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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Egypt Copts react to Islamist electoral win



It is an understatement to say that 2011 has been a difficult year for Egypt’s exhausted Christians.

It began with the bombing of the Two Saints Church, only minutes after the New Year started, and culminated in the victory of Islamists with more than half of the parliament in the first phase of the elections.

Indeed, according to the latest results, the Muslim Brotherhood’s newly licensed Freedom and Justice Party won no less than 40 per cent of the seats, while the Salafist El-Nour Party won 20 per cent of the seats. And this is only the first phase, which covered nine of the country’s governorates. There are two more phases before a final picture of the first post-Mubarak regime can be drawn.

If the first phase results are anything to go by, Islamists will be the overwhelming majority in the next parliament. This outcome, which was expected, has still left the Coptic community reeling.

It has been a year where Coptic churches were burned by Salafist groups, where residents of the southern city of Qena demonstrated and blocked the city’s highways to protest the appointed of a Coptic governor, where Copts repeatedly took to the street to protest increasing discrimination and where deadly clashes between Coptic protesters and the army left at least 28 dead in what became known as the “Maspero massacre,” taking place in front of the State TV building in Maspero.

It’s also been a year where various Islamists speaking on TV shows called Christians kafirs (heretics) and insisted that they should pay the jizya (Islamic fine for non-Muslims), pushing Egypt’s Christians to spiral into an even more intense wave of panic.

Now, however, speaking to Ahram Online, various faces of Egypt’s Christian population talk about their fears, aspirations and predictions of how life under an Islamic dominated parliament will be for them.

Father Filopater Gameel, a Coptic priest, and a leading member of the Maspero Youth Union and eyewitness to the Maspero massacre.

"I am not surprised that the Islamists won the parliament majority. There were many hints in recent months that they were going to easily win many seats. The fact that they were insisting that the elections take place while all the other political forces were pleading that the elections be postponed hints that both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists made a deal with the military council.

"The elections were filled with rigging and violations. The Supreme Electoral Committee (SEC) has already announced that many ballot boxes will be disregarded because concerns that they were rigged. We also saw violations in terms of niqabis (fully veiled women) entering the polling stations and refusing to identify themselves so that they can keep entering the station and vote more than once. We’ve also heard of cases were the Salafist El-Nour Party blocked the door to the polling stations, so that any voter going in would have to pass by them first, which is actually against the law that bans campaigning in front of polling stations.

Also, during the electoral process there was heavy usage of religious slogans and mosques were used for campaigns and to promote the Islamists.

"The Islamists were pushing for the elections even when the martyrs blood had not yet dried in Tahrir Square and Maspero. But we Copts now insist on continuing the electoral process until the end. The Copts are flexible and are able to adapt to any regime. We tasted bitter medicine during the Mubarak regime and we will probably face more of that under the rule of the Islamists.





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