A desperate Egypt reaches out to the West, trying to communicate the dire threat of terrorism.
A celebrity researcher ties this terrorism to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the West yawns.
But 33 soldiers died last Friday in separate brazen attacks on security personnel in Sinai, and now Egypt’s Christian leaders have picked up the mantle to call for help.
‘Egypt now needs the support of its friends,’ wrote Revd Mouneer Hanna, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt, in an open letter on the diocesan website. ‘This support involves understanding of the real situation.’
One week earlier Revd Andrea Zaki, general director of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, joined a semi-official Egyptian delegation to the United States. It was made up of diplomats, journalists, civil society members, and men of religion, who were eager to present Egypt’s perspective to a sceptical West.
On many issues Zaki found an agreeable reception. But their counterparts in Washington DC bluntly told the group that the Egyptian government has not provided ‘clear evidence’ linking the Muslim Brotherhood to the ongoing terrorism campaign.
Perhaps this is because Egypt appears to be giving this ‘evidence’ first to the people, and only later through judicial channels. This reversal of due process causes Western observers to be dismissive.
‘Isn’t he that guy on television with the crazy theories?’ remarked a European journalist as Abdel Rahim Ali walked into the room to hold a press conference on 1 November on the possible emergence of ISIS in Sinai. The mixed crowd of Egyptians and Westerners awaited his evidence.
Ali expects the ‘Supporters of Jerusalem’ – a home-grown terrorist outfit operating out of Sinai – to soon announce their allegiance to ISIS. Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, he said, was an associate of Abu Musad al-Zarqawi in the Islamic State of Iraq and believed to be killed by US forces in 2010.
But some evidence suggests he is still alive and operating out of the Sinai with the Supporters of Jerusalem, Ali said.
On 4 November, without mentioning al-Muhajir, Reuters confirmed Ali’s prediction of the merger with ISIS. But Egyptian state-run Ahram Online denied the news, quoting from what is alleged to be the Supporters of Jerusalem’s official Twitter account, @3Ansar_B_Almqds.
In Ali’s presentation, however, the source of his evidence was not provided, fitting with his general modus operandi. Host of the popular television show, ‘The Black Box’, and editor-in-chief of al-Bawaba newspaper, Ali regularly releases leaked conversations of revolutionary and Islamist figures.
Despite their illegal nature, Ali operates freely. And he freely admits his sources are connected to the security apparatus.
One of the most damning allegations concern leaked recordings of phone calls between President Morsi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al-Qaeda. In them an agreement is made to cease operations against Egypt while allowing jihadist groups to exist on Egyptian soil.
In this context, reference in Bishop Mouneer’s open letter about the Brotherhood finds verification. He spoke of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed el-Beltagi’s statement from the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa in Cairo, prior to its bloody dispersal.
‘We do not control the situation on the ground,’ Beltagi said in a July 2013 video on YouTube. ‘But what is happening in Sinai …will stop the moment …the president [Morsi] returns to power.’
Bishop Mouneer told Lapido Media that, like many others, he is not happy that thousands of people are currently in prison without judicial rulings. He understands this makes the West feel Egypt is being very harsh with the Muslim Brotherhood.
But after listing a long litany of Brotherhood offenses – attacks on protestors, churches, and calls for jihad in Syria – he provides Egyptian perspective on this reversal of due process.
The courts are slow, he said, and Egypt is in a state of war against terrorism: ‘In times of war countries sometimes take extraordinary measures, such as America with Guantanamo Bay.
‘In order to educate the people and influence public opinion, [security] leaks some of these things.’
But of these recordings and allegations, Bishop Mouneer cannot say what is true and what is not, as long as Ali does not release his sources.
Similarly, Zaki does not feel compelled to make the case against the Muslim Brotherhood for the sake of his American audience. ‘This is the responsibility of the government,’ he told Lapido Media.
But he does want to convey Egypt’s general satisfaction with the situation following the post-30 June deposing of Morsi. The military answered the call of millions, he said, and the people ratified this action in subsequent elections.
This message is beginning to be heard. Zaki said the Americans expressed their acceptance of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, as well as the necessary role of Egypt’s military in fighting terrorism.
Economic support will also be forthcoming at the expected 21 February economic summit in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, the Americans told him. Egypt will present investment opportunities in fifteen projects worth $100 billion.
But the message of Egypt’s popular belief in Muslim Brotherhood culpability in terrorism is still awaiting judgment in the West. The Whitehall report authorised by the British government remains delayed.
‘I have no idea about the link between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda,’ said Bishop Mouneer, expressing more caution than many Egyptians.
‘But I know one thing, we were going backwards during the time of Morsi.’
This article was originally published on Lapido Media.