JAFFA, Israel – The support offered by the Coptic Church to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi ahead of his trip to the U.S. has been used by Islamists and other opposition groups to criticize the Egyptian leader.
Videos have been released showing the envoys of the Coptic Pope, who were sent to the United States to rally support for Sisi, praising his efforts to accommodate the Christian community, including giving permits to build churches.
The church called on its followers in the United States, who normally criticize Egypt for what they see as its discriminatory practices against Christians, to come out in support for Sisi.
Muhamad Ilhami, an Islamic activist, tweeted: “This (is a) dangerous video, in which the representatives of the church tell how that dog Sisi is preparing to turn Egypt into a Christian empire.”
— محمد إلهامي (@melhamy) September 20, 2016
Hamzeh Zobaa, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood activist who was exiled following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, played a video on his television program showing a church official persuading believers to take over public areas.
He said that it was the execution of a “greatly dangerous” policy that was set out by the previous pope, Shenouda. He said no official or unofficial group, Islamic or otherwise, ever dared encourage land takeovers.
“The Coptic Church has decided to side with the criminal butcher Sisi against the Muslim majority of the Egyptian people,” Islamist Muhammad Alshanqiti tweeted. “It has thus cast itself as a member of a coalition of minorities that spill the blood of Muslims.”
— محمد المختار الشنقيطي (@mshinqiti) September 20, 2016
Writing for Al Jazeera’s website, the Egyptian columnist Kutb Alarabi said that by siding with Sisi the church has turned itself into a political party.
He quoted a church official as saying that the nature of their relationship with Sisi is pragmatic, which is why an almost exclusively Christian crowd rallied outside Sisi’s hotel in support of the president, opposite a bigger crowd of his detractors.
Alarabi praised some elements that were instrumental in former President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall in 2011 for their refusal to throw their weight behind Sisi.