News / Africa

Christian Editor: Political Islam Unpopular in Egypt

Coptic Christians run inside the main cathedral in Cairo as police fire tear gas during clashes with Muslims standing outside the cathedral April 7, 2013.
Coptic Christians run inside the main cathedral in Cairo as police fire tear gas during clashes with Muslims standing outside the cathedral April 7, 2013.

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Audio
Joe DeCapua
The head of Egypt’s weekly Christian newspaper calls the ouster of former president Morsi a people’s coup, not a military takeover. Youssef Sidhom says his country is in a struggle against political Islam.


Sidhom is editor-in-chief of the Sunday weekly called Watani, which translates to “My Homeland.” He says after “decades of oppression” under former ruler Hosni Mubarak, he – along with many Egyptians – believed the Muslim Brotherhood had the right to try to govern the country in the interests of all Egyptians. However, Sidhom said that did not happen.

“Months and months had elapsed when they failed to do so. And there has been during the past year of the rule of President Morsi an accumulating level of bitterness and anger on [the] part of Egyptians -- that the Muslim Brotherhood are only clever in taking power in their hands and ousting every other political faction.”

He said by late June, many Egyptians had rejected Mr. Morsi’s policies.

“Egyptians enormously went down to the streets – whether Christians or Muslims – saying enough is enough and we’re not taking any more of the rule of Morsi. And I have to admit they were very lucky that their anger, which erupted, was sided by the Egyptian military,” he said.

Many in the international community – and the Muslim Brotherhood – view the establishment of an interim government as a military takeover.

Sidhom said, “I know very well that the outer Western world has looked at what took place as a military coup, but Egyptians still insist that that was a people’s coup, which was sided by the military.”

Recent violence that erupted when the military moved against pro-Morsi demonstrators left hundreds dead. There was international condemnation of the military. But the editor-in-chief says there’s no going back to a Morsi government, despite demands by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. But is the stage being set for a civil war?

“If you had asked me this question six months ago, I would have accepted such a concept. But on June 30, according to most of the estimations, it was an overwhelming 30 million Egyptian people going down to the streets, both Christian and Muslim. It seems that no less than 85 or 90 percent of Egyptians are very relieved to get rid of political Islam led by the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
He said that the current violence cannot be described as a civil war.

Many Coptic Christian churches around the country were damaged or destroyed in recent violence. Copts had been viewed by the Muslim Brotherhood as opposing Mr. Morsi. Sidhom says some of the churches also had also been used for Muslim prayers.

Sidhom said, “I admit that it is a difficult time what Christians are facing – burning down their churches, looting them and destroying them. According to Islamic doctrine if you undergo Islamic prayers in any place it turns to be an Islamic mosque.”

Nevertheless, Sidhom said that Copts will not be dragged into what he calls a “side fight.”

“I think that Christians, who are standing in a very strong national solidarity with Muslims now, are subject to trying to drag them into a side fight in order to cry to the outer world to come and save them and save their churches – the matter of which the Christians will never do and will not do.”

He said that he agrees with Pope Tawadros II that the churches will eventually be rebuilt with the help of both Christians and Muslims.

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