Egypt’s 10 million Coptic Christians have been threatened with mass extermination by Islamists in retaliation for the rumored involvement of a Copt in the making of the anti-Islamic film, “Innocence of Muslims.” The film touched off rioting throughout the Muslim world, due to claims that it insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, leading to attacks on several American Embassies, and the murder of the American Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens.
After the American flag was torn to shreds at the Cairo Embassy by the enraged mob, the crowds began to focus their anger on the Christian community. Islamist leaders and clerics have fueled their rage by telling the faithful at Friday prayers that the film was made by Copts living in America as part of a deliberate attack on the faith of Muslims. Calls have gone out for the collective punishment of all of Egypt’s Christians.
A senior military official warned that “the Coptic Christian community in Egypt now is under threat of mass slaughter from Islamists under the pretense of revenge for a movie that depicts the Quranic figure Muhammad in a negative light.”
The new ruling party in Egypt, The Muslim Brotherhood, is trying to play both ends against the middle. The Brotherhood was swept to power based on their Islamist roots and calls for the full implementation of Sharia, but they are still dependent on the United States for military assistance and a regular infusion of cash.
While President Morsi, a former leader of the Islamist organization, tries to appease angry American officials, his Brotherhood allies in the Egyptian Parliament have called for the imposition of the Jizya (tax on non-Muslims) on all of Egypt’s Coptic Christians, while demeaning them as “cursed infidels.”
The Brotherhood’s duplicity may be starting to catch up with them. In a telling incident that occured earlier today, the United States Embassy in Cairo and the Muslim Brotherhood engaged in a digital war of words. The Brotherhood posted a message on its English language twitter account saying “relieved none of @USembassycairo staff was hurt,” while expressing hope the relationship between the US and the Brotherhood survives the “turbulence of events.”
Despite the recent security failings, the US embassy is still adept at playing the game, and they fired back a searing tweet, saying, “Thanks. By the way, have you checked out your own Arabic feeds? I hope you know we read those too.” The embassy was referring to the Arabic Muslim Brotherhood Twitter post that read “Egyptians revolt for the Prophet’s victory in front of U.S. embassy.”
Increasing the fear of the Copts are the calls by Muslim Brotherhood leaders for a nationwide protest in Cairo on Friday against the film. All the pieces are in place for an ugly explosion of violence. It is frightening to imagine what might transpire if Muslims pour into the streets across the nation of Egypt to express their anger against the film and their leaders start to openly blame the Copts. Many thousands of lives may be snuffed out in a river of Christian blood.
The Christians of Egypt were the largest group of Christians in the world, 300 years before the birth of Mohammad. They were the overwhelming majority of the population of Egypt, and they helped to inspire a cultural and religious revival for the Egyptian people.
Today, they are considered “infidels” and relegated to menial jobs. Under Egypt’s Sharia based Constitution, a non-Muslim is not permitted to hold authority over a Muslim and as a result Copts are forced to work as street sweepers and laundry workers, while being banned from Civil Service and most government careers.
In July of 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced “both the Egyptian government’s failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks.” Clinton, who visited Egypt in July, said she had had “a very emotional, very personal conversation with Christians who are deeply anxious about what the future holds for them and their country.” Her talks did little to calm Coptic fears. Since the start of the Arab Spring, 200,000 Copts have fled Egypt and thousands more left after Clinton’s visit.
What little influence the United States and President Obama may have with the government of Egypt, must be used to make it clear to President Morsi that any violence directed at the Coptic community will lead to an immediate termination of all material support for Egypt and a call for harsh international sanctions. If the United States has any moral character left, we must protect the lives of Egypt’s Christian Minority.