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Current Events

In South Egypt, Islamists Take Over a Town

Here in Maadi, Cairo, life goes on as normal amid the political instability. This town in Minya is not so fortunate. From the AP:

A town of some 120,000 — including 20,000 Christians — Dalga has been outside government control since hard-line supporters of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi drove out police and occupied their station on July 3, the day Egypt’s military chief removed the president in a popularly supported coup. It was part of a wave of attacks in the southern Minya province that targeted Christians, their homes and businesses.

Since then, the radicals have imposed their grip on Dalga, twice driving off attempts by the army to send in armored personnel carriers by showering them with gunfire.

Local Christians are particularly suffering, at least those who have not fled:

Among the homes torched was that of Father Angelos, an 80-year-old Orthodox priest who lives close to the monastery. Yoannis’ home was spared a similar fate by his Muslim neighbors. A 60-year-old Christian who fired from his roof to ward off a mob was dragged down and killed, the activists said.

“Even if we had firearms, we would be reluctant to use them,” said Yoannis. “We cannot take a life. Firing in the air may be our limit.”

Those who remain pay armed Muslim neighbors to protect them. Yoannis said his brother paid with a cow and a water buffalo. Most Christian businesses have been closed for weeks.

Armed men can be seen in the streets, and nearly every day Islamists hold rallies at a stage outside the police station, demanding Morsi’s reinstatement.

Most Christians remain indoors as much as possible, particularly during the rallies. They say they are routinely insulted on the streets by Muslims, including children. Christian women stay home at all times, fearing harassment by the Islamists, according to multiple Christians who spoke to the AP. Most requested that their names not be published for fear of reprisals.

“The Copts in Dalga live in utter humiliation,” said local rights activist Ezzat Ibrahim. “They live in horror and cannot lead normal lives.”

The Islamic concept of jizia requires non-Muslims to pay a tax in exchange for their protection. Many Muslims argue today this principle is no longer applicable, as Christians join in the army and jointly defend their nation.

But here the Copts have no share nor desire to defend their village with these Islamists against the army. Therefore, it appears, the concept of jizia is demanded from them.

Here is an example of their protector, the man guarding the monastery-church:

At intervals, the 33-year-old father of three would stop talking, move carefully to the edge of a wall and stick his head out to check if someone was coming.

His big worry was the bearded Muslim at the gate, Saber Sarhan Askar.

Skinny with hawk-like hazelnut eyes, Askar is said by Dalga’s Christians to have taken part in the torching and looting of the monastery. Outside the monastery that day, Askar was telling priests he was there to protect it. But the orders he yelled to other priests left no doubt who was in charge.

“Bring us tea!” he barked at one priest. “I need something cold to drink!” he screamed at another soon after.

To my knowledge, this is the only incident of pro-Morsi supporters gaining a foothold in a local area. Elsewhere, they are on the run. Still, the security apparatus has tasked itself with a heavy burden.

How much blood will be shed recovering this village? If the state of the nation and economy does not improve over the next several months, might their be similar mutinies elsewhere? The state, in general, was weak before the revolution, and is weaker now.

Dalga is the only current example, and is likely to remain so. But the question is open. What will the future hold?

Categories
Current Events

Kidnapping Christians in Upper Egypt

From the AP, providing an excellent and balanced account of reported Christian kidnappings in Upper Egypt. Following the Fox News story I highlighted two days ago, this is the type of investigation the issue deserves. I’m both jealous and proud, and quite concerned over the content:

Crime has risen in general across Egypt, hitting Muslims as well. But the wave of kidnappings in Minya has specifically targeted Christians, and victims, church leaders and rights activists ultimately blame the atmosphere created by the rising power of hard-line Islamists.

They contend criminals are influenced by the rhetoric of radical clerics depicting Egypt’s Christian minority as second-class citizens and see Christians as fair game, with authorities less likely to investigate crimes against the community.

Over the past two years, there have been more than 150 reported kidnappings in the province — all of them targeting Christians, according to a top official at the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police.

Of course, I wish this official’s name was provided. Egypt is a nation of rumors, and much reporting is based on ‘sources’ obtained from the military, police, judiciary, Muslim Brotherhood, whoever – and it often seems the purpose is to steer the media discourse without owning responsibility for the accusation. But here is an official who provides his name:

Responding to the allegations that authorities do not aggressively investigate crimes against Christians, Minya’s security chief Ahmed Suleiman said it is because victims’ families negotiate with kidnappers rather than report the abductions.

“We cannot be held responsible for kidnappings that are not reported to us,” he said, blaming hardened criminals for the kidnappings.

Christians say they don’t bother to report because they have no confidence in the police.

And here is the Islamist denial of responsibility along with a highly controversial and politically expedient remedy:

Essam Khairy, a spokesman for the hard-line Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya in Minya, said “there is not a single case of Christian kidnapping that has a sectarian motive or linked to the Islamist groups.”

He blamed the “security chaos” in Egypt and said the way to stop kidnappings is to create popular committees — vigilante groups that the Gamaa Islamiya has been promoting since a spate of strikes in the police last month.

The governor the region is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the article highlights holds continual meetings with local Christian leaders. But members of the party do not necessary believe in equality:

The Brotherhood and its political party frequently underline their respect for Christian rights. But at times members reveal an attitude suggesting a second-class status for the community.

On Wednesday, Yasser Hamza, an official in the Brotherhood’s party, argued in a TV interview that while the campaign slogan “Islam is the solution” is permissible, the slogan “Christianity is the solution” would not be. He was addressing specific election rules, but then broadly declared, “This is an Islamic nation with an overwhelming Muslim majority … The minority doesn’t have absolute rights, it has relative rights.”

But perhaps the reason behind these attacks is as old as it is simple:

The Interior Ministry official acknowledged that Christians are seen as less defended.

“Kidnapping Christians is an easy way to make money,” he said. They “don’t have the tribal or clan backup that will deter kidnappers and they are happy to pay the ransom to gain the freedom of their loved ones.”

Wouldn’t you? Goodness, such a horrible situation. Solving it only makes it worse. Please click here to read the rest of the article at AP.

…….

Update on the Fox News post: My wife suggested the presenter in the video may have been referring to ‘Garbage City’ as the Christian quarter and slum. If so, he is right, it is a slum, where a nearly 100% Christian population sorts and recycles the nation’s trash, living in the middle of it.

This area is very close to suburban Muqattam where the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters is. But the suburban development came long after Christian migrants from Upper Egypt settled off in their isolated mountain community. The reason has nothing to do with discrimination or lack of political rights: Garbage collection involved raising pigs, and pigs were the province of Christians alone.

The pigs have since been killed, in what appeared to be a very discriminatory act ostensibly taken several years ago now to prevent the spread of swine flu. But the Christians of Garbage City labor on, though some of their livelihood has been further removed as trash collection is outsourced to foreign based companies – who do not recycle nearly as well.

For anyone who would like more information about this community, check out the documentary ‘Garbage Dreams’. It’s quite good.