Christians in Egypt under siege as Islamists blame them for coup

Islamists outraged by the popular coup that toppled the Mohamed Morsi government have found a target for their wrath.  CBS News reports that Coptic Christians in the country have been harrassed, beaten, and killed since Morsi’s removal, and now live in fear of even greater violence which Islamists threaten on a daily basis:

It was nighttime and 10,000 Islamists were marching down the most heavily Christian street in this ancient Egyptian city, chanting “Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians.” A half-dozen kids were spray-painting “Boycott the Christians” on walls, supervised by an adult.

While Islamists are on the defensive in Cairo following the military coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi, in Assiut and elsewhere in Egypt’s deep south they are waging a stepped-up hate campaign, claiming the country’s Christian minority somehow engineered Morsi’s downfall. …

For the 40 percent of Assiut people who are Christian, life has changed radically. They find their apartment blocks disfigured by painted crosses with a red X painted over them. They stay at home at night. Churches have cancelled afternoon activities. Some of the wealthy have left town.

“We had never experienced the kind of persecution we suffer now. We are insulted every day,” said Nevine Kamal, a 40-year-old Christian pharmacist and mother of two teenagers. “We are angry and frustrated but we are not leaving Assiut,” she said, seated at her desk at the St. George Pharmacy on Youssry Ragheb Street. Under her desk’s glass is a poster of the Virgin Mary and on the wall is an image of St. George slaying the mythical dragon.

Copts had long kept their heads down, politically speaking, during the dictator era in Egypt.  They began to become more politically active after the fall of Mubarak, as did other groups in Egypt, and opposed the power grab by Morsi.  Copts only account for 10% of Egypt’s population, though, so the accusation that they drove the widespread anger and discontent with Morsi’s governance is absurd.  Even so, seven Christians have been murdered over the last few weeks since the coup, and many more injured as Islamists scapegoat them for their own failures.

Speaking of failure, John McCain and Lindsay Graham will come back empty-handed from their attempt to mediate the crisis in Egypt between the military-installed government and the Muslim Brotherhood.  In fact, Clarissa Ward reports that their efforts made the situation even worse:

The military probably won’t take down the camps until after Ramadan ends, as it would be political suicide to do otherwise. However, even after the religious holiday, any action will get a violent reaction, and the Copts had better be prepared for it. Kudos to CBS News for featuring this part of the crisis.

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