Washington Conference Examined State of Christian Minorities in Muslim Countires
By Mary Abdelmassih
(AINA) -- The second Annual Conference of Coptic Solidarity International, an NGO for the support of the Christian Copts in Egypt and the protection of their fundamental rights, was held in Washington, D.C. on July 8-9, under the main theme of "Will Religious and Ethnic Minorities Pay the Price of the 'Arab Spring?" The main objective of this conference was to understand the implications of the current upheaval in the middle East and to offer present and future support to the Copts, and other minorities, in this difficult period.

Policy experts, human rights and legal experts, representatives of several Middle Eastern minorities and indigenous communities as well as Coptic leaders from North America, Europe and Egypt participated in the two-day event, discussing the geopolitics of the Copts in Egypt, democracy prospects in Egypt, respect for human and minority rights, persecution before and after the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and the Copts, aid to Egypt, building alliances, role of the media and the Coptic youth in the revolution.

The conference dealt with the issue of helping the international community to understand the strategic, long-term, negative impact of misunderstanding the nature of, or flirting with, the forces of religious fascism trying to dominate Egypt and the region.

Dr. Halim Meawad, former U.S. diplomat and a member of Coptic Solidarity, explained in his presentation to the conference how the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the January 25 revolution in Egypt, which was started by seven youth organizations with no political experience and no leadership, making it easy for a veteran organization like the "Muslim Brotherhood" to penetrate the revolution and take control of it.

"They call themselves by different names," said Dr. Meawad, "Wahhabi, Salafi, Hamas, Taliban, Qaida, Ikhwan, et cetera, but they all share and subscribe to the same systemic Islamic dogma and doctrine. All countries and nations must submit to Islam and infidels (sons of apes and pigs) will have one of three choices: 1) convert to Islam 2) pay jizya and live in humiliation or 3) be killed." He warned that in appearance, the Muslim Brotherhood (ikhwan) is a moderate Islamist organization because its members wear western suits and ties, have their beards trimmed, and believe in taking over power in Egypt and the world in phases. They exercise taqyyia (intentional lying to non-Muslims) in a more thoughtful and planned manner. "Mahdi Akef, their former Supreme Guide was a blunt man whose statements and actions reflected the organization's doctrine and intention, but his successor, Mohammad Badie, is a master deceiver."

Dr. Meawad believes the Muslim Brotherhood is well positioned to take over the Parliament in the first phase of taking over the government and controlling all aspects of life in the country, and it seeks to establish an Islamic State.

"It looks like another Iran is in the making," he said.

Dr. Maher Rizkallah, head of Canadian Coptic Association spoke of the necessity of giving a clear image to the US Congress and the European Community on the need for the democratization process in Egypt to be carried out on a sound footing, which preserves the rights of minorities, as is the practice in democratic states, noting that this matter is of importance to the United States and its national security.

Professor Walid Phares, an adviser to the US Congressional group on fighting terrorism, discussed during the two-day Conference the US position with regards to the events taking place in Arab countries (the "Arab Spring"), whose populations are eager for freedom from authoritarian regimes. He also discussed the statement given by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on meetings held with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Renowned Coptic writer and political analyst Magdi Khalil, President of the Middle East Freedom Forum and a member of Coptic Solidarity, said that 9 members of Congress participated in the Conference discussions, along with more than 35 researchers in Middle East Affairs, religious liberty and Christian NGOs.

Evaluating the success of the conference Khalil said "the most important was actively supporting the passage of resolutions H.R. 440 and S. 1245, to be presented to the House of Representatives on August 2, which provides for the establishment of a Special Envoy to Promote Freedom for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia (Pakistan). The permanent envoy would "visit governments of concern, negotiate with them, follow-up matters of religious freedom for persecuted minorities, as well as recommend punitive sanctions." He said 70 signatures have been collected from lawmakers to support this resolution, and he called on all US Copts and Christians to contact their House Representative to support this resolution.

The Conference called upon the international community to tie any aid to Egypt to it abiding by its commitment to international human rights conventions and treaties, and to ear mark part of the aid to compensate victims of religious hate crimes.

The Conference recommended in its resolutions to work in close alliance and coordination with genuine democratic, liberal and secular civil society forces in Egypt in order to save the country from the drastic consequences of falling under the control of a regime based on totalitarian religious ideologies, as well as join hands with other religious minorities and indigenous communities in the Middle East to form a new regional organization that upholds values of secularism and human rights in the area.

In Egypt, after the January 25 Revolution which toppled the dictator Husni Mubarak, most of the 15 million Copts were hopeful they would finally have equal citizenship rights with the Muslims, and the end to their persecution. However, instead there was an escalation of acts of aggression against them and their churches, in addition to nearly a tenfold increase in the number of abductions and forced Islamization of Coptic girls by Islamists. Moreover, Copts are concerned about the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood dominated government in the near future.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Identified Egypt as one of the World's Worst Religious Freedom Violators and as a Country of Particular Concern in its April, 2011 report.

By Mary Abdelmassih

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