A memo posted on the Facebook page of a local office of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism shows a clear call to incitement against Egypt’s Coptic Christian population, giving its blessing to the burning of churches.
Over 40 Coptic churches have been burned by Muslim Brotherhood supporters since the Egyptian police cleared demonstrators protesting the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday. Brotherhood supporters also reportedly blocked the road between Cairo and Aswan in southern Egypt looking for Copts, taking seven Copts hostage Thursday. They were later released after a ransom of 150,000 Egyptian pounds, roughly $21,500, was paid.
Muslim Brotherhood rioters who torched St. George Cathdral in Sohag were heard screaming “Allahu Akbar!” as they carried out their deed.
Coptic leaders say the Muslim Brotherhood’s violent onslaught against Christians has been unprecedented.
“It never happened before in history that such a big number of churches were attacked on one day,” Bishop Thomas, a Coptic Orthodox bishop in Assiut told Al Jazeera. “We normally used to have attacks once a month or so.”
The memo’s discovery comes a week after leading Freedom and Justice Party politician Abdul Mawgoud Dardery appeared at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and said that Egypt was a model for Christian-Muslim relations.
“The Pope of the Church (Coptic Pope Tawadros II) took part in the ouster of the first elected Islamist president. The Pope of the Church charges Islamic Sharia with underdevelopment [and] stagnation,” the memo from the Freedom and Justice Party’s branch in Egypt’s Helwan Governorate, near Cairo, said amid other accusations. “After all of this do people wonder why they burn churches? Burning houses of worship is a crime.
“And for the Church to adopt a war against Islam and Muslims is the worst crime. For every action is a reaction.”
The memo also attacked Pope Tawadros II for having supported the June 30 Tamarod demonstrations that led to the military’s toppling of Morsi.
He was not alone among Egypt’s religious leaders in backing the military’s decision to topple Morsi. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the highest clerical authority in Sunni Islam, also supported Morsi’s ouster.
The Brotherhood’s political arm also suggested Pope Tawadros was complicit in the deaths of the over 600 Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, some of whom were armed with guns, after police cleared them from their encampments.
The phrase “war against Islam” has consistently been used by Islamic extremists to recruit terrorist fighters and to encourage terrorist attacks.
Al-Qaida leader Zayman al-Zawahiri, himself an Egyptian and former Brotherhood member, attacked Pope Tawadros and the Copts last week, blaming them for Morsi’s downfall.
Brotherhood supporters in the city of al-Saff have been drawing check marks on houses owned by Copts to mark them for arson.
Christians say the Muslim Brotherhood wants to see all of them exiled from Egypt, where they have lived for almost 2,000 years. Analysts suggest that the Brotherhood sees the Copts, who comprise between 10 and 20 percent of the population, as easy scapegoats in the Brotherhood’s attack on Egypt’s military rulers.
Islamists rationalize their attacks on the largely defenseless Coptic community, saying they are counterattacking the Copts for having allegedly endorsed the crackdown.
“When Pope Tawadros comes out after a massacre to thank the military and the police, then don’t accuse me of sectarianism,” Mamdouh Hamdi, a Brotherhood supporter, told the New York Times.
These actions increasingly support the conclusion that the Copts’ fear that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization and not the benign political force its defenders have made it out to be.