Egyptian Coptic Church Accused of 'Stockpiling Weapons'
By Dan Wooding
-- A Middle East journalist is reporting that a "new wave of
defamation by Islamists" against Coptic Pope Shenouda III and the Coptic
Church is seen by many observers as a serious provocation to sectarian
violence against the Copts, and "the possibility of
being dragged into civil war."
Abdelmassih, in a story for the Assyrian International News Agency (www.aina.org),
said that on
September 15, 2010, the Qatar-owned Al-Jezirah TV broadcast a
program called "Without Limits", presented by moderator Ahmad Mansour, who
hosted the Islamist Dr. Selim el-Awah, former Secretary-General of the World
Council of Muslim Scholars, which has stunned and enraged Copts inside and
simply threatening Copts that the forthcoming chaos after Mubarak dies will
see mass violence against the Copts," says Magdy Khalil, Coptic activist and
head of Middle East Freedom Forum.
she said, alleged that the Church has its own militia and hides weapons and
ammunition in monasteries and churches, preparing for a war "against the
Muslims." el-Awah said that "Israel is in the heart of the Coptic Cause,"
and the Church gets weapons from Israel. He cited as evidence an incident in
mid-August, in which the son of a priest in Port Said, Mr. Joseph El-Gabalawy,
was falsely accused of importing weapons from Israel. Although he was
cleared of charges and released, as the imported goods were children's
and did not belong to him, he is still detained by State Security.
Coptic Pope Shenouda III
television program also charged the Church of concealing Muslim converts to
Christianity, besides abducting and torturing Christian converts to Islam.
Out of the thousands of Christian woman who converted to Islam, willingly or
unwillingly, el-Awah mentioned only two wives of priests whom he claimed
converted to Islam and consequently were imprisoned in monasteries, Wafa
Constantine and Mary Abdallah. Speaking on the latest crisis over Camelia
Shehata, about whom Muslims fabricated rumors of her conversion to Islam, he
said that she never converted to Islam and was handed over by State Security
to her two married sisters," said Abdelmassih.
two-hour program went on to accuse the Coptic Church of being a 'State
within the Egyptian State,' allegedly taking advantage of the weakness of
the present regime, behaving as if it is above the law. The Church was also
accused of making an 'inheritance' deal with the regime to support President
Mubarak's son in succeeding his father as president in exchange for
Selim el-Awah said that ever since Pope Shenouda came out of detention,
having been banished to a desert monastery by the late President Sadat in
1981 and released by President Mubarak in 1982, there has been "scientific
preparation" to demand the division of Egypt into a Muslim State and a
Coptic secular State"
He warned that if the status of the Church remains as such, the "country
will burn" and called on Muslims to go out in demonstrations as the "only
answer left to counteract the strength of the Church." He said "If they go
out to the streets; who can control them?"
first time since the establishment of the State of Israel," says Magdy
Khalil, "someone has accused the Coptic Church of stockpiling weapons from
as a prelude to waging war on Muslims, claiming that Israel is at the heart
of the Coptic issue."
to the seriousness of the accusations, the Church aired a program on its own
TV channel, Agape, denying all allegations and accusing Al-Jezirah of being
the whereabouts of the two priests' wives, who had marital problems but
never converted to Islam. "Constantine
chose to remain in a monastery and Abdallah lives in a house alone with her
children paid by the church," said Father Abdelmassih Baseet.
In a Middle
East Freedom Forum press release on
September 20, 2010, Magdy Khalil said that what Dr. Selim el-Awah
said "amounts to incitement to murder and ethnic cleansing of a minority,
which are crimes in Egyptian and international law" and if Al-Awah's words
of hate and incitement are overlooked by the Egyptian government, "this
would mean that they are partners in these crimes." The Forum invited
national lawyers, Muslims and Christians, to join its campaign for the
prosecution of Dr. el-Awah for crimes of incitement.
Abdelmassih went on to say that Dr. Naguib Gobrail, legal counselor to the
Coptic Church and president of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights
Organizations, presented on September 20 a memorandum to the Prosecutor
General against Dr. Selim el-Awah and Al-Jezirah's Egyptian moderator Ahmad
Mansour, accusing both men of propagating lies which would affect social
peace and harm national security. The memo went on to say that they accused
the Church of storing weapons and Christians of "high treason," since these
weapons would "normally be used against the State and their Muslim
brethren," a claim, if true, would subject 15 million Christians to the
charge of high treason, which carries the death penalty.
attorney Mamdouh Nakhla, head of the Al-Kalema Centre for Human Rights, told
Freecopts the TV program included reference to a terrorist plan for several
massacres to be committed against the Copts. "el-Awah said that the simple
Coptic citizen will be the real victim of those massacres, while the Coptic
clergy will hide in the monasteries," said Nakhla. "Such remarks should not
be ignored and el-Awah should be questioned about the facts and what
information he knows about those plans."
that he will present a complaint to the prosecutor general against el-Awah
and Al-Jezirah Channel for spreading unfounded lies that could provoke
incitement against the Church and the Copts.
media has accused el-Awah of claiming the Church is storing weapons without
having any evidence. Al-Jezirah was accused by renowned writer Salah Issah,
editor of Cairo Daily, of not adhering to the Press Charter, which prohibits
covering anything that would cause sectarian strife, stressing the network
has committed professional errors.
journalist went on to say that observers see that el-Awah statements of
September 15, coming only two days after the call of the banned Front of Al-Azhar
Scholars, on September 13, to boycott Coptic businesses, professionals and
schools, only confirms that there is secret coordination between the
Islamist religious groups, "who have one thing in mind, which is to burn the
homeland," say Muslim thinker Ayman Abdel Rassol. He added that weapons are
stored in mosques, especially in upper Egypt. Abdel Rassol called for the
prosecution of Dr. el-Awah for crimes of incitement.
demonstration is called for Friday
September 24, 2010,
in Alexandria demanding the disposal of Pope Shenouda III.
recollects similar circumstances taking place at the end of the seventies
when rumors circulated about a plan by Pope Shenouda to establish a Coptic
state in the
Province of Assiut, and about the storage of weapons in monasteries, "those
rumors were justifications for a series of attacks against the Copts over
decades," he said.
she concluded, that this dangerous talk by Dr. el-Awah is an introduction to
the destruction of the Copts in the event of the outbreak of chaos in Egypt
after Mubarak's death.
"It will not
be like what happened in the seventies, but it could evolve to become like
the Armenian genocide that occurred in Turkey in 1915," said Khalil.
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