President Obama's trip to Cairo gave him an opportunity to confront the persecution of Egypt's ancient Christian community, an opportunity he apparently passed up. The American Coptic Association had planned a demonstration in front of the White House during the June 4th meeting between President Obama and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Dr. Monir Dawoud, chairman of the American Coptic Association, is an Egyptian native who has since retired as a heart surgeon. He said he would ask President Obama: "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, president 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 Shari'a (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 Obama's many Muslim advisors who seem to deliberately "hide the discriminatory actions of Muslim governments against Christians besides their injustices towards women, children, members of the Bahai faith, 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 President 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!"
Dr. Dawoud said he would have told President Mubarak: "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 under-aged 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."
Part of the reason for that anger is the fact that the Copts, who lived in Egypt centuries before the arrival of Islam, have not been allowed to be counted properly. Noted Dawoud: "The Copts real number is about 20% 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 7,000 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 that 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 US, 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 2000 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 3000 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 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 in Cairo, it would have been nice if President Obama had remembered that.
By Joseph Puder