Article summary:

October 30, 2014 - Since its inception on the tarmac facing the Maspero State Television building in Downtown Cairo, the Maspero Youth Union (MYU) has been a driving movement, organizing protests that at times have included thousands of Coptic Christians. Before its establishment three and a half years ago, there were few means for Egypt’s Copt to voice their demands, and never before had they shown strength in such large numbers. This has not been without incident – a march on October 9th, 2011 was met with violent repression by security and during the incident more than 20 Copts lost their lives in what is known as the ‘Maspero Massacre’. Nowadays, large marches and their revolutionary spirit are a thing of the past, and many have settled for a new period of hoped-for stability.

But what does this mean for an activist group born of the revolution? Is the MYU still going strong, or have things changed? CAWU Intern, René Witteveen sat down with Mina Magdy, the MYU’s General Coordinator, and Beshoy Tamri, head of Political Communications, to talk about the Maspero Youth Union anno 2014.

02. The Educational Initiative of the Egyptian Family House: An Interview with Rasmī ‘Abd al-Malak Rustum

Dr. Rasmī ‘Abd al-Malak is advisor to the Center for Arab-West Understanding and the head of the educational committee of the Egyptian Family House [Bayt al-Eila], an independent institution created by government decree. It is run by the grand sheikh of the Azhar in partnership with the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, involving Egypt’s other Christian denominations as well.

The Family House is authorized to create branches in the governorates, so that the effort to protect and reinforce national unity between Muslims and Christians will be felt at the grassroots. But it is also authorized to interact directly with government ministers, so that their suggestions will be taken into serious consideration in the framework of national policy.

It is in this second capacity Arab West Report met with Dr. Rasmī ‘Abd al-Malak Rustum, who describes the work of the educational committee of the Family House in formulating recommendations to the minister of education. The interview was conducted on November 10, 2014, by Jayson Casper and ‘Adil Rizq Allah, board member of the Center for Arab-West Understanding.

04. The Egyptian Family House: Early Structure and Activity

 ‘National unity’ has long been a part of Egyptian political discourse. Spun positively, it celebrates the equal contributions of Muslims and Christians as one people in the national fabric. Spun negatively, it is crass propaganda used by the ruling class to demonize Islamists and scare both Copts and international observers into supporting the status quo.

02. Was president Mohammed Morsi legitimately elected?

December 16, 2014 - The legitimacy of the 2012 presidential elections which resulted in bring President Mohammed Morsi [Muhammad Mūrsī] to power has been disputed since the day the election results were announced. Arab West Report was presented with a copy of al-Istiqlāl (October 22, 2012) and Ahmed Shafiq’s comments on Facebook published on October 16, 2014. What both texts had in common was the assertion that Shafiq was the original winner of the 2012 presidential elections. Arab West Report decided with the help of Dr. Sherin F. Ibrahim, who contributed to the formulation of Egypt’s 2012 and 2014 Constitutions and presented us with the texts, to investigate these claims further.

01. How three months in Egypt changed my perspective on reality

December 14, 2014 - The sudden opportunity to come to Cairo came to me as a surprise. It was just before summer and I recently finished writing my final thesis for my journalism bachelor. Internships were the only thing between me and graduation come March. Everything was arranged and within two weeks I would board a plane to Egypt. It is something I had never really thought about before that moment and something, looking back on it now, that I am thankful for. What was it that made it so special? The people I met along the way. 

21. A Western-Islamic Account on Spirituality, Ramadan, and interfaith reconciliation

The relationship between expatriates living in Egypt and Ramadan can be a love-hate relationship. Some might argue that Ramadan is the ‘most unproductive month of the year’. People work less hours and businesses can get a bit slow. On the other hand, however, very few can deny the level of contagiousness of spirituality in Ramadan. Thousands upon thousands flood the streets and mosques, praying for God’s mercy and blessings. One can hear the Qur’an at every corner of the country and solidarity and compassion between people is unmatched in any other time of the year.

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It is, unfortunately, not uncommon for people to make efforts to discredit their opponents with distortions and lies. It becomes even more questionable if people who make false claims want to remain anonymous. The author must be someone who knows several things about me. That makes an anonymous response even more cowardly. Only in February this year I was alerted that I was attacked on the website www.mobtada.com. I responded in a letter on February 8 (see below). I had expected that the author of the attack on me would respond but he preferred not to and remains anonymous. This is of course very weak.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine initially wanted to interview a Catholic Christian family in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minia about their preparations for Christmas in November 2013. Tensions were still running deep in Egypt after extremists had destroyed tens of churches in Egypt, including many in Minia. The Catholic Bishop of Minia, however, agreed to help find a family. A family was identified, but shortly before journalist Michael Obert and photographer Andy Spyra came to Egypt, the family decided to cancel any meeting for fear of rumors that could follow the visit of foreigners to their area. Their fear was certainly justified. Rumors, deliberately created or not, can cause a lot of harm.

In its dispatch no. 5657 MEMRI focuses on the mutual accusations between supporters of the current regime and the Muslim Brotherhood. “Each camp accuses members of the other camp of being Jewish and of implementing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The MEMRI report is full of examples from both camps with photos and cartoons. 

The claims and articles are part of the de-legitimization campaign in which both camps are involved. It is sad that both camps are engaging in such outrageous campaigns, but the value of this should not be overstated. 

Raymond Ibrahim, author of “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians,” is blatantly anti-Muslim in his writings. He is doing ‘well’ in creating fear for Muslims. 

Ibrahim interprets all violence of Muslims against Christians as something that is motivated through Islam as religion. The problem is in his generalizations. It is simply not true that all violence of Muslims against non-Muslims has a religious motivation but each time Ibrahim finds such violence he claims it to be motivated by Islam, while I have found through my work for Arab-West Report that violence is often related to many other factors such as the weak rule of law in Egypt.

On Friday, November 29, an article appeared in al-Fath, an independent Salafī newspaper, written by reporters Tāriq Bahgat and Walīd Mansūr. [1] The article reports on the discussion that took place between Bishop Bola, the representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Constituent Assembly, and Al-Azhar scholars about the articles relating to Al-Azhar in the Constitution as well as the so-called “identity articles”, which pertain to the interpretation of Islamic sharī’ah in the new constitution and the role of Al-Azhar. Whereas the Nūr Party representatives sought to impose a stricter interpretation of shar’īah and include it in the draft together with a stronger role for Al-Azhar, the representatives of the Churches refused that. [2] The discussion escalated to the point that Bishop Bola threatened to withdraw from the Constituent Assembly. [3] The article expresses polemic views against Bishop Bola and against the Church’s position of the aforementioned articles.

 

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Newsclippings from International Sources

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Former air marshal Husni Mubarak, now 86, had ruled Egypt for 30 years when his military colleagues forced him from office in 2011. Three years and many upheavals later, those same colleagues replaced his successor with retired field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, 59. The country, in short, made a grand round-trip, going from military ruler to military ruler, simply dropping down a generation.

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Security forces in Minya arrested Tuesday a new defendant among other suspects of breaking into and bombing the Evangelical Church in Mallawi, southern Minya (Upper Egypt).

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Coptic Solidarity released a statement on Tuesday condemning The Working Group on Egypt’s letter to President Obama.

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Al-Rawdal al-Haditha private school in 6 of October City in Giza governorate is segregating Christian and Muslim students, said Rev. Refaat Fikri, pastor of the Evangelical Church in Shubra and chairman of the Evangelical Church Information and Publishing Committee.

 
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The Armant Misdemeanor Appeal Court in Luxor (Upper Egypt) confirmed the sentence the first-degree court against a young Coptic Christian man named Kyrillos Shawki, who was accused of contempt of Islam for stirring sectarian strife. He was sentenced to six years in prison and 6,000 EGP bail.

 
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