by Ashraf Ramelah
A courageous woman and a brave bishop put Egyptian Sharia bullies to shame.
In the ongoing jihad against Egypt’s Coptic Christians one Bedouin tradition adopted by Islam keeps jihad in business. After every terrorist act, the victim is bullied into an “arbitration” hearing and the criminal courts are circumvented. No serious investigation is ever made nor any evidence gathered because the local government conducts the meeting of “reconciliation” without any need of the facts. Here’s how it works: A regional government official from the office of the governor (currently an Al-Sisi appointee) “offers” the victim a chance to apologize to the perpetrators of the crime. A Muslim official and the Muslim mayor enforce “peace” between the non-Muslim victim and the Muslim attacker.
In the aftermath of bloodshed, the victim apologizes to the perpetrator(s) and drops all rights to press charges of assault, rape, arson, or murder. In many cases, the victim and family are forced to leave town permanently, abandoning property and home. The victim turns over all possessions to the jihadists who divide the spoils among them. With almost no exception an intricate narrative is scripted to reach the news agencies. It characterizes the victim as guilty -- deserving of the assault under the code of Sharia divine law. Since every Christian belongs to a parish, a Muslim official coerces the church into the process so that the priest or bishop is forced to submit to the authority of Sharia law along with the victim. This surrender of conscience is the final humiliation.
Cairo’s Al-Ahzar Sunni-Muslim Institute typically steps into the process to control reaction to jihad episodes by sending a handler into local areas to assist in the “reconciliation” meeting. In the high profile case of 70-year old Mrs. Suaad Thabet, who was stripped naked, beaten, and paraded in the street to the screams of Alahu Akbar, Al-Ahzar issued a press release (as always in the aftermath of jihad) stating the immediate need of “reconciliation” to avoid “escalation.” The word “escalation” is intended to imply that two adversaries were fighting each other—an assertion meant to distort the true unilateralism of sectarian violence in Egypt.
After Mrs. Suaad Thabet had been dragged into the street by a mob of three hundred men, she was allowed to return to her house where she harbored her shame. She prayed and reflected for two days. She knew that what happens in the town stays in the town and that the wider public might never have a stake in the horrible truth of that day in the village of Karm.
No one could have anticipated the strength of her will to reach the media and bypass the authorities who had ignored her earlier warnings that something horrible was brewing. This act of courage further inspired the bishop who then took a very brave step.
Bishop Makarious of Al Mynea shocked Egyptian authorities when he refused the “invitation” for Mrs. Thabet’s arbitration meeting saying, “No. This case must be taken to the courts.” The local mayor and police department of Karm village were attempting to settle the Thabet case in the usual manner. Mrs. Thabet would have to surrender to a false version of truth and pay an additional price for her victimization.
When authorities did not act upon Mrs. Thabet’s early report -- when her son and family fled the village for safety, in effect, making her a scapegoat -- the violence about to erupt fell on her and her Christian neighbors (with seven homes destroyed). The entire ordeal was based upon claims (true or false) made against her son.
Later, in a TV interview, the ringleader’s wife revealed her husband’s secret plot to use a false story to divorce her without alimony and break up a business partnership without financial obligation – consequences perfectly feasible under Sharia law and accomplished easily with the incident contained locally. Interestingly, if the wife were guilty of adultery as claimed, the Sharia requires her stoning or beheading. But instead, Mrs. Thabet, the Christian, was targeted and violated.
The Egyptian media went wild. A national TV talk show host, Rasha Nabeil, aired a live phone call interview with Mrs. Thabet for the audience to hear her story firsthand. Mrs. Thabet said, “I would rather be buried in the ground than have what happened to me,” embarrassing and angering Egyptian authorities who earlier whitewashed the incident as “a normal family dispute.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Makarious accepted an invitation as guest on a panel talk show with the Karm mayor. When asked about the Karm incident the bishop said, “There will be no reconciliation meeting this time” – a bold declaration never before spoken. The mayor responded to the bishop’s decision by stating that the bishop “would be responsible for anything else that happens” – meant as a threat for more violence against Copts if no “reconciliation” took place.
Copts are holding their ground in this confrontation with Egyptian authorities, insisting that the case goes to the courts and not to “reconciliation.” This could be a real opportunity for the state courts to expose and break the ideological ties that bind law enforcement, government officials, and Al-Ahzar to the perpetrators in successful conspiracies against Copts. Most Egyptians desire fairness from the courts. A Pew Research Center Report on Egypt dated May 22, 2014 states that, “nearly eight-in-ten (79%) say that a judicial system that treats everyone in the same way is very important. Similarly, 63% of Egyptians say law and order is critically important to their country’s future.”
So far Coptic resistance has forced officials to admit they should have heeded Mrs. Thabet’s warnings of a pending tragedy. It forced Al-Sisi’s office to apologize to her -- an elder, a grandmother and a trustworthy source – as well as journalists expressing sympathy on behalf of the public. However, if religious authorities continue to exercise power over the state courts, justice will not be served.
Where now is the man with heart and sensitivity toward women and Copts? The man who brought a rose to the hospital bedside of a rape victim and made a surprise visit to a church for Christmas Eve service is silent today. This is the man who sought the support of ordinary Egyptians -- the ones who endure these types of crimes every day -- in his run for president. He received their support. Where is Al-Sisi today when the people need him to give substance to his gestures and use his power to rid the country of lawlessness based upon the deep prejudices of Islamic law? Al-Sisi appealed to everyone in his early moments as president, and there was great hope that he might be a champion of individual liberty and usher Egypt into the modern world. Instead, the Sharia takes its course in Egypt under Al-Sisi just like it did during the good-old-days of Hosni Mubarak.
Ashraf Ramelah, founder and president of Voice of the Copts, has recently given testimony to the Canadian Parliament on the revolution taking place in Egypt. Please visit www.voiceofthecopts.org to read more.
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