Anger towards Egyptian Christians after presidential elections

The official results of the first round of the Egyptian presidential elections were announced on Tuesday, and the run-off will be between Mohamed Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, and Air Marshal Ahmad Shafik, former President Hosni Mubarak's last PM, who served for less than one month during the revolution and before Mubarak was ousted.

According to Egyptian journalist Mary Abdelmassih, writing for AINA - Assyrian International News Agency, these results have enraged many Egyptians who feel that they are left with two options, each worse than the other, namely either going back to the Mubarak regime represented by Shafik or the Islamists who will drag Egypt into being another Afghanistan or Iran. Nasserist candidate Hamdeed Sabahy, favored by a great number of youth - especially those who participated in the 25 January Revolution, came in third.

AINA reports that many Islamists, fearing Shafik if he comes to power, especially after vowing to bring back order and security within one month of his election, are blaming Copts for voting for Shafik and bringing him to second place. Copts have been accused of being "traitors" and "anti-revolutionary" for voting to bring back the old regime.

Nearly 6,000,000 Christian Copts were eligible to vote, from a total Coptic population of 18,000,000 Copts (according to the Church's data), the news agency said.

AINA says these accusations against the Copts, which started last Friday after the preliminary elections results were released, are seen by many as a real threat to Copts.

"These accusations are part of a terror and intimidation campaign to prevent them from voting again for Shafik," said Egyptian writer Saad Namnam, "or even boycotting the elections altogether, which would be the same as voting for Morsy."

AINA reports that two days ago the Islamic group Gama'a al-Islamiyya issued a statement which said that the advance of Ahmed Shafik in the elections was due to several reasons. Firstly "sectarian voting, where the Copts gave their votes to Shafik at the direction of the church, which is unfortunate."

"We have been bombarded by the media by accusations from the revolutionary youths and prominent Islamist leaders," said Caroline Asaad, of Maspero Coptic Youths Federation.

"Our friends at college, work and our neighbors all accuse the Egyptian Church of high treason by directing Copts to vote for Shafik." Asaad said she voted for Sabahi while her parents voted for Shafik.

"What did they want us to do?" said Coptic activist Mark Ebeid. "Whoever says that supporting Shafik is a crime against the '25 January Revolution', we ask him to advise us whom to vote for? The sea is in front of us and the Islamists are behind us."

AINA reports that Dr. Emad Gad, MP and deputy director of Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies, said this campaign against the Copts is a prepared strategy by the Muslim Brotherhood to increase the chances of their candidate in the run-off election, by promoting a lie that votes of the Copts helped Shafik to advance.

"This is not true at all," he said. The largest block of votes for Shafik was in the four provinces of the Delta, namely Sharkia, Gharbia, Menoufiah and Dakahila, where the Copts make up only 5 percent of the total population." He added that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists usually say the total number of the Copts does not exceed 6 percent of the population. "So does this ratio have the ability to turn the election results upside down?"

Christian politician George Ishaq, of the Dostor Party, said that it is not true that the Coptic vote was behind Shafik getting second place.

"To accuse the Christians of all voting for Shafik is not true, as the Christians are not one voting block. Christian youths voted for Hamdeen Sabahi, those who are older voted for Shafik and Amr Moussa." He added that those who voted for Shafik were the "remnants" of the Mubarak regime and members of his dissolved NDP Party, some Christians who fear a religious state as well as all those who fear the Revolution.

AINA says this was confirmed by results of a Coptic voting trends survey carried out by Coptic website Christian Dogma. The results were divided between Shafik, Ex-Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi.

Dr. Gad believes the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups want to bring religion into the elections again, as votes for their candidate Morsy have declined, having received only half the votes the Muslim Brotherhood got in the parliamentary elections.

"There is no better way to reap votes like getting religion into elections; to do so you have to mobilize people through religion," says Dr. Gad.

"You also deprive your opponent of his supporters or the largest number of them, and the easiest way to do this in Egypt is to speak to uneducated or simple Egyptians, and tell them that your rival is the candidate of the Church, and Copts support him."

Dr. Gad said that the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists tried it in the parliamentary elections and succeeded. "Certainly, the Muslim Brotherhood's plan to seize the post of President during the run-off is to 'religionalize' the run-off on the one hand and intensify talk about Coptic support for Shafik on the other."

The news agency says some TV programs and their guests defended the Copts. "Copts should not be blamed, but blame those who terrorized them," said ex-presidential candidate Khaled Ali.

What Others Are Reading
More News in World