They have every reason to be worried. Islamic law institutionalizes discrimination against non-Muslims, denying them basic rights. “Worry taints Egyptian Coptic Christmas,” by Bethany Bell for BBC News, January 3 (thanks to AINA):
Egypt’s Coptic Christians are facing an uncertain future, as they prepare to celebrate Christmas on 7 January. About 10% of Egyptians are Copts, making up the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.
But many are concerned about the rise of President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and the more radical Salafis. And there are fears that the newly approved constitution fails to protect the rights of Christians….
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and of the more radical Salafi Islamist groups has unsettled many Christians in Egypt.
Since the revolution, television sermons by hardline Salafi preachers targeting Christians are becoming more common. In recent days, some have called for Muslims not to greet Christians at Christmas.
Others are more sinister. One cleric, Said Abdulazzim, recorded on YouTube, said that “any Muslim who befriends a Christian or a Sufi, neither of whom ever tell the truth, is misguided, a traitor”.
Some wealthy Copts are choosing to leave Egypt. But for many, like the congregation in Shubra, that is simply not an option.
The Church of the Virgin and St Mina is in a poor area. The streets are unpaved and every few metres there are mounds of rotting rubbish.
It is in places like this that many of Egypt’s Christians live, side-by-side with their Muslim neighbours.
The church can barely house its huge congregation. At services, many worshippers have to stand outside in the stairwell.
But the priest at the Church, Father Felopater Rateb Towfiles, says that when they recently tried to build a new community centre, they were blocked by a group of local Salafis.
Islamic law forbids Christians to build new churches or repair old ones.
“Things are tense in the area, we have to tread carefully,” he said.
“We thank God that we were able to prevent clashes between Christians and Salafis. If it had not been for this wisdom and the interference of God, there would have been massacres.
“Our people are unarmed but they have weapons. They had ammunition, automatic weapons and modern arms – we saw with our own eyes, the huge collection.”
Toward an Islamic state?
The political upheaval of recent weeks has also added to Christian concerns. There are fears that Egypt’s vaguely worded new constitution could pave the way for an Islamic state.
But Mohamed Soudan from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party says the constitution protects all Egyptians, regardless of their religion.
“I believe they don’t have any reason to be afraid of the future. We love each other,” he said.
“Nothing will attack the history of the relationship between the Muslims and the Christians. They are part of our blood. No-one can change it. They are not coming from abroad.
“They are from this soil and we are from this soil. They eat from the same soil and we are the same. No-one can touch this – never.”
But Youssef Sidhom, the editor of the Coptic Watani newspaper, says Christians are worried by the charter.
“Of course, they are quite concerned and I cannot hide that a few wouldn’t hesitate to leave if they have the chance. There is a vast area of mistrust that lies between Christians and all factions of political Islam,” he says….