” is masculine], and when the water touches the woman’s private parts she becomes an ‘adulteress’ and should be punished.”

Moreover, “Some of these fatwas also forbade women from eating certain vegetables or even touching cucumbers or bananas,” due to their  phallic imagery, which may tempt women to deviate.

Other fatwas decreed that “it is unacceptable for women to turn the air conditioning on at home during the absence of their husbands as this could be used as a sign to indicate to neighbors that the woman is at home alone and any of them could commit adultery with her.”

One fatwa suggested that marriage to ten-year-old girls should be allowed to prevent girls “from deviating from the right path,” while another prohibited girls from going to schools located 25 kilometers away from their homes.

Another stated that a marriage is annulled if the husband and wife copulate with no clothes on.

These fatwas also sanctioned the use of women and children as human shields in violent demonstrations and protests, as these are considered jihads to empower Islam.

Even slavery was permitted, according to the study: “the people who issued these fatwas [Brotherhood and/or Salafi members] demanded the enactment of a law allowing divorced women to own slaves,” presumably to help her, as she no longer has a man to support her.

An earlier report (summarized in English here) listed some other fatwas issued by the Brotherhood and Salafis during Morsi’s tenure: advocating for the destruction of the pyramids and sphinx; scrapping the Camp David Accords; killing anyone protesting against ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (which happened and is one of the main charges against the imprisoned Brotherhood leadership); forbidding Muslims from greeting Christians; forbidding Muslim cab drivers from transporting Christian priests (whose clothing makes them identifiable); forbidding TV shows that mock or make light of Islamists; and forbidding women from marrying any men involved with the former Mubarak government.

Predictably, the Al Azhar study criticizing the Brotherhood/Salafi fatwas concludes by saying that only al Azhar, which styles itself as a moderate institution, is qualified to issue fatwas.  Of course, one of the most sensational of all fatwas—“adult breastfeeding,” which called on women to “breastfeed” strange men, thereby making them relatives and justifying their mixed company—was issued by Al Azhar, but later retracted.   And it is apparently this retracting that makes Al Azhar more moderate than the Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, the Salafis—who, in light of the Brotherhood’s ousting have become Islam’s standard bearers—continue successfully to push for strict Sharia interpretations, the very sort that justify the above fatwas,  in Egypt’s new constitution.