Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Unhappy Christmas

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CHRISTMAS was not a season of goodwill in Egypt. Its military-backed interim government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. Ousted President Mohammed Morsi who is now also guilty of jail break belongs to it. The Brotherhood’s activities including protests would be banned. The implications of declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist group are that those who belong to it, finance it or promote its activities will face punishment. The government decided to crack down a day after the bombing of a police station that killed 15 people. Ansar Beit al-Makdis, an armed group activist in the Sinai peninsula has claimed responsibility for the outrage. All this ran counter to the message from Pope Francis at Christmas calling for a dialogue to end all wars and urging everyone to be a personal peace maker. But reality is far removed.
Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country, has a 10% Coptic Christian population. During the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, they were badly discriminated against. Their shrines were burnt down under the very nose of Morsi’s police. Some of them were kidnapped and brutally tortured. The head of the Coptic Church in England spoke of the atrocities but hoped that a new Constitution would be adopted in Egypt making all religious communities equal socially and in the eye of the law. But he may be an optimist. The situation in Iraq has given the lie to such optimism. Militants in the country targeted Christians in Baghdad killing 37 people on Christmas Day. A car bomb went off near a church in the southern neighbourhood of the city. It was a gory Christmas in Africa and the Arab world.

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