Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Persecution Of Christians In Egypt: A Coptic-Christian Leader Speaks Out

By JOSEPH PUDER, For The Bulletin
Friday, May 29, 2009
The American Coptic Association had planned a demonstration in front of the White House during the June 4 meeting between President Barack Obama and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which has been cancelled due to the death of Mr. Mubarak’s grandchild. Dr. Monir Dawoud, chairman of the American Coptic Association was therefore asked by this journalist to comment on what he had planned to say to both presidents. To President Obama, who plans to speak next month to the Islamic world from Cairo, Egypt, and who has made no mention of the human rights abuses committed against Coptic Christians and condoned by the Mubarak government, Dr. Dawoud, an Egyptian native, and retired heart surgeon from New Jersey, posed the following question: “Where is the change you promised during your campaign? Do you realize that by announcing that you will speak to the Islamic world from an Islamic country you are blessing the continuance of human rights violations against minorities in Islamic nations?” According to Dr. Dawoud, Mr. Obama’s emphasis on Egypt as a “Muslim” country is “depriving Egyptian Copts of their basic human rights, and this will give the Muslim Brotherhood and other fanatical and radical Muslim groups the license to force the application of Sharia (Islamic) laws upon them.”Dr. Dawoud pointed out that the Coptic community hopes “Obama will make the change he spoke of in his campaign towards democracy and not racism.” However, he is disheartened because attempts at outreach have been disregarded by Mr. Obama’s many Muslim advisors who seem to deliberately “hide the discriminatory actions of Muslim governments against Christians besides their injustices towards women, children, Bahais and other non-Muslim or non-Arab minorities.” Why, Dr. Dawoud asked, hasn’t the Obama administration hired people who would focus on the absence of rights among Christians and other minorities in the Muslim world?
Dr. Dawoud wants to sound an alarm about what he sees as the gradual Islamization of the USA, which he sees as part of a larger plan to Islamize the whole world. Speaking for the Coptic community he says, “They think that you (President Barack Obama) will let this happen because of your Islamic roots.”In a direct appeal to Mr. Obama, Dr. Dawoud says, “We know that you are an American President and that you will work for America and will not allow this country to become Islamic. We are not against any religion but we oppose the barbaric behavior of fanatic Muslims, and we do not want another 9-11 attack on our beloved USA. We encourage more aid to Egypt —but as taxpayers — we do not want our money to be used against our own people.” Dr. Dawoud then added, “We disagree with your bowing down to the Saudi King even if you consider that an individual gesture. It is an insult to our country albeit through your innocent behavior. The Muslim media used that to announce that Islam will dominate the world!”Joseph Puder: What would have said to President Mubarak?Dr. Monir Dawoud: “Mr. President, don’t you see what is happening to the lives of your Christian subjects, their properties and dignity? We know that you are unhappy that we are demonstrating against the violations of the human rights of the Copts and other minorities, but a peaceful march is part of our human rights in accordance with international conventions, and is also acknowledged in Egypt’s constitution. You cannot blame us for expressing our concern for our persecuted people.There is not a single case of Swine Flu in Egypt, and it is not spread through pigs. The destruction of pigs in Egypt is therefore an intentional way to crush the Christian community economically. It also confirms the deal you made with the Muslim groups to allow your son Jamal to become the next president, in return for actions to demolish the Copts.More than 50 Coptic-Christians were murdered while your government is appeasing the fanatical Muslims at the expense of Copts. Why do you not establish justice, security, safety and equality at home first? You are trying to make peace everywhere and forgot your duty to serve your own countrymen. No Muslim is punished for killing Christians, and young Christian girls are being abducted and forced to become Muslims. There are no leadership positions allowed for Christians at all levels of public life. Discrimination in jobs, education, media presentations and Parliament is an apparent fact.In today’s Egypt, many underage children are awarded to the father’s custody if he converts to Islam. The courts in Egypt apply these kinds of verdicts by relying on Sharia law, and that is one reason the Coptic community is angry.”JP: The plight of the Coptic-Christians in Egypt who number 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people is little known in America, how are the Copts, who lived in Egypt centuries before the arrival of Islam, being treated?MD: “The Copts real number is about 20 percent and the government never permitted an honest census. Indeed, we are the true Egyptian citizens as we are the descendants of the Pharaohs who had the first civilization more than seven thousand years ago!The plight of the Copts is little-known in America because of many factors. Most important is that the Egyptian media is owned by the government, which instructs them to hide the facts and bar foreign reporters from looking into the Coptic situation. Copts in the diaspora are trying to expose this reality but the Islamic nations use billions of petro-dollars to control the U.S., and all Western media. Also, many Copts abroad may be rich but are afraid to disseminate the truth about Coptic persecution in Egypt because they fear that their relatives in Egypt would be harmed. It is also the reason why no support has come from rich Copts for a strong Coptic lobbying organization.”Asked about religious freedom in Mubarak’s Egypt, Dr. Dawoud replied, “Yes, freedom of religion exists but only for one religion — Islam” “The second article of the Egyptian constitution,” he said, “acts as a sword applied against the necks of non-Muslims.” He provided examples of lack of religious freedom:• Copts are still governed by an Ottoman decree known as the “Hemayoun Line” issued by el-Ezzabi Pasha, the Interior Minister in 1860. It is applied to stop alleged sectarian strife in Egypt. This measure has served to prevent Christians from building new churches or repairing damaged ones.• Administrative courts in Egypt are loaded with over 2,000 cases of Copts who had converted to Islam and now seek to return to their original faith — Christianity. Appeals presented by Muslim lawyers refer to them as apostates and therefore subject to the death penalty. • Earlier this year, a Muslim mob of more than 3,000 attacked the Church in Ain Shams, Cairo, alleging that it was a factory and not licensed to be a Church. This kind of intimidation is sanctioned by the Egyptian government.The Copts have been marginalized, and there are only a handful of Coptic representatives in the Shurr’a council or the National Assembly. Dr. Youssef Botross Ghali was a token Copt in the Egyptian government.Given the substantial foreign aid that Egypt receives from U.S. taxpayers, all Americans — not only Copts — should demand that Egypt respect its Christian minority and that equality under the law, freedom of religion and basic human rights be guaranteed to the Christians in Egypt as a condition for continued U.S. support. When he is in Cairo next month, President Obama should be made to remember that.Joseph Puder can be reached at

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hamid Dabashi and Raymond Ibrahim debate “Islam and the West”

This is an excellent performance of our Raymond Ibrahim. Prof. Dabashi is much older but still, he was no match for Raymond's strong logic, vast knowledge of history and Islamics and sticking to the truth. Raymond crushed the professor.Many thanks to my dear brother George Sameul for bringing this debate to my attention
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute recently posted a video of a debate I had with Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi, entitled, “Islam and the West: Clash of Civilizations?” In part due to Dabashi’s adamant and passionate position, I consider this one of the more meaningful debates I have engaged in.
Intellectual successor to the late Edward Said, Dabashi, according to his website, is “Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York, the oldest and most prestigious Chair in Iranian Studies…. Professor Dabashi has written 18 books, edited 4, and contributed chapters to many more.He is also the author of over 100 essays, articles and book reviews in major scholarly and peer reviewed journals on subjects ranging from Iranian Studies, medieval and modern Islam…”
Prior to our debate, ISI took Dabashi and me to dinner. I found him to be an affable man, even if we went on to strongly disagree over any number of issues in our debate.
clic& watch vedio
"Clash of Civilizations"
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute recently posted a video of a debate I had with Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi, entitled, “Islam and the West: Clash of Civilizations?” In part due to Dabashi's adamant and passionate position, I consider this one of the more meaningful debates I have engaged in.
Intellectual successor to the late Edward Said, Dabashi, according to his website, is “Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York, the oldest and most prestigious Chair in Iranian Studies…. Professor Dabashi has written 18 books, edited 4, and contributed chapters to many more. He is also the author of over 100 essays, articles and book reviews in major scholarly and peer reviewed journals on subjects ranging from Iranian Studies, medieval and modern Islam…”
Prior to our debate, ISI took Dabashi and me to dinner. I found him to be an affable man, even if we went on to strongly disagree over any number of issues in our debate.

Christian Rage Because of a Book published by Cultural Authority Accusing Mallem Ya’qub of supporting the French Occupation

By Fathia Aldechacheny and Amr Bayoumi
The book ‘Mallem Ya’qub’ published by the Cultural Authority has raised a storm of anger at the Coptic Orthodox Church and many of the Coptic intellectuals. The anger arose due to the book accusing Mallem Ya’qub and his followers of building up a Coptic army during the French Occupation in Egypt to help the French army against the Egyptians.
The Chairman of the authority, Dr. Ahmed Mujahid, said that he phoned Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate, and asked him to clarify the authority’s stance to contain the crisis.It is worthy to mention that Mallem Ya’qub, also known as ‘General Ya’qub’, was born in 1745. He was well-known during the French Occupation when he built up a Coptic army at his expense. The book, which raised the crisis, mentioned that he fought with his army against the Ottoman Empire in Egypt.
Anba Rafael, the Pope’s representative, refused these accusations against Mallem Ya’qub confirming that he was a patriotic figure and he worked for Egypt’s liberation whether of the French or the Turkish occupation.
One of the Pope’s legal advisers, Naguib Gabriel, called for the confiscation of the book “as it represents incitement and intolerance against the Christians especially as it is issued by a governmental authority that issue its publications using the Copts and Muslims taxes.”
On the other hand, the Chairman of the General Cultural, Authority Dr. Ahmed Mujahid, sent a letter to Pope Shenouda stating that the book did not mean to offend the Copts. He pointed out that he also called the Pope who understood the authority’s point of view.
Mujahid told Al-Masry Al-Youm, “If the book has raised the anger of some Christians, I tell them we are sorry.” He said that the chief editor of this series, Osama Afify, is responsible for re-publishing the book stressing his ‘non-intervention’ in the chief-editors’ decisions.
On his side, Osama Afify said that he issued the book for the second time because the first edition, issued in the 1980s, has run off the market. He pointed out the present books ‘glorify Mallem Ya’qub extremely’ and he found that it was necessary to present the other point of view to the youth.
He noted that the book written by Dr. Ahmed Hussein El Sawi considered Ya’qub ‘as an Egyptian traitor not as a Coptic traitor.’ In addition, ‘it mentioned some of the Muslims traitors such as Murad Bey.’



Christians fear police coercing them to drop charges of Muslim attack on monastery.
ISTANBUL, May 29 (Compass Direct News) -

Police this month released two Copts wrongfully arrested for killing a Muslim during an attack on Abu Fana monastery in Egypt in May 2008, but then re-arrested them as part of an intimidation campaign against Christians, their lawyer said.
More worrisome to the Christians in custody is that their fate most likely will be decided outside of the justice system, in “reconciliation meetings.” The state prosecutor investigating the case has not announced the results of his findings on the true identity of the murderer, as he is awaiting the outcome of the out-of-court talks between Copts and local Muslims.Brothers Refaat and Ibrahim Fawzy Abdo have been incarcerated for a year. On May 3 the two brothers were released on bail, but the Minya State Security Services issued a new detention order and had them arrested on May 20 for “security reasons.” Egyptian security forces can incarcerate people without reason according to provisions in criminal law.
A criminal court in Cairo ordered the release of the Fawzy Abdo brothers twice, but each time the interior ministry issued another arrest order. Advocacy groups say the interior ministry is working with local police and the investigating officer to keep them detained, force a confession and make the Copts look guilty in the Abu Fana attack.
“Police arrested them for reasons of ‘security concerns’ in spite of no evidence,” said Ibrahim Habib, chairman of United Copts of Great Britain. “They are comforting Islamists by scapegoating Christians.”
The two men worked as building contractors on the walls of Abu Fana monastery in Upper Egypt when nearly 60 armed Muslim residents attacked it in May 2008. The attack left one Muslim dead and four Christians injured, and two of three monks briefly kidnapped were tortured.
Five days after the attacks, security forces arrested the Fawzy Abdo brothers, charging them with murder. In November they were sent to El Wadi El Gadid Detention Camp near the Egypt-Sudan border and tortured as authorities tried to extract a false confession of murder, their lawyer said.
Minya Gov. Ahmed Dia el-Din claimed the Muslim murdered at Abu Fana was killed by one of the brothers from 80 meters away. But the Coptic brothers’ lawyer, Zachary Kamal, told Compass that an autopsy showed a bullet fired from a short distance.
The two men have faced extreme conditions in prison such as solitary confinement and broken teeth from beatings, and they have not been allowed to see their families, who are undergoing extreme hardship. Refaat Fawzy Abdo has six children and Ibrahim Fawzy Abdo has seven; both Christians are the breadwinners of their households.
Reconciliation Instead of Justice?
Reconciliation meetings with area Muslims continue with the participation of Coptic businessmen, the diocese of Mallawi, a member of Parliament and attorney Kamal, all under the auspices of the police.
Such meetings are somewhat customary in Egypt, in which different parties come together to settle legal matters out of court. They carry a social purpose of restoring faith and communal harmony in the face of sectarian tensions.
Kamal said he was not opposed to a reconciliation meeting instead of normal judicial channels, but that terms of the discussion were unacceptable. Authorities want the brothers to admit to the murder of the Muslim and the Copts to pay compensation to the victim’s family.
“They want the Copts to accept guilt, but that means they will carry the blood of the victim the rest of their lives,” Kamal said.
Other Copts worry that the meetings are a substitute for administrative justice, and that police are using the brothers as a bargaining tool to force Abu Fana’s monks to drop charges against local Muslims and call off the investigation of the attack.
“The brothers are still held because they are being used as a negotiation chip,” said Samia Sidhom, English editor of Egyptian Christian weekly Watani. “The reconciliation efforts are to make the monks change their testimony. If they do that, the brothers will be released.”
Sidhom said that Coptic church leaders entered into negotiations with local Muslims and politicians and gave up their legal rights because obtaining justice in the Islamist-tilted Egyptian legal system is very difficult.
“Typically a Copt or their buildings are attacked, and the only way for the police to avoid punishing the culprits is through these reconciliation meetings, where the Copts give up any legal rights they have,” Sidhom said.
State officials, however, said the Copts are superimposing religious persecution claims onto a simple argument over property. The Minya governor said the attacks were not religious but were provoked by a long-standing land dispute between the monks and local Bedouins.
Whether the monastery attack started as a land dispute or not, the findings of secular rights groups revealed that in the course of the violence, attackers tied two of the kidnapped monks to a palm tree, whipped and beat them, and forced them to spit on a cross and give the confession of Islam, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Motives for the May 2008 attacks against the monastery, located 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Cairo, are still unknown. Coptic advocacy groups claim the attacks were motivated by growing hostility against Egypt’s Christian community.

Congressional Letter asks Pres. Obama to indict radical ideologies and human rights abuses

Friday, 29 May 2009
Congressional Letter asks Pres. Obama to indict radical ideologies and human rights abuses in his speech to the "Muslim World
May 28, 2009

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As you prepare to address the “Muslim world” on June 5th from Egypt, we ask that you remain mindful of the power of your words. You have the ability to inspire the countless individuals who wither under the control of repressive governments, encourage Middle Eastern governments to engage important issues, and remind the world of America’s commitment to protecting religious freedom for all people of faith, including Muslims. The Middle East has historically been a place of religious pluralism and cultural diversity. However, groups espousing extremist ideologies based upon Wahabbism and Khomeinism have marginalized and repressed both non-Muslim and Muslim women, youth, reformists, pro-democracy advocates, human rights activists, as well as ethnic and religious minorities. Groups such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, whose ideology is intent on dividing humanity between Muslims and non-Muslims, have killed countless individuals, including Muslims, in an effort to overthrow Middle Eastern governments and weaken other non-Muslim governments. Based on these facts, we urge you to call upon all governments to join the international community in declaring al Qaeda and the Taliban a threat to humanity, and urge them to fight these radical Islamists. We also ask you to urge Middle Eastern governments to relentlessly lend their support to the marginalized, weak, and oppressed segments of their societies by recognizing the universal importance of basic human dignity. In a recent opinion piece published in The Washington Post, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu proclaimed that “repression cannot be rewarded; the voices of those it has silenced must be heard as if the walls of their jails did not exist.” It must be made clear that the United States will stand with all those that are oppressed around the world, from the Baha’is in Iran to the imprisoned blogger in Egypt. Countless dissidents can attest that their lives improved when their plight was raised publicly by leaders in the West. The pressure put on the Egyptian government by Members of Congress and the Administration following the imprisonment of famed Egyptian dissident Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim helped lead to his eventual release in 2003, after almost three years in prison. We therefore ask you to raise the individual cases of dissidents that languish in the prisons, and others that face persecution, to assure them that they are not forgotten by the American people. We ask you to advocate for the region’s struggling religious minorities as is consistent with our own rich tradition of religious freedom. We ask you to call upon the governments of the Middle East to commit to defend freedom and democracy in pluralistic Lebanon, and to call for a stop to political assassinations and a disbarment of militias within their borders. We urge you to ask the Arab League to help the mostly Muslim population of Darfur, which is subjected to a genocide at the hands of a regime whose president is under indictment by the International Criminal Court. We urge you to ask them to help Pakistan in its war against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations. We ask you to call on the Organization of Islamic Conference to abandon its goal of imposing so-called “Defamation of Religions” laws which will repress reformists and groups seeking democracy in Muslim and non-Muslim societies alike.We urge you to ask the governments of the Middle East to commit to a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via a two states solution based on a mutual recognition between Israel and any Palestinian state-to-be. The starting point for this should not be Israeli concessions, but the recognition of Israel and its right to exist. Please remind your audience that while the international community is committed to help Muslim minorities around the world, including those in India, Russia, China, and the West, at the same time we must ensure that all other minorities inside the "Muslim world" are granted their basic rights. We urge you to ask them to discuss the root causes of what they call “Islamophobia,” particularly the rise of radical Islamist ideologies, which have generated tensions and violence worldwide among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We urge you to ask them to help Egypt fight the scourge of terrorism and stand by its own Coptic minority, often targeted by extremists’ violence. We urge you to ask them to speak out against radical Islamists all around the world and not condone their behavior with complacency. We urge you to highlight the contributions of the American people to ameliorate suffering in Muslim communities around the world. For example, the United States military saved countless lives in the hours and days immediately following the tsunami that ravaged Indonesia. Similarly, our military forces were the first on the scene to deliver humanitarian relief and medical treatment to Pakistan in 2005 when that country was hit by a terrible earthquake. In fact, your Administration recently announced $100 million in aid to provide relief to the Pakistani people who are affected by the effort to rout Taliban extremists in that country. These are efforts of which the American people can be proud, and which your speech could rightly highlight.Similarly, your speech can remind the Muslim world of U.S. efforts in the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts to prevent Muslim massacres and ethnic cleansing, as well as American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan which liberated 50 million people, mostly Muslim, from the jaws of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and the cruel violence of the Taliban terror regime.Mr. President, you have a great opportunity to engage and inspire Middle Eastern governments and Muslims around the world with your words. We urge you to consider including these important recommendations in your speech.Sincerely yours, ________________________ ________________________Frank Wolf John ShadeggMember of Congress Member of Congress

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mr. Obama in Egypt

The Washington Post

28 May 2009

Will he speak to a rising generation of Muslims -- or the autocrats who rule them? PRESIDENT OBAMA'S decision to deliver an address to the Muslim world from Egypt next week has raised expectations that are as varied as they are inflated. Many Arabs insist that the president should spell out a detailed prescription for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Others would like to see him distinguish mainstream Islam from the extremism represented by al-Qaeda. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, like other Arab Sunni autocrats, wants Mr. Obama to make clear that the United States will prevent Shiite Iran from gaining hegemony over the region.
Then there are the people across the Muslim world who feel wounded by Mr. Obama's very choice of locale. One of Egypt's foremost democratic dissidents, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, published an article on the opposite page in December urging Mr. Obama to choose Indonesia or Turkey, both modernizing liberal democracies, for his address, arguing that "democracy should be central to Obama's message -- and to his choice of where to deliver it." Mr. Mubarak's ruling party responded by bringing criminal charges against Mr. Ibrahim -- adding to a host of previous charges and an outstanding prison sentence that have kept the 70-year-old professor in exile since 2007.
On Monday, just 10 days before Mr. Obama's arrival, Mr. Ibrahim's conviction was overturned, and most of the charges against him were dropped. That -- and the release from prison in February of Ayman Nour, another leading democratic dissident -- spared Mr. Obama from the potential embarrassment of honoring a Muslim regime even as it was persecuting its most pro-American opponents. But Mr. Mubarak's concessions should not prevent Mr. Obama from raising human rights and democracy in his address. If the past decade has proved anything, it is that real partnership between the United States and the Muslim world will require the common embrace of values such as freedom of speech and religion, free elections, and the renunciation of torture.
So far the Obama administration has stoutly resisted that lesson -- partly because of a misguided reaction to the failures of the Bush administration. Yet if it chooses to uncritically embrace autocrats such as Mr. Mubarak -- as it has so far -- the administration will merely repeat the failures of earlier U.S. administrations, which for decades propped up Arab dictators and ignored their human rights abuses, only to reap the harvest represented by al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. It will accomplish the opposite of what Mr. Obama intends, by alienating a young generation of Arabs and Muslims that despises the old order and demands the freedoms that have spread everywhere else in the world.
Contrary to what Mr. Obama is being told by the likes of the 81-year-old Mr. Mubarak, that rising generation doesn't want to hear more rhetoric about the Middle East "peace process" or a jeremiad directed at Iran. What will inspire it is the news that a new U.S. president shares its aspirations for religious pluralism, secular education, more rights for women, a modern market economy -- and the right to elect a dynamic new leader such as Barack Obama. The president should speak to those Muslims -- not to the strongman who invited him.


In Lead-up to Mubarak's Visit to Washington, Egypt Attempts to Placate Coptic Diaspora

28 May 2009
The Egyptian government has recently taken steps to placate the Copts abroad, in the hope of precluding them from embarrassing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during his visit to Washington - which had been slated for May 26, 2009, but has been postponed on account of the death of his grandson.
Accordingly, Coptic Church Patriarch Shinoda III and President Mubarak's son Gamal both went to the U.S. to prepare the ground for Mubarak's visit. In addition, it has been observed that the Egyptian government press has been offering a wider platform to spokesmen for the Coptic community, both in Egypt and outside the country.
The current policy of appeasement vis-à-vis the Copts is also linked to the Egyptian government's decision to exterminate all pigs in the country as a preventive measure against the spread of swine flu. Since it is the Copts who raise pigs and run the pork industry in Egypt, this decision, taken even though not a single case of swine flu had been identified or even suspected in Egypt, was perceived by the Copts as a deliberate attack on them.
Coptic organizations overseas refused to heed the plea of the representatives of the Egyptian government and the Coptic Church to refrain from sabotaging Mubarak's visit to Washington. Instead, they prepared for a mass demonstration in front of the White House, to be held during a meeting between Mubarak and U.S. President Barack Obama. These organizations saw Mubarak's visit to the U.S. as an opportunity to voice their grievances, to increase the general public's awareness of the plight of Egypt's Copts, and to exert pressure to improve their situation.
Following is a review of recent developments in this issue, and excerpts from relevant articles in the Egyptian press:
Mubarak to the Coptic Diaspora: The Homeland Belongs to Us All
The Egyptian government's attempt to reach out to the Copts was manifested in the address to the Coptic diaspora, delivered by Mubarak in honor of Easter, which stated: "No one will be able to harm the unity of the Egyptian Muslims and Copts, who are the warp and weft of [our] noble and cohesive society in which everyone has full citizens' rights and believes that religion belongs to Allah, and the homeland belongs to all." Mubarak further stated: "As president of all Egyptians, I declare that we will not allow conflict to be stirred up between two parts of the [same] nation. We will take legal action against anyone who [tries] to do this, and Egypt will continue to be a safe homeland for all its sons, without fear of discrimination." [1]
Egyptian Government Emissaries Seek to Placate the Coptic Diaspora
As part of preparations for Mubarak's trip to Washington, several Egyptian emissaries went to the U.S. The Egyptian press reported that in February 2009, Coptic Church Patriarch Shinoda III visited the U.S., after the Egyptian government delegation sent to meet with Copts in Canada did not succeed in preparing the ground for Mubarak's visit. Sources within the Coptic Church reported that one of the purposes of the patriarch's visit was to plead with Coptic diaspora leaders to refrain from demonstrating or propagandizing against Egypt and Mubarak during the first Mubarak-Obama meeting. [2]
Also, the patriarch's office asked bishops overseas to arrange a fitting welcome to Mubarak in the U.S. and to refrain from protest demonstrations and rallies during his visit. In addition, the patriarch's office, in cooperation with the U.S. Coptic Church, plans to publish in the U.S. press announcements in support of Mubarak's visit to Washington. [3] Patriarch Shinoda even sent one of his senior aides to the U.S. to oversee the preparations being made in the Coptic community to receive Mubarak. Shinoda also told a bishop subordinate to him to instruct U.S. bishops not to participate in any protest demonstrations or rallies that are being planned by the Coptic diaspora, since the Church holds that any discussion of Egypt's problems and solutions must be conducted within Egypt. [4]
Furthermore, during his last visit to the U.S., Gamal Mubarak, who is the secretary of the NDP's Policies Committee, met with Coptic leaders in the U.S. in an attempt to resolve the problems of the Egyptian Copts, and thereby to prevent protests during his father's visit to the White House. [5] NDP Policies Committee member Dr. Muhammad Kamal stayed on after Gamal Mubarak's departure in order to continue rallying U.S. human rights organizations, research institutes, and congressmen to create a lobby on par with the one that currently represents the Coptic diaspora. [6]
Al-Gomhouriyya Editor: We Will Strive to Solve the Problems of the Egyptian Copts
The government's appeasement policy vis-à-vis the Copts has been reflected in some recent op-eds sympathetic to their plight, and in attempts by the Egyptian government to open the government media to representatives of the Coptic community. Egyptian MP and editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gomhouriyya Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim wrote in his daily column: "All my life, I've been surrounded by Christian friends. [As a child,] I watched our neighbor Umm George in Al-Abbasia care for the children of our Muslim neighbor Su'ad Mahmoud, who left them with her every day before going to work. Su'ad's children, Hassan and Ahmad, used to call Umm George 'auntie,' and their little sister 'Ismat called her 'mamma' [mother], since it was Umm George who had taught her to walk and talk - so that sometimes [the little girl even] refused to go to her real mother. It is these images from my childhood and youth [that made me] realize… that [our] homeland belongs to us all. There are no Copts and Muslims there, but [only] Egyptians…"
Ibrahim wrote that he wanted to devote a page in his newspaper to Coptic issues and the Copts' problems: "I call on all my brother Copts anywhere in Egypt to air on this page any problem that they might have encountered, and I promise that I will strive to solve it. These are problems of my homeland and not problems of Copts. It is important to offer a broad platform to assuage the qualms felt by some [Egyptians]. I call on all the educated Copts, [and] on Coptic journalists and politicians in Egypt, to openly voice their views on anything that they find objectionable - be it [related to their] representation in Parliament, government offices, and parties, or to [their] views on religion. It is preferable to have the Copts voice their opinions freely in our homeland, than for those opinions to be taken out [of the country], distorted, and used as bargaining [chips], and for the problems to be blown out of proportion…
"During Mubarak's rule, [Egypt's] Coptic brothers have been treated better than at any other time. But they expect more, and hope to achieve coexistence with their Muslim brothers in their lifetime. I dream of a day when an Egyptian will not be asked his religion, but only his profession. I dream of a day when an [Egyptian] citizen will not be asked to state his full name but only his profession. I dream that the national fiber of this people will again become fused, with no differentiation between Sunni, Shi'ite, [Greek] Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant…
"I reiterate that [the page in our paper for Coptic issues] will be not a Christian [page], but an Egyptian one, where the Copts' problems will be aired for the good of our homeland. More precisely, it will be a national page, since the paper where it will appear is a national paper. One of our basic goals is [to ensure] that the opinion of the Copts living abroad is not the only one [seen] in the media, and that they are not allowed a broad platform to raise agendas behind which stand [elements] well-known to us…" [7]
Egyptian Columnist Calls for Dialogue with the Coptic Diaspora
Columnist for the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram Gamal Zaida wrote: "A dialogue with the Egyptian state regarding the Copts' problems is crucial; it is also more effective than [all] the fuss raised by [Copts] in Canada, the U.S., and Western Europe about [the violation] of Copts' rights [in Egypt]… I believe that big changes in the lives of nations come from within.
"There are some fundamental problems related to citizens' rights, equality of opportunity, public offices, and non-discrimination at work which can be settled with the government['s help] through the enactment of a new law on the personal status of non-Muslims… These rights are relevant to most of the Egyptians…
"The recourse to a dialogue with [Egypt] taken by the Coptic diaspora is no more embarrassing than a return of sons to their homeland. The homeland is large [enough] to accommodate everyone, regardless of religion, skin color, or [ethnic] affiliation." [8]
Coptic Diaspora Organizations: We Will Demonstrate Worldwide
Coptic diaspora representatives, on their part, have decided to take advantage of the platform offered them by the Egyptian government press to air their grievances. At the same time, Coptic organizations in the diaspora have threatened to hold protest demonstrations during Mubarak's visit to Washington should their demands, which they submitted to Egyptian Ambassador to Washington Sameh Shukri, remain unmet - among them eliminating obstacles to the building and renovation of churches in Egypt and fair treatment of the Copts by Egyptian security apparatuses. [9]
The Free Copts organization called for worldwide demonstrations during Mubarak's visit to Washington, calling on Coptic organizations all over the world to greet Mubarak with a demonstration in front of the White House and not to heed Church representatives who have been trying to prevent the Copts from demonstrating in cities with a substantial Coptic population. The organization promised to provide journalists with proof of torture to which Egyptian Copts have been subjected in Egypt and, during the demonstration, to distribute leaflets and CDs with information on the persecution of Egyptian Copts, the destruction of their churches, and so on. [10] The organization also planned to release a documentary titled "Copts under Siege," dealing with the persecution of Copts in Egypt, and issued an announcement stating: "We will let the images speak for themselves, [revealing] the extent of suffering and deprivation of the Copts in Egypt." [11]
Coptic organizations in the U.S. and Canada have so far failed to respond to Shinoda's call. Their joint announcement stated that during Mubarak's meeting with President Obama, a six-hour demonstration would be held in front of the White House. [12] Further, Coptic organizations in the diaspora intended to send a message of condemnation to the White House, as well as to the U.N. and its Security Council, demanding that Egypt stand trial for violating the rights of its Coptic minority. [13]
Coptic Columnist: We Will Expose the Regime's Infamy
Coptic columnist Medhat Uweidha also derided the Egyptian government's attempts to placate the Copts: "The regime wants the Copts to keep quiet, surrender, and obey it without fulfilling a single one of their demands … The more games the regime plays to deceive the Copts, the more determined they are to hold a peaceful demonstration [during Mubarak's visit to Washington].
"Accordingly, we call on all the Copts in the U.S. and Canada to be ready to come out and greet Mubarak. All must shed the garb of fear and defeat and refuse to heed those who tremble [with fear] or the cowards who are trying to scare the Copts by laying out before them the consequences they will face if come to Egypt… As long as [blood] flows in our veins, we will not keep silent about the plight of the [Egyptian] Copts - [nay,] we will write and expose the regime's infamy. We do not fear the regime or its accomplices, since behind us is a great people, and we draw our strength from it…
"We are an integral part of the Egyptian people, [but] we have been deprived of [some of] our rights; we will go and demand them [back]. The regime has for a long time been unjustly complaining that we present our problems before foreign governments, [but at the same time, it maintains that] submitting our grievances to the Egyptian president would constitute a crime. If it is a crime to demand the restoration of the Copts' rights abroad, and if addressing this demand to the Egyptian president is [equally] a crime - what is left for us to do?... [14] [1] Al-Gomhouriyya (Egypt), April 20, 2009.
[2] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 30, 2009.
[3] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), May 6, 2009.
[4] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), May 10, 2009.
[5] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), March 11, 2009.
[6] Al-Yawm Al-Sab'i (Egypt), April 2, 2009.
[7] Al-Gomhouriyya (Egypt), April 26, 2009.
[8] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 22, 2009.
[9] Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), March 11, 2009.
[10], May 6, 2009.
[11] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), May 10, 2009.
[12], May 11, 2009.
[13] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), May 8, 2009.
[14], April 29, 2009.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Message to President Obama

Christian Copts of California

27 May 2009

Press Release

Reconciliation with the Islamic World is a Two-Way Street On June 4, 2009, Mr. Obama will be traveling to Cairo, the Egyptian Capital, to deliver a message to the Islamic world. The speech is expected to address ways to mend the differences between the Islamic World and the United States. The hope is for the speech to bring some kind of reconciliation between the two.The relationship between the United States and the Islamic world has suffered serious setbacks in recent years. The Muslim World has been voicing feelings of grievances against the USA. As a result many Muslim radical groups emerged with agendas opposing the USA. The groups perpetrated a series of major attacks against Americans and US interest worldwide. In 1983 the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was targeted, killing 63. Later that same year came the suicide bomber attack on U.S. marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 marines.
The Muslim Radicals dealt the USA a triple dosage of terrorism in 1996. The U.S. complex in Riyadh was bombed, killing 19; so were the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 223. They struck the USS Cole in Aden in 2000 and 17 American sailors perished. The culminating terrorist attack was on New York’s Twin Towers World Trade Center, on 9/11 of 2001. It was the worst terrorist attack against the United States in modern history. The Twin Towers were completely destroyed and about 3,000 Americans were killed.
Of course, it is crucial for the USA to listen to the Islamic World’s point of view. I hope somebody tells them it is equally crucial for them to listen to America’s point of view. Historically the USA has done sufficient favors for the Muslim World to earn respect rather than such vehement hatred. Somebody needs to remind them the USA has been good to them. A large part of U.S. foreign aid has been going to Islamic countries. Recently, American soldiers protected Muslims in Kosovo against Christian Serbs.
Were it not for American technologies and ingenuity the vast oil reserves under the sands of the Middle East would have likely remained undiscovered and undeveloped. Without America, the oil fields of the Gulf Islamic States would go unprotected from outside aggressors. Ironically, some of such are neighboring Muslim nations. Somebody needs to remind the Muslim World that polite reciprocity for generous kindnesses shown is supposedly an Islamic custom.
Internally, Muslims seeking residency on USA soil have been welcomed with open arms. American Muslims enjoy the same freedoms, equality and justice every American citizen expects. There are no restrictions on their religious practices and they are free to expend efforts to convert as many Americans as they can to Islam. Mosques, Islamic centers and schools are freely built allover the country. Such freedoms are most definitely not offered to those of other faiths within the boundaries of the Islamic World.
An example is Egypt, the capital of the Islamic world, where Mr Obama has chosen to deliver his speech. Egyptian Muslims seeking to convert to Christianity or to any other faith are not permitted to do so. Christians need presidential decrees to build new churches and governor’s approval to repair existing ones.
There have been instances where Christians were arrested for praying in their homes without a permit. Egypt’s Christians number around 15% of the nation’s total population. Yet, they are represented by less than ½ % of elected parliamentary representatives. An imposed quota on some jobs limits the hiring of Christians to 2% or less. Many high ranking jobs are completely out of reach of Christians.
Mr. Obama: reconciliation cannot be separated from reciprocation. The Islamic World must not demand from us that which they are unwilling to retune to us and to extend to their own citizens of other religious. I hope you help them understand reconciliation is a two-way street.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Will Christian Copt in 'Honour Killing" Get Same Justice As Muslims?

26 May 2009
Christian Copt, Ramy Khella filed on 19 May 2009, a judicial complaint to the Court of Cassation, accusing the court assigned for his trial with prejudice against him. He also implicated forensics of impartiality. 'I am a victim of society, and the injustice of the judiciary. I am certain that the Court has the intention from the start to have me executed' said the 26-year old Ramy.
"How could it be possible that I was arrested on 8 October 2008, and the report was issued on 7 October ?! How is it possible to accuse my uncle Refaat of driving the getaway car, when he does not know how to drive?!" During the next day's court hearing pertaining to the judicial complaint, lead defense lawyer, Ashraf Ghobrial says that he was verbally insulted by one of the judges, Omar Elkamary, just for pointing out the irregularities in the police and forensic reports. The judge told him to HUSH UP! "Using the sound one uses to herd chicken away, we were like being in a court of roosters trying chicken, I have never witnessed anything like this in a court before!" Ghobrial said. In an interview with 'Katiba Tibia', a Coptic electronic site, Ghobrial said that he will file a complaint with the Prosecutor General regarding the behaviour of that same judge, who insulted him on 20 April 2009, when he wanted clarification from the forensics doctor regarding a discrepancy between his report and that of the police, to which the judge told him: "How low can you get?!"
He continued by saying:"Whatever verdict Ramy will get, the main thing is not to have a chamber set against him. We appplied for another chamber to be assigned for this case. If the judge Omar Elkamary cannot control his nerves and cannot 'stand' the accused and his defense team and has already made up his mind to sentence him to death, he is in no state to give a 'JUST' verdict!"
Ramy is accused of shooting on 6 October 2008, his sister Maryam and her husband Ahmed Saleh in the Amiriya area, east of Cairo. His sister who had converted to Islam two years earlier married the Muslim man Saleh and have an 18-month old daughter Nor. The husband died two hours after the assault and Maryam was injured in her left arm, which was later amputated. The toddler got some face injuries.
The prosecution charged him with premeditated murder, due to the conversion of his sister to Islam and marrying a Muslim man. His uncle Rafaat Khela was charged with 'accessory to murder', and both were imprisoned pending trial.
The circumstances of the case are disputed. The Arab media called it the 'Al Amirya Massacre', making this killing to be a premedidated sectarian crime which put an 'unhappy ending' to a romance between a Muslim man and a Coptic girl. According to the media version Maryam's family were so angry because she converted to Islam, that they killed her.According to Ramy, he went to his sister's home in an effort to get her back, having complained to their mother of her husband's treatment and wanted to come back home. He went to try and get her back in a car driven by a Muslim who had just returned from Pilgrimage and had a gun in his car used in celebrating this event. Anticipating the difficulty of his mission, he took the gun with him, meeting on the stairs his sister and husband. A scuffle took place between the two men and he made use of the gun. Maryam testified against her brother accusing him of previously stalking them.
On the first court hearing on 20 April 2009, Ramy's defense team dropped a bombshell in order to change the course of the case from being considered one of sectarian strife to one of honour killing, and gave proof with dates to back the case for 'honour killing'. According to the submitted proof, Maryam got pregnant outside of marriage and gave birth to a full-term baby less than 6-months after her marriage. This gave rise to feelings of hatred, jealousy and fear for the family honor taking full control of her accused brother Ramy and uncle Ra'fat Khella, according to the defense team.
"Mary was deceived by the sister of her deceased husband "Ahmed", she even provided them with the opportunity to commit obscenity together. Their daughter was born less than six months after her marriage," explained Ramy this week in an interview with 'Katiba Tibia'. "I could not bear being told that my sister committed indecency while I remain silent and not do something about it," he added. "I did my best to meet her and get her back, but was prevented by the police. I have asked more than once to meet with my sister, and requested the National Center for Human Rights to intervene, however, my plea was totally rejected, and the reaction was that the State Security assaulted my family because of this demand.
This killing caused Muslim anger which was fanned by the Media. During the funeral, hundred of Muslims lined the streets amid tight security. During Ramy's on site replay of the sequence events to the police, although it took place before dawn, Muslims held vigil and tried to attack him. When hindered by security over 1000 Muslims roamed the streets and tried to break into St. Georges Church in the area, but the police came and made the church safe.
Saleh's father told Al-Dostour newspaper, "I want justice for my son because he did nothing wrong. I am waiting for the government’s response, and if it does not give us our rights then it wants people to kill each other. The execution of the killer and his uncle is the only justice [I will accept]."
Honour killings are not particularly a Muslims phenomenon, they are a Middlle Eastern and South Asian phenomenon, that exist despite religious differences.
The crime of honour is not spelled out in the Egyptian penal code, however,as found by the Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance, article 17 was
usually used to reduce or waive charges against the perpetrator of honour crimes.
This loophole is sought out by most defendants which allows leniency for those who can persuade the court that their sense of lost honor caused them to act in an uncontrollable rage.
Many Copts are watching this trial with great interest, will Ramy get the same treatment from the judiciary as a Muslim committing an 'honour killing'? Are all Egyptians equal under the law? Some Coptic hardliners admire young Ramy and believe that if every Copt behaved like him, maybe Muslims would have to think twice before attempting to force Coptic girls to embrace Islam.

uk copts

Plea: Save Egypt's Christian Children From Forced Islamization

A letter addressed to Egypt's First Lady demanded urgent intervention 'to save the Egyptian Christian children from forced Islamization', was sent by Dr. Naguib Gibraeel, President of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization (EUHRO).
"The compulsory subordination of Christian minors to their converted to Islam fathers has a religious background and no legal basis whatsoever," stressed Gibraeel, who is an attorney and a Christian Copt himself.
The letter also criticized establishing rulings for a child's custody on the 'better religion' criteria as being incompatible with the concept of the secular state, and the judge in these instances disrespects the rule of law.
"How is it possible to deprive a youngster from the arms of his mother to live with his Muslim step-mother, while his own mother is still alive?" asks Dr. Gibraeel, "and this is being practiced in the 21st century in Egypt, while it does not happen in the least developed of countries."
Gibraeel criticized Family Courts' rulings to award custody to the father because he converted to Islam by saying: "Instead of applying the Egyptian custody law issued by the People's Assembly which, gives custody to the mother until the child reaches the age of 15 years, we find this law 'miraculously' disregarded once the father converts to Islam, and the custody is then removed from the mother and awarded to him."
The EUHRO letter points out that this is against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects the best interests of the child, recommending the child to be under the custody of his real mother.
In a lengthy letter which was delivered on May 13, 2009 to the office of Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, in her capacity as President of the Egyptian National Council for Motherhood and Childhood, EUHRO depicted the coercion, persecution and injustice with which Christian children are overburdened.
The letter argues that it is illogical to call for citizenship and the supremacy of law when these foundations are completely ignored 'once a father converts and coerces his minor child to change his name and religion, resulting in the 'social malady' prevailing among those Christian children.
"The youngster is not only taken away from his mother, but is also forced to change his name and religion following his father's conversion," Gibraeel explains, "he finds himself having two names and two religions; his name from birth and a religion known to his peers and teachers, in addition to another new name and a new religion in the official papers. He is, therefore, subjected to strange and random decisions by the Ministry of Education and the school authorities where he is forced to sit for exams in Islamic religion."
It is worth noting that Egyptian law is influenced by Islamic jurisprudence (Shari'a), which automatically awards child custody to whichever parent has the "better" (or 'more noble') religion and dictates "no jurisdiction of a non-Muslim over a Muslim."
Furthermore, the amendment to the Egyptian Constitution in 2007, inspite of a wide Coptic rejection, stipulates in its Second Article that Shari'a is the main source of legislation, leading to a serious deterioration in the 12-15 million Coptic population's conditions; relegating them to a de-facto status of second-class citizens.
The EUHRO letter also accuses the Ministry of Interior of forcing Islamization. "Tthere is no law or any legal basis in Egypt which stipulates that the minor has to follow the parent with the "better religion." It also called for charging with forgery its Civil Status Department's employees, who change the name or religion of a child due to his father's wishes, as no one has such a right except the concerned person (i.e. the child) himself.
Gibraeel asks Mrs. Mubarak why in the newly enacted Child's Law there was no clear clause ensuring that custody is to remain with the mother according to the 'marriage contract' in the event of religious conversion, until the minors come of age, or until their marriage at the age of 18 years.
Referring to Family Courts' rulings when the reason for giving custody to the Muslim father was given as "fear of the youngster frequenting churches, fear of knowing any other religion besides Islam, fear of eating pork and drinking alcohol" the EUHRO letter goes on to inquire as to the reason of perceiving Christianity as an 'inferior religion' while it is recognized as a divine religion in the Constitution.
"How is it possible to accept hurting the feelings of the Christian population with these judicial rulings? Would Muslims accept to have similar things said about their religion?" inquires Gibraeel of Egypt's First Lady.
Gibraeel stressed that should this issue not be resolved, the Christian mothers who are victims of these extremists' practices will stand in front of Mrs. Mubarak's office until the issue is resolved.
The letter concludes by Gibraeel emphatically stating: "I would like to know one thing so that I can put an end to my distress and with me the rest of the Christian population, are we a religious or a secular State? Are we governed according to civil or Shari'a law? If the latter is the case, we should therefore stop boasting in front of the whole world that we are a secular State and declare openly that we live in a Theocratic State."
By Mary Abdelmassih

Muslim anger ignites violent new response

Washington Times
By Iason Athanasiadis
Monday, May 25, 2009
Far-right-wing vigilantes burned a makeshift mosque in Athens over the weekend after Muslim immigrants in Athens attacked police with rocks and bottles over an incident in which a policeman reportedly defaced a Koran.
Although Greece has a history of political violence from radical leftists and anarchists, sectarian bloodletting represents an entirely modern phenomenon.
The latest incident began with a policeman who made an identification spot check on an immigrant from Iraq. When word spread that the policeman had ripped and stomped on the suspect's Koran, things got ugly.
Chanting "God is great" and waving leather-bound copies of Islam's holy book, about 1,000 Muslim immigrants demonstrated with a march on Parliament Friday.
When the crowd dwindled to about 300, remaining protesters began throwing rocks and bottles at police and smashing windows at a luxury hotel in central Syntagma Square, according to an account by the Associated Press.
Far-right-wing vigilantes replied over the weekend by setting fire to a Muslim prayer hall. Taken together, the incidents represent some of the worst sectarian violence witnessed in modern Greece.
A spokesman for the Greek police claimed that the policeman did not rip up a Koran, but a folded and glued sheet of paper containing unidentifiable writing in Arabic.
"The isolated and under-inquiry incident does not excuse rioting by individuals committed to damaging citizens property and seriously disturbing the citys social and economic life," said Christos Markogiannakis, the deputy interior minister. "The state will not permit such radical behavior."
Successive scandals have rocked the countrys beleaguered police force since a policeman fatally shot a teenage schoolboy in December, sparking two weeks of nationwide riots. Those riots, however, were not sectarian-based.
Unrest in Greece's community of Muslim immigrants is something new, analysts say.
"For so many years, they've been scared and defensive," said Takis Geros, a lecturer of anthropology of the Middle East at Panteion University. "To suddenly come out in broad daylight with their faces exposed and trash 75 cars indicates a massive change in attitude."
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Muslim Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia cross into Greece illegally every year from neighboring Turkey or by sea.
Social tensions have risen in recent years as the racial and religious makeup of this formerly homogeneous Greek Orthodox Christian country shifted to a multiethnic, multireligious society.
"Sometimes the humiliation is such that were made to feel by Greeks as if were not human beings," said Ejazulhaq Syed, a representative of the Pakistani community in Athens who has lived in Greece for 35 years. "But the violence [against us] had nothing to do with religion but with the bad economic situation and having too many foreigners in Greece."
Today, an estimated 1 million of Greeces 11 million people are foreign, and second-generation immigrant children are exposed to exclusionary practices by the educational system and labor market.
Attacks on foreigners by vigilante groups were on the rise before the Saturday incident, in which suspected rightists set the makeshift mosque on fire in the St. Panteleimon district of Athens, which is heavily populated by immigrants.
Five Bangladeshi nationals were reportedly injured.
Though legislation has been passed through the Greek Parliament to allow for the building of a mosque for Athens estimated 400,000 Muslim residents, construction has yet to begin.
Muslims worship in unofficial prayer spaces in rented apartments and stores.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Two Christian Copts detained for a third time under Emergency Law.

Two Christian Copts detained for a third time under Emergency Law.
Two Christian Copts, brothers Refaat and Ibrahim Fawzy Abdo, who were falsely accused last May of killing one of the militant Muslim raiders on the Abu Fana, Monastery, have been detained for a third time.
In spite of having been released again by a court ruling this month and the Ministry of Interior losing its appeal against this ruling, Minya State Security Services issued a new detention order, and the brothers were transferred back yesterday for the third consecutive time, to the New Valley detention camp. They were awaiting the implementation of the Court verdict to release them at the Minya prison.
"Each time the court rules in their favor, the State Security issues a detention order, to circumvent the courts' rulings, and sends them back to the New Valley detention camp, near the borders with Sudan," says activist Wagih Yacoub of the Middle East Christian Association (MECA).
"Why is the State Security adamant to detain them 'politically', although their case is an ordinary criminal one and in spite of having been already released on bail by court since January 2009. This case is not subject to political detention which is reserved for those who pose a threat to public security and the State?" asks Yacoub .
Nader Shoukry of Copts-United says: "The state security is now putting pressure on the families of the Coptic Abdo brothers to leave town, which they rejected, since it is not possible after detaining the brothers for a whole year, to also make their families homeless."
The majority of Coptic activists believe that the Coptic brothers, who have been detained for almost a year, despite being released twice by the courts, have been pushed into this case by the State Security, as 'scapegoats' to draw the attention from the scandal of the Arab attack on the 4th century Abu Fana Monastery last May; a scandal which shocked the world and gave rise to angry Coptic demonstration in all the western cities.
The Abdo brother's attorney, Zakary Kamal, insists that they are the victims in the 'balancing act' used by the State Security whenever sectarian strife breaks out.
Some observers believe that all the government efforts have been directed from the start to support the Governor of Minya's untrue version of events, and that the authorities are using the brothers as leverage against the Coptic Church to make them state that the attack on the Monastery was not religiously motivated, which the Church leaders are refusing to do.
When the story of the attack and the torturing of the monks first broke out the Minya Governor Ahmed Dia Eldin provocatively stated publicly that the attacks were not sectarian, in an effort to downplay the incident. He said that the incident was "an ordinary quarrel over disputed land between neighbors," and that "fire was exchanged on both sides." These allegations were openly denied by the Church leaders who asserted that 'no monks ever keep weapons." The Egyptian government still insist until today on this version of the Governor's story,
During the investigations in June 2008, the security police subjected the two Coptic brothers Refaat and Ibrahim, to electric shocks for 8-hours daily over a period of three days, in order to extract from them false testimony against the monks of the 'Abu Fana' Monastery that they were in possession of weapons which they (the monks) used during the Arab attack. In spite of the continuous torture, the two men refused to testify falsely against the innocent monks. The younger brother Ibrahim also lost his teeth as a result of continuous hitting on his face by the interrogators.
When all kinds of torture failed to force them to falsely incriminate the monks, the two brothers, were falsely charged with arms possession and the murder of one of the Muslim assailants on the Monastery, named Khalil Ibrahim Mohammed, despite the government forensic report proving that the dead man was shot in the back and that it is impossible for the two brothers to be the culprits.
The monks and witnesses have testified that Refaat was not in the Monastry at all that day, and his brother Ibrahim went to get a deposit from the Monastery, because he and his brothers are the paid contractors to build the badly-needed wall around the Monastery, to fend off the continuous Arab attacks.
During the attack on the Monastery, Ibrahim and his 6-year old daughter who accompanied him, hid for 3 hours until the attack ended. During an interview, Ibrahim told reporters that the police officer who came to the Monastery to investigate the incident after the attack, asked him about his brother's whereabouts, and he told him that his brother was in Mallawi purchasing supplies for the celebrations of the Holy Family's visit to Egypt at St. Mary's Monastery in Samaloot.
In order to frame Refaat, the officer asked Ibrahim to phone his brother and ask him to come to the Monastery because the officer wanted to speak with him, which he did and his brother came to the Monastery, from where he was taken to the police station.
Ibrahim Fawzi Abdo lodged a complaint, accusing head of Mallawi Police Station's Investigations of unjustly arresting his brother Refaat . The price of this complaint was his freedom also, as he was later arrested and joined his brother Ibrahim in prison.
During the barbaric attack last May on the Abu Fana Monastery in Mallawi, Minya Province, the 18th in the series of Arab attacks on it, the Arab assailants who were armed with automatic rifles, destroyed and burnt property, including two on-site churches, monk's cells and crops on monastic farmland, estimated to be worth in excess of one million pounds. Five monks and two monks-in-training. were seriously injured during this attack.
The Arabs also kidnapped three monks and kept them overnight, subjecting them to torture by severe beating, whipping, and breaking their limbs. The attackers asked them to spit on the cross and to give the confession of Islam. When the monks refused, the beatings and humiliation increased. One of the monks who had his leg and arm broken by the kidnappers, was put on a donkey, released into the desert to his fate and was told to crawl back to the Monastery.
"Although the Arabs know that Refaat and Ibrahim are innocent, they tried unsuccessfully to extort 5,000,000 Egyptian pounds from the Coptic Church in exchange for testifying in favor of the two Copts during unofficial 'Arab Reconciliation' meetings last November which were attended by some members of the
Egyptian Parliament and Coptic businessmen from the region. However, those meetings failed as the Church would not give in to this kind of extortion," said the Coptic brother's attorney, Kamal Zakary.
According Nader Shoukry of Copts-United, the Arab attacker know among themselves who the real killer is, and several quarrels already broke out between them due to the mistake of one of them which lead to the killing of their Muslim son."But the policy of the Security authorities in all sectarian strife, to which we are by now accustomed to, insist on making out of the Monastery attack just a 'dispute' and the victims are the Coptic contractor and his brother who have been used as 'scapegoats' to cover up the scandal of the attack on the Monastery." "To date, none of the individuals responsible for the attack, kidnap and torture of the Abu Fana monks has been brought to justice, and the criminal file is still open. The state security insist that the monks should to go back on their testimony, which they decline, as in their opinion this would be going back on the truth," Shoukry commented.
"The question is, until when will the State Security continue to put pressure on the Copts to force an unfair settlement for the Abu Fana Monastery attack? The real offender, Arab chief Samir Abu Louli and his bandits are free at large while Refaat and his brother Ibrahim are behind bars, only for saving the wounded monks by transporting them in cars to hospital?" asks Meca activist Wagih Yacoub
Most Coptic activists including Yacoub blame the Coptic and international human rights organizations for neglecting the case of those two helpless Copts, who are fighting alone against the arbitrariness of the Egyptian State Security.
Outspoken Meca activist Wagih Yacoub, who operates from inside Egypt and who was detained without reason or charges for three months in November
2007, asks "are we going to do something positive to free this 'hero' and his brother or are we just going to issue statements and appeals?"
By Mary Abdelmassih

The Bible v the Koran

The London Times

25 May 2009

In the battle of the holy texts, Christianity has the upper hand, says a new book on the surprise resurgence of religionJohn Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge For all their manifold disagreements, Christians and Muslims are both “people of the Book”, and have an obligation to get those holy books into the hands of as many people as they can. Spreading the Word is hard. The Bible is 800,000 words long and littered with tedious passages about “begatting.” Many have claimed that the Koran, though only around a tenth of the length of the Bible, is an even more difficult read. Edward Gibbon complained about its “endless incoherent rhapsody of fable and precept”. Scholars who spend their lives studying them still argue over their ambiguities, literary allusions and obscure references. Yet there are more Bibles and Korans available in more languages than at any time in history. More than 100 million copies of the Bible are sold or given away every year. The Koran is ubiquitous in the Muslim world. Whole chapters of the book are used to decorate mosques. The faithful transcribe phrases and put them around their necks in amulets, use them on bumper stickers or as letterheads.
This mountain of holy books is a giant refutation of the secularisation thesis. “The Book lives on among its people,” Constance Padwick, a scholar of the Koran, has written. “For them, these are not mere letters or mere words. They are the twigs of the burning bush, aflame with God.” The same can also be said of the Bible.
Christians and Muslims are proving remarkably adept at using the tools of our time — globalisation, the media and growing wealth — to supercharge the distribution of their holy books.
The Islamic world boasts several television channels that do nothing but broadcast the Koran, while at the other end of the technological spectrum, the American Bible Society produces a small audio device that can broadcast the Bible to a crowd of 100. You can consult both books on the internet, read them on a “Psalm Pilot” or listen to them on iPods. (“Podcasting” has given rise to “Godcasting.”) Just because you put a holy book in people’s hands does not mean they will understand it — Americans buy more than 20 million new ones every year to add to the four that sit in the average US house. Yet one Gallup survey found that fewer than half of Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis), and only a third know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount (the evangelist Billy Graham is a popular answer). The situation is worse with Islam. The archaic language and high-flown verse of the Koran, while inspiring to some, can also be difficult to understand for even highly educated Arabic speakers. Only 20 per cent of Muslims speak Arabic as their first language.
The two peoples of the Book face similar challenges and opportunities. The interesting difference lies in how they are overcoming those hurdles. The Bible business is very much a bottom-up affair — an interlinked global network of 140 national or regional Bible societies pools resources to reach its collective goal.
The Koran is also going global. But for that it is unduly indebted to a single political power: Saudi Arabia. Its combination of geology and history — the country’s vast oil wealth and position as the guardian of Mecca and Medina — has turned it into a vast engine for spreading the Word.
At the same time, the Muslim diaspora is also spreading the Word to areas of the world where it has never reached. The Tablighi Jamaat (“Group That Propagates the Faith”), part-time preachers who dress like the Prophet, are behind plans to construct a megamosque in East London, next to the 2012 Olympics site.
But an immediate problem for Islam, much complained about in the Muslim world, is America’s War on Terror, which is certainly making it much more difficult to spread the Koran.
Christians are also much more enthusiastic than Muslims about translating their holy book. Muslims believe that the Koran is the literal word of God — although most Muslims tolerate translations, it is a begrudging sort of tolerance. By contrast, Christians are much keener to get the Word out. You do not have to learn Greek or Hebrew to get the Lord’s word. It has been translated into more languages than any other book in history — including Klingon, spoken only by imaginary space aliens.
The headquarters of the American Bible Society, just north of Columbus Circle in New York City, is a monument to Christianity’s enthusiasm for translation. It houses a collection of 4,500 Bibles in 2,400 languages, to which it continues to add ever more translations, including Barrow, a language spoken by a handful of people in Alaska. Its ambition is that everyone can claim: “God speaks my language”.
The second advantage is Christians’ superior talent for turning their holy book into a commercial enterprise. The “good book” now comes in every colour of the rainbow, including the colours of your college. A “hundred-minute Bible” summarises the Good Book for the time-starved. There are Bibles in everyday vernacular or even street slang (“Even though I walk through / The hood of death / I don’t back down / For you have my back”). Westminster John Knox has revived an old idea, begun in 1965 with its bestselling Gospel According to Peanuts, to give us the Gospel According to everyone from Bart Simpson to Madonna.
In 2003 Thomas Nelson dreamt up the idea of BibleZines — crosses between Bibles and teenage magazines. The pioneer was Revolve, which intercuts the New Testament with make-up tips and dating advice (“Are you dating a Godly guy?”). There are toddler-friendly versions of the most famous Bible stories: The Boy’s Bible promises “gross and gory Bible stuff.”; God’s Little Princess Devotional Bible is pink and sparkly.
The Bible Society has also embraced all sorts of innovations. It gives a free copy of the military edition of the Bible, complete with a camouflage cover to all members of the US Armed Services. It provides booklets of biblical excerpts to people who are trying to cope with tragedies or disasters: the society gave away five million specially prepared booklets after 9/11 and 1.5 million after Hurricane Katrina.
It also uses prominent sports stars to spread enthusiasm for the “good book”. The New Orleans Hornets have been known to distribute copies of the Bible. LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is such an enthusiastic Bible promoter that he has been nicknamed “King James”. Publishing and translating the book is only the beginning. There are now sophisticated dramatisations of the Bible, with well-known actors and state-of-the-art sound effects. Zondervan’s The Bible Experience features every black actor in Hollywood, from Denzel Washington to Samuel L. Jackson as God.
Other businesses are producing films that dramatise bits of the Bible as faithfully as possible. There are Bible quiz books, bingo games, sticker books and floor puzzles. There is even a Bible-based jukebox that plays your favourite biblical passages. A “fully posable” Jesus doll recites famous passages of the Good Book.
The third advantage for the Bible over the Koran is the wealth of its believers. It helps the Bible’s cause that the world’s richest and most powerful country has more evangelicals, missionaries and media organisations than any other country. By contrast, the fact that the Koran’s heartland is relatively poor, with low levels of economic development, technological prowess and popular education, hurts the book’s cause — though Muslims do not see it that way. (What matters is that people are reciting the Koran; not who is doing it.) The fourth advantage is the West’s belief in religious freedom — guaranteed in America by the Constitution, and in Europe by an aversion to religious persecution caused by centuries of it. The heartland of Islam, on the other hand, is theocratic. The Saudi royal family and the official Wahhabi clerisy are intertwined. The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance employs 120,000 people, including 72,000 imams. Clerics vet school textbooks. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the kingdom’s religious police, frequently arrests Christians for merely possessing copies of the Bible. Filipino Christians, who are usually poor, are a particularly popular target.



Copt leaving sanctuary knifed in Minya; bomb explodes near venerable structure in Cairo.
ISTANBUL, May 22 (Compass Direct News) -

In separate attacks in Egypt earlier this month, a Coptic Christian suffered severe stab wounds as he left a worship service in Minya, and a car-bombing outside a venerable church in Cairo disrupted a wedding.Without provocation, three Muslims repeatedly stabbed Coptic Christian Girgis Yousry, 21, as the army conscript was leaving the gates of the church of Saint Mary in Minya, Upper Egypt on May 2, according to Copts United.
The assault left him with severe injuries to internal organs, and he was taken to the district hospital, where he was still receiving treatment at press time.
When Yousry’s father went to the police station to report the attack, the Intelligence Services officer in charge threw him out of the station. Three men implicated in the stabbing, Wael Mohammed Hagag, Mohammed Nasr Anwar and Shabaan Sayed Amin, were arrested on May 5 and have been given a 16-day initial incarceration while the investigation is underway.
All three men stand accused of attempted murder without premeditation, which carries a sentence of five to 15 years.
But Mamdouh Nakhla, president of the Al-Kalema Centre for Human Rights, said he thinks it unlikely that they will be convicted.
“From my experience over the last 15 years, in Minya in particular, all cases of attacks and murder against Christians either went without punishment and [the accused] were totally exonerated, or they were given suspended sentences,” he said.
Home to Egypt’s largest community of Copts (approximately 4 million), Minya is considered a hotbed of anti-Christian violence.
“I am aware of severe injustices happening to Christians who are being incarcerated for no reason,” said Nakhla. “This is my experience of Minya.”
Local sources told Compass that in the last few months there has been a wave of arrests of Christians who are held with no official charges. Sources spoke of cases where detainees are held for months in prison, where they are badly beaten and tortured.
“Police brutality is a widely practiced policy,” said one source, “especially in rural areas, group punishment and systematic intimidation and humiliation are expected practices against all citizens, Christians included.”
This month Compass learned of three illegal arrests of Christians that have taken place since November 2008. Two of the men who were detained have since been released.
“When people are released, they have been beaten and electrocuted so that they are hardly standing up,” said a local Christian.
Local church leaders believe recent pressure is a response to rumors of an increase in Christian converts in Egypt due to Christian satellite programming, although arrests go beyond converts to Coptic-born Christians.
Makeshift Bomb
In Cairo, a makeshift bomb placed under a car exploded outside a renowned Catholic church building in Zeitoun district on May 9, incinerating the vehicle but causing no injuries.
Panicked passersby called police when the small explosion caused the car to burst into flames outside Saint Mary Church, which Egypt’s Coptic community, citing numerous sightings of the Virgin Mary there in the late 1960s, considers a holy site.
Security forces arrived at the scene within minutes and sealed off the area. They found a second bomb, also planted beneath a car. Unable to disarm it, they were forced to detonate it in a controlled fashion, sources told Compass.
The explosion interrupted a wedding and a Bible study that were taking place inside the revered, historic building. Those in attendance were evacuated through a side gate as a precaution, reported Egyptian newspaper Watani. Boutros Gayed, the church’s priest, was unavailable for comment.
The bombs were rudimentary. Cell phones were used as detonators and placed with the explosive material into a bag containing shrapnel.
Police have yet to release information about possible suspects or motives, but newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm has stated security forces are investigating possible links to a Hezbollah cell, which uses similar explosive devices.
A spokesman for Hezbollah has denied its involvement, stating that the cell was focused on supporting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and has never had plans to carry out operations in Egypt.
The head of the Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda, condemned the attack as criminal and pointed to sectarian motives.
“[The bombers] are attempting to tamper with the future of this homeland that they do not deserve to belong to,” he said, according to Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
Similarities between this event and an explosion in February outside Al-Hussain Mosque, where one person was killed and 24 others wounded, have led to speculation that the attacks may be part of an attempt to inflame sectarian tensions.
Rumors also have been spread that “extremist Coptic groups” may have planted the devices in order to attract U.S. President Barack Obama’s attention to their plight on his planned June 4 visit to Cairo.
“This sounds like a ridiculous suggestion, because the Copts do not even respond to attacks against them,” said Ibrahim Habib, chairman of United Copts of Great Britain. “It is not in their agenda, and they have no precedence of violence.”


Free Father Mattaos - Unjustly imprisoned in Egypt

25 May 2009

Father Mattaos Wahba is the priest of Archangel Michael Church at Kerdasa, Geza, Egypt. He is a pious man of God who encourages his congregation with Jesus' message of loving one's enemy, blessing those who curse you, doing good to those who hate you, and praying for those who despitefully use and persecute you. (Mathew 5:44). Fr. Mattaos is a model Egyptian citizen that has not ever committed a crime or seen the inside of a prison other than in the context of ministering to inmates.
Recently Father Mattaos' life abruptly changed overnight. He was arrested, charged and tried for aiding a young Muslim woman in getting an ID card that had falsified data indicating her religion as Christian rather than Muslim. The ID card was said to enable her to marry a Christian man and to flee the country. On October, 2008, the court found him guilty and sentenced him to 5 years of hard labor.
However, the facts dictate entirely a different story. The young woman, named Reham Abdel Aziz Rady, was born to a Muslim family. She converted to Christianity and underwent unbearable degrees of torturous harassments from her family and Egypt's Secret Police. She was subsequently released from custody without an ID card. Such prevents her rightful privileges of citizenship. She cannot get employment, rent living quarters, apply for a passport, much less apply for a marriage license. Even if she still possessed her old Muslim ID, it would prevent her from marrying a Christian. There is no legal way to change the religion of a Muslim on an ID card.
In 2004, a well-intentioned person attempted to help her. They allowed Reham to use an ID card belonging to a recently deceased young Christian woman of approximately the same age, named Mariam Nabil. Two years later, Reham, now called Mariam, and a Christian man fell in love and decided to marry. The couple contacted Fr. Mattaos to conduct the marriage ceremonies. The priest knew nothing of the false ID and Mariam's former Muslim background. In good faith he conducted the ceremony and the newly wed couple fled the country.
On April 24, 2009, Mariam appeared with Brother Rasheed on the popular Arabic Al Hayat TV program "A Daring Question". She testified, "Father Mattaos did not have any role in getting my ID card. I did not know him then, as this took place in 2004 and I got married in 2006." Mariam added, "I have the right to have an ID card that reflects my true religious affiliation. The Egyptian government does not give Muslims who convert to Christianity a legal alternative to get these papers. Had I been a Christian who wanted to convert to Islam, I would have had all the help I needed. But, because I am leaving Islam they put hurdles in my way."
Father Mattaos did not commit a crime. He does not deserve to be imprisoned. He is paying a price of Egypt's present-day policy of denying religious freedom. Ironically, their policy is against the Egyptian constitution and standard human rights laws to which Egypt is a signatory. Make no mistake about it. Father Mattaos' imprisonment is designed to send a message to Coptic Egyptian priests and Protestant pastors: The Egyptian government will deal harshly with any clergyman who is suspected in aiding Muslims converting to Christianity.
We call upon officials in the US State Department; Human Rights organizations; the global community of Christian believers; and all freedom loving people to join us in our outcry. We urge you to contact the Egyptian Embassy demanding the immediate release of Father Mattaos. Insist in strong tones that every Egyptian citizen be granted the basic human right to follow the religion of his/her choice.
EMBASSY OF THE ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT3521 International Ct. NW Washington DC 20008
TEL: 202.895.5400 FAX: 202.244.4319

SOURCE Christian Copts of California-ukcopts

Cleaning Cairo, but Taking a Livelihood

The New York Times
CAIRO - The garbage collectors of Cairo live in neighborhoods spilling over with trash. The children play with the trash and in the trash, when they are not helping to sort or collect the trash. The women sit right in the trash, picking out rotten food with their hands and tossing it to their pigs, which live right there in the neighborhood with them.It is a world of shocking odors and off-putting sights. But it is their world, the world of the zabaleen, hundreds of thousands of people who have made lives and a community by collecting Cairo’s trash and transforming it into a commodity.
It is their very identity, and they are afraid the government is going to take it away.
“It is not a job, it is a life,” said Isat Naim Gindy, grandson of one of Cairo’s original zabaleen, who now runs a nonprofit organization to help educate the children of garbage collectors.
The beginning of what they fear is the end started with the government’s reaction to news that a swine influenza was spreading around the world. Egypt decided to kill all its pigs, about 300,000, although there have been no cases of swine flu in Egypt. International agencies quickly criticized the authorities, saying that pigs were not spreading the illness.
But Egypt did not stop the huge pig cull. The government promised it would be a humane process, butchering the pigs according to Islamic law and then freezing the meat. But reporters for an Egyptian newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm, followed trucks that carried the pigs to a garbage dump. As they filmed, workers used a front-end loader to drop piles of live animals into huge dump trucks. They documented piglets being stabbed and tossed into piles, large pigs beaten with metal rods, their carcasses dumped in the sand.
The savagery of the cull prompted an outcry in Egypt and around the world. But the killing never stopped.
The government said that it was no longer acting just to prevent swine flu, but that it was carrying out part of a plan to clean up the zabaleen, to finally get them to live in sanitary conditions. Egypt has tried this before. Several years ago the government tried to hire private companies to collect the trash. But the waste of Cairo overwhelmed the private companies, and little changed for the zabaleen.
“We want them to live a better life, humanely treated; it’s a very difficult life,” said Sabir Abdel Aziz Galal, chief of the infectious disease department in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Then the government came up with a new strategy: take away the pigs.
The zabaleen are Christians. Egypt is a majority Muslim country. The zabaleen are convinced that the government wants to use the swine flu scare not to help improve their lives but to get pigs out of Egypt. Islam prohibits eating pork.
“The bottom line is pigs are not welcome in Egypt,” said the Rev. Samaan Ibrahim, a priest in one of the largest zabaleen neighborhoods in Cairo.
But what are the zabaleen supposed to do with all the rotting organic waste that used to be fed to the pigs? They have goats, but not nearly enough.
“They expect me to pay to have a carter take this away,” said Faris Samir, 22, whose extended family of 33 men, women and children lost their income when the police came and forced them to give up their 125 pigs. “Forget it. I will throw it anywhere.”
As is often the case in Egypt, this crisis started with a decision that came unexpectedly, without consultation, and without consideration for how drastically it would affect about 400,000 people in zabaleen families.
The zabaleen and their supporters argue that if the people of Cairo could be taught to separate organic and inorganic waste before throwing out their household trash, the problem could be solved. The pigs could be raised in farms outside of the city and the organic waste could be carted out there daily.
But that does not appear to be under consideration.
“They don’t have a good understanding of what this means to the livelihood of the rubbish collectors,” said Syada Greiss, a member of Parliament and chairwoman of the Association for Protection of the Environment, a nongovernmental organization. “The government did not have a full grasp of the economics or social implications.”
Cairo is a sprawling city of about 18 million people. The associations representing the zabaleen say they collect 6,000 tons of trash a day, of which 60 percent is food waste. They say the private carters collect an additional 2,000 tons a day.
The system dates to the late 1940s, when peasant farmers moved to Cairo looking for work. They took over trash collection and became the zabaleen.
It is a family business. In each family, the oldest son gets to go to school. The other boys work, collecting trash while the women and the girls do the sorting.
Basem Masri works. He is a small 11-year-old, with swept-back black hair and very serious eyes. His work day begins at 7 p.m., when he joins his father collecting trash. He works until 3 or 4 a.m., then goes to sleep. At 10 a.m. his mother sends him to a special school for the children of garbage collectors. It is really more of a tutoring program.
“I want to be a doctor someday,” Basem said as he worked on his math skills with a teacher.
That seems like a long shot for Basem, and many others like him. Many here acknowledge that this is a system that is easy to criticize, from the pigs and the unsanitary living conditions to the sight of children hauling trash, their faces smeared and their clothing stained.
But it is how they eat and survive. And it is how they have remained independent of a government they do not trust. They would not object to having the system fixed. They just do not want it wrenched away.
“Maybe the government has noble goals,” said Mr. Gindy, whose nonprofit group runs the school that Basem attends. “But the way they address the problem is not good. The government always says this is the decision and you will follow.”
To Abraham Fahmi, a local Coptic priest, it comes down to a simple matter. “If you move the garbage, you will kill the entire neighborhood,” he said. “This is their lives.”
Samer al-Atrush contributed reporting.