In what seems to be a pattern in many Muslim nations of finding new pretexts to justify anti-Christian—and “anti-Other”—behavior, Egypt’s Christians and their churches are under attack, ostensibly because Christians joined the June 30 Revolution, which led to the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Lesser known is that, even before the revolution back during the 2012 presidential elections, Christians were often threatened and sometimes attacked simply for not voting for the Muslim Brotherhood—an absurd expectation considering that it has long been the Brotherhood and its many Islamist/jihadi offshoots that have terrorized Egypt’s Christians for decades.
Even popular columnist Khaled Montasser, an Egyptian Muslim, had scoffed at the idea that Copts could ever vote for Morsi in an article published around presidential elections. Among other things, Montasser documented how the Brotherhood had in years past issued fatwas calling for the destruction of churches and the prevention of burying unclean Christian “infidels” anywhere near Muslim graves. Concluded Montasser, “After such fatwas, Dr. Morsi and his Brotherhood colleagues can ask and wonder—‘Why are the Copts afraid?’”
Even so, due to the good showing of presidential Ahmed Shafiq, Morsi’s then opponent—many insist he actually won the elections—the Islamists blamed the Copts. Tarek al-Zomor, a prominent figure of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya—the notorious “Islamic Group” which earlier slaughtered some 60 European tourists during the Luxor Massacre—even “demanded an apology from the Copts” for voting for Shafiq, adding that “this was a fatal error.”
Now consider how this same paradigm—threatening Christians to vote for or support the same Islamist leaders who persecute them, or else—has manifested itself in other countries, for example, Pakistan.
According to a May 20 report by Morning Star News,
A Muslim political candidate suspected of murdering a Christian has instigated calls from mosque loudspeakers for attacks on Christians, whom he blames for his May 11 election loss. Tensions were high in Punjab Province’s Okara district after provincial assembly seat candidate Mehr Abdul Sattar, sought by police in connection with a 2008 murder, on May 13 arranged for mosque calls for violence against Christian villages. “Burn their homes to the ground … Punish them such that they forget Gojra and Joseph Colony,” was the cry from village mosques in the district [emphasis added].
“Gojra and Joseph Colony” are references to two separate incidents when Pakistani Christians were especially persecuted: in 2009 in Gojra, eight Christians were burned alive, 100 houses looted and 50 homes set ablaze after a blasphemy accusation; and last March in Joseph Colony, Lahore, some 3,000 Muslims attacked Christians, destroying 175 homes and burning their churches, again, because a Christian was accused of insulting Islam.
And the calls for violence against the Christians who did not vote for Mehr Abdul Sattar have been effective. Among other things, his supporters ambushed a convoy of about 100 Christians on their way to congratulate his opponent on his victory.
Though notified, police failed to respond. This is unsurprising, considering that Sattar himself is connected to the murder of Javed Masih, a Christian who had opposed him in a 2008 election, according to the Morning Star News report.
“The late Javed Masih used to tell the peasants to vote according to their conscience and not get intimidated by gangsters like Mehr [Abdul Sattar],” said Younas Iqbal, chairman of a peasant movement fighting for land rights: “His efforts bore fruit, and Mehr lost the general election in 2008. Unfortunately, Masih had to sacrifice his life for the cause, while several others were injured in an armed attack by Mehr’s men.
This latest “humiliating defeat further stoked anger in Mehr, and he’s now bent upon punishing us,” added Iqbal, pointing out that Sattar has targeted no Muslims for opposing him.
If modern systems of governance, such as voting, elections, and democracy are being utilized as new ways to persecute Christians and other minorities in countries such as Egypt and Pakistan—which differ in many ways except for the practice of Islam—intimidation by fundamentalists is alive and well across the Islamic world.