Dawoud, who runs a lucrative surgical practice, has been focusing his energies on matters he deems far more important - saving his co-religionists in Egypt. As president of the American Coptic Association and president of the International Christian Union, Dawoud has been a longtime advocate for the persecuted minorities in the Middle East, especially religious (Coptic-Christians in Egypt, Maronite-Christians in Lebanon, Chaldean-Christians in Syria and Iraq and the pitiful remnant of Jews in the Arab world) and ethnic (Syrian, Iranian and Turkish Kurdish Muslims, Nubian and Darfurian Muslims from the Sudan, North-African Muslim Berbers) groups.
"What is happening to the Copts in Egypt is an example of the kind of intellectual terrorism that radical Islam imposes on anyone who dares to criticize their agenda of having Islam dominate the world," Dawoud said. There have been hundreds of attacks on the Coptic community since Hosni Mubarak took power following the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Dawoud was especially troubled by the assault on the Copts that occurred on May 11 in the village of Bemha al-Ayaat in the Giza area. Muslim mobs, incited by a fanatically anti-Christian and anti-Jewish sermon by the local imam, ran through the streets chanting abusive slogans and hurling rocks and incendiary devises into area churches and homes of Christian villagers because of alleged intentions to build another church.
"The picture appears even bleaker," Dawoud added, "considering the shameful role played by the security apparatus and the local authorities." According to Dawoud, facts have been falsified and evidence that would have implicated the culprits was withheld. Instead, the authorities staged a theatrical show of a "reconciliation process." Dawoud asserted that "victims and offenders were treated on equal terms," and the government treated everyone as if what happened was a case of "naughty boys engaged in a fight." The officials played the role of "the wise father pursuing reconciliation among his sons to preserve family unity."
The May 11 attacks at Bemha al-Ayaat are not an isolated event. Compass Direct News quoted local Christians on June 15 as saying, "Muslim rioters attacked two Coptic Orthodox churches, damaged Christian-owned shops and injured seven Christians in two unrelated incidents in northern Egypt during the past week. Witnesses of another mob attack in Zawyet Abdel-Qader, 20 miles west of Alexandria, said the town's Christian quarter had been wantonly vandalized for 90 minutes the night of June 8 before police intervened.
In another incident, this time in Dekheila, six miles west of Alexandria, police immediately halted a mob attack on the Church of the Holy Virgin on June 12, preventing all but minimal damage from occurring. Local Christians confirmed that the attack was triggered by a fight between a Muslim and a Christian, but Akram Anwar Bekheed, a local member of the National Democratic Party in Zawyet Abdel-Qader, laid partial responsibility on the government. Bekheed said that the government had created a permissive atmosphere for sectarian violence by allowing previous attacks on churches to go unpunished in the interest of keeping peace.
Knife attacks in Alexandria in 2006 killed one Christian and left a dozen more injured. The government appeared unable or unwilling to halt subsequent vandalism on Coptic-owned shops and churches, blaming the attacks on a man they said was mentally unstable. Again, in January 2007, local sources said that violent Muslims had attacked a church-owned social services building in southern town of Zawyet Abdel-Qader, damaging the doors and windows. Hours later, police oversaw the bulldozing of the building, despite the fact that the church had obtained a permit from Alexandria's governor.
"The culprits are never indicted or penalized for the simple reason that they are Muslims and the victims are Christian Copts," Dawoud pointed out. He added, "As for breaching the law, burning, looting, inflicting destruction and pain, and terrorizing innocent people, they are discounted as mere "kids play" that is swept away by sham reconciliation. The Egyptian government blesses these barbaric acts. Is not that considered persecution of Christians?"
Those Copts who have been forcibly converted to Islam are not allowed to return to Christianity. Government officials deliberately deny such people identification cards that have their original names and religion. Conversely, for those converting into Islam, the government makes it an "easy and sweet" endeavor.
There are about 16 million Copts in Egypt by Dawoud's account. The problem, however, is that the government census-takers are deliberately skewed against Christians. Copts have become "dispensable second-class citizens" in Egypt. More than 7 million Copts live outside Egypt, more than one million of whom settled in the U.S.
Dawoud believes that "the best hope of securing the Copts basic civil liberties and ending their vulnerability to persecution is to establish a truly integrated and democratic Egyptian society."
On June 27, the International Christian Union led by Dawoud will rally in front of the U.N. in New York in an attempt to appeal to freedom loving people from all faiths, to stop the persecution against the Copts. In a similar demonstration in 2006 also led by Dawoud, then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan promised action to alleviate the condition of Copts in Egypt. The U.N. has taken no action hitherto.
By Joseph Puder