Hours before the June 30 protests began against Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party, the nation's Christians were once again singled out for behaving like citizens who have the right to participate in the protests.
In Minya, Upper Egypt, where millions of Christians live, letters addressed to the Copts threatened them not to join the protests, otherwise their "businesses, cars, homes, schools, and churches" might "catch fire." The message concluded by saying, "If you are not worried about any of these, then worry about your children and your homes. This message is being delivered with tact. But when the moment of truth comes, there will be no tact." It's signed by "People zealous for the nation."
Such threats are not limited to anonymous letters. During a recent TV interview, Sheikh Essam Abdulamek, a member of the parliament's Shura Council, warned Egypt's Christians against participating in the June 30 protests. "Do not sacrifice your children," he said, as "general Muslim opinion will not be silent about the ousting of the president [Morsi]."
Notable in all these threats is that Christian children are specifically mentioned as targets— the easiest and most effective way at punishing "uppity" Copts who think they, too, along with the millions of other Egyptians, have the right to protest the Brotherhood and Morsi. These threats are not empty; since the rise of Morsi and the Brotherhood, the targeting of Coptic children has been on the rise. Some, especially young girls, are regularly abducted, raped, shamed into converting to Islam and then "marrying" their rapists. Coptic boys have increasingly been abducted from the doorsteps of their churches and held for ransom. Most recently, a 6-year-old Christian boy was murdered by his kidnapper— after the boy's family paid the ransom. (Read more about the jihad on Egypt's Christian children.)
The number of notable Islamic personages on record threatening Egypt's Christians is significant: in December 2012, Safwat Hegazy, a prominent Brotherhood figure and preacher, threatened every Christian who dared vote against Morsi's Sharia-heavy constitution. In a video, speaking before a throng of Muslims, he said:
A message to the church of Egypt, from an Egyptian Muslim: I tell the church—by Allah, and again, by Allah—if you conspire and unite with the remnants [opposition] to bring Morsi down, that will be another matter [screams of "Allah-hu Akbar!" ("Allah is Greater!") followed by chants of "With our soul, with our blood, we give to you, O Islam!"]… [T]here are red lines—and our red line is the legitimacy of Dr. Muhammad Morsi. Whoever splashes water on it, we will splash blood on him" [followed by more wild shouts of "Allah-hu Akbar!"]
Around the same time, Dr. Wagdi Ghoneim -- who earlier praised Allah for the death of the late Coptic Pope Shenouda, cursing him to hell and damnation on video -- made another video, entitled, "A Notice and Warning to the Crusaders in Egypt," a reference to the nation's Christians, or Copts, which began with him saying, "You are playing with fire in Egypt, I swear, the first people to be burned by the fire are you [Copts]." The heart of Ghoneim's message was genocidal:
The day Egyptians -- and I don't even mean the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafis, regular Egyptians -- feel that you are against them, you will be wiped off the face of the earth. I'm warning you now: do not play with fire!"… "What do you think -- that America will protect you? Let's be very clear, America will not protect you. If so, it would have protected the Christians of Iraq when they were being butchered!"
Later, a few months ago, while discussing the ongoing protests against Morsi, Sheikh Abdullah Badr, an Al Azhar trained scholar and professor of Islamic exegesis, made the following assertion on live TV:
I swear to Allah, the day those who went out [to protest], and at their head, the [Coptic] Christians -- I say this at the top of my voice -- the day they think to come near Dr. Morsi, I -- we -- will pop their eyes out, and the eyes of all those who support them, even America; and America will burn, and all its inhabitants. Be assured, the day Dr. Morsi is touched by any hand whatever, and connected to whomever, by Allah it will be the last day for us. We will neither leave them, nor show them any mercy.
Of all of Egypt's citizens, its indigenous and original inhabitants -- the Christian Copts -- are also the most denied equal rights; a revealing reminder of how Islam entered Egypt, with the sword and violence, and why most Christians, over the centuries, converted: to remain Christian was to remain a third-class, barely tolerated "citizen," who paid extra taxes, jizya, and was denied any equality with Muslims.
Sadly, not only do some Islamic leaders insist that Egypt's Christians have no right to protest, but also, apparently, so does the current U.S. administration. Days before the June 30 protests, U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson asked the Coptic pope to urge the Copts not to join the protests -- thus validating Sharia law's position concerning subjugated Christians: they must never complain against their Islamic overlords, in this instance, Morsi and the Brotherhood.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of the new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, 2013). A Middle East and Islam expert, he is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.