Fall of Mubarak and the fate of Copts
- By Jerry Gordon
There is increasing concern over the fate of Egypt's minority Coptic Christians who have been attacked by Muslim fanatics as in the case of the Alexandria church New Year Eve bombing that killed 20 persons and seriously injured more than 100. Further, Muslim elements have also prevented churches from being built and engaged in forcibly converting Coptic young women.
I queried Mary Abdelmassih of the AINA news agency on what she has heard. She responded in an email last night:
There does not seem to be any threats to the Copts at the moment. Everyone is busy fighting to get that everlasting despot out. The Muslims and Copts are out together to fight him. Mind you it was always the security force that was inciting the Islamists to attack us promising them that they will literally get away with murder. It will be God-sent if we could get rid of him [and] 30 years of misery for us.
Others are not so sure. Witness these conflicting comments from Copts interviewed by The Daily Caller in an article, "Fate of Coptic Christians in Post Mubarak Egypt Worries Some;"
"The Coptic problem is that of pressure on a minority, intolerance towards others and a lack of acceptance of pluralism. The more Egypt is influenced by the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, the worse it is for the Copts," Tarek Heggy, a leading Coptic intellectual, told the Italian press agency ADNKronos International last November while speaking about the Muslim Brotherhood's relationship with the Copts.
Although the Brotherhood condemned the New Year's Eve attack, many Copts, particularly outside Egypt, worry their situation could grow worse should Mubarak fall.
"The Copts I know are scared," said Amir Makkar, a Copt who lives near Lancaster, Pa. "It's a dangerous proposal with what is happening in Egypt because the problem is there is a lot of uncertainty and it is impossible to tell what is going to happen amid the chaos situation because anything could happen."
Makkar, who pays close attention to the happenings in his homeland, believes Egypt could have a chance for democracy if someone like Mohammed ElBaradei replaces Mubarak.
But Copts fear the possibility the Brotherhood could use its strong organization to fill a power vacuum left by Mubarak.
There would be a lot for the Copts to worry about should the Brotherhood come to power because they likely would establish Islamic state that would impose a harsh interpretation of Islamic law on non-Muslims, as has happened in other Muslim nations in the region, Makkar said.
Pope Shenouda III, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and other church representatives have called on Copts to refrain from participating, but evidence shows many Copts have ignored their church and have joined the revolt.
Washington Institute scholar Dina Guirgis, herself a Copt and an observer of Egyptian politics, cautions against jumping to alarmist conclusions about what could happen to the Copts should the Mubarak regime collapse.
Guirgis believes although the Muslim Brotherhood likely would play a part in a post-Mubarak government, it would not be the driving force.
Former US UN Ambassador John Bolton warned against believing that a Jeffersonian Democracy emerges in a post-Mubarak Egypt:
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton warns Egypt's ancient Coptic Christian minority could become increasingly endangered should the protests against Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak drive him from power.
The Copts, who constitute between 10 and 20 percent of Egypt's population and whose church traces its founding back to St. Mark the Evangelist, have been increasingly targeted by Islamic extremists in recent years and have suffered intense persecution.
Among the suggestions I presented was how to protect the Copts in Egypt. Not unlike the referendum in Southern Sudan this past month, I raised the possibility that Egypt might be partitioned between a Christian state composed of the 10 to 12 Millions Copts-descendents of the original Egyptians - and a Muslim one. I further suggested that Israel might provide a role, perhaps with US support, to provide technical training support for security forces for the proposed Coptic Christian state that would Coptic echelons from the current Egyptian Army.
The worrisome predicament of Copts and other Christian minorities in an increasingly hostile fundamentalist Islamic majority in Middle East countries suggests that we need some `out of the box' thinking, given the rising uncertainty of post- revolutionary outcomes in Egypt.