New Egyptian Constitution Betrays Coptic Christians
constitution. It states that "Islam is the Religion of the State, Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence [Sharia]."
Article 2 has been a bone of contention for the Coptic Christian community. They petitioned for its removal under Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak. Although the Copts suffered discrimination under Mubarak, he was trying to steer his country in a secular direction.
This is not the same as Western secularism, which, for all intents and purposes, is an aggressive atheistic belief system. In Muslim countries, like Egypt, secularism primarily refers to a form of governance whereby non-Muslims are treated equally under the law.
Therefore, Article 2 was generally interpreted loosely under Mubarak, but this is not the intention of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which President Morsi has long been a member. The Muslim Brotherhood has been a radical, Islamist organization since its inception.
It was founded by Hasan al-Banna in1928 as an Islamist religious, political, and social movement. In his book, Faith, Reason, and the War against Jihadism, George Weigel writes that al-Banna believed "After cleansing the House of Islam, true Muslims would cleanse their territories of infidels and unbelievers. . . ." For al-Banna, "Islam was 'both a religion and a state,' such that the Qur'an and the sword were 'inseparable.'"
Al-Banna's vision did not change through the years. During the Second World War, the Muslim Brotherhood sided with the Nazis, and they supported terrorist activities in Palestine. They also assimilated the Nazi's views against the Jews and Western societies into their reform movement. The Muslim Brotherhood were also implicated in a failed plot to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's leader in 1965, and in the successful assassination of Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, in 1980.
It is no wonder, then, why Mubarak outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and put some of its members in prison when he became president. And we should not be surprised now that the Muslim Brotherhood not only left Article 2 in the new constitution, but also added wording which subjects this contentious article to a more fundamentalist interpretation of sharia law.
Based on sharia law, non-Muslims fall into one of two categories. The first category is made up of pagans. The second category is made up of "people of the book," meaning people whose religion is based on sacred texts. This includes the Jews and the Christians. Muslims refer to people who fall into this category as dhimmis.
Historically, the dhimmis were allowed to live in Muslim society and to practice their religion, but in return, they were required to pay a special poll tax known as the jizya. Payment of this poll tax was understood to be a mark of their submission to the Muslim authority. But it was more than that; it was a mark of total subjugation and humiliation.
According to one translation of the Koran, chapter 9:29 reads, "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, [even if they are] of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."
They say that a leopard does not change its spots, and this is exactly what we have seen with the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the election process and the drafting of the new constitution. We need to pay attention to what they do not what they say. And it appears that they have used the democratic process from the onset merely as a means to an end: The acquisition of power and the Islamization of Egypt. This is not democracy or freedom or peace.
As we celebrate the New Year, let us hope and pray that our Coptic brothers and sisters in Christ, and all Christians throughout the world, will be able to live in freedom from persecution and celebrate Christmas in peace next year.
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Egypt, Referendum, Constitution, Copt, Christian, Discrimination, Persecution, Michael Terheyden
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