Yet the crucifixion report is alleged to have occurred within Cairo at the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis. Verifiable news for this event, however, has been scarce.
A primary circulator of the story in the English press is WorldNetDaily, which published an exclusive report on August 17. The article in entitled: ‘Arab Spring Runs Amok: ‘Brotherhood’ Starts Crucifixions. It states ‘Middle East media confirm…’ and then links to a website called The Algemeiner.
Published on August 16, the website published a story written by Raymond Ibrahim, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. It is entitled: ‘Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents, Attacks Secular Media’. It states, ‘Several Arabic websites … (listing four) … reported that people were being crucified.’
These websites are Arab News, Al Khabar News, Dostor Watany, and Egypt Now.
Arab News is a Canadian website and published its report on August 8. Al Khabar News is not clear on publication date, but comments indicate it was published on August 9. Dostor Watany was also published on the 9th, and includes a gruesome picture of a man whose side has been bloodied profusely. Egypt News is a French blog, and was published also on the 9th.
None of these sites would merit mention as being primary media outlets in Egypt. Only Arab News presents its article in the full context of the day’s events including the assaults in Media Production City, which are well quoted. In passing it also includes mention of crucifixions at the Presidential Palace.
As a source, like the others whose coverage is much weaker, it cites a report by Sky News Arabic.
I do not link to this report for two reasons. First, none of the other websites do. Second, the page does not – or no longer – exist.
Sky News Arabic is a recent media production created by BSkyB and Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp, according to Jonathan Kay. Kay published an article in the National Post on August 22, entitled: ‘Egypt’s Crucifixion Hoax becomes Instant Internet Myth’. He writes:
Yesterday I contacted the management of Sky News Arabic, and asked them about the crucifixions. According to Fares Ghneim, a Sky communications official, the crucifixion claim “began on social media. It started getting pick-up from there and eventually reached us.”
“Our reporters came across reports of the alleged crucifixions and a story very briefly appeared on the Sky News Arabia website,” he added. “The story — which was taken down within minutes — was based on third-party reports and I am not aware that any of our reporters said or confirmed anything along the lines of what is quoted in the article [by WorldNetDaily] … What’s unclear is where websites in North America got [the] Sky News Arabia bit from. As mentioned [previously], none of our correspondents confirmed this issue or commented on it. Clearly there is an intermediate source the websites got the info from, but as of yet we haven’t been able to identify it.”
Kay calls WorldNetDaily ‘a popular right-wing web site that promotes anti-gay and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories from an Evangelical perspective’. He states that Algemeiner is a ‘Jewish’ website.
Such testimony has led the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report to temper its stance on the crucifixions, in an article published on August 22. This service tracks tracks what it believes to be connections among organized Islamists worldwide, including in the United States. On August 16 it had circulated the story coming from the Algemeiner.
On August 16 Theodore Shoebat published the story on his blog, and his father Walid did the same. They are quoted in support of the accusation on several websites. Walid Shoebat states he is a ‘former Muslim Brotherhood member now peace activist’, and that he converted to Christianity in 1994. There is much controversy surrounding his testimony, noted even by the leading evangelical magazine Christianity Today.
Algemeiner carries other information in its article which is questionable if not outright misleading, revealing its bias. It links to a June 4 report about a video purporting to be the execution by beheading of a Tunisian convert to Christianity. An Arab West Report investigation suggested the terms used indicate the slaughtered man was instead a convert to Shia Islam, misrepresented as a Christian.
The website also states that the Azhar in Egypt issued a fatwa stating ‘fighting participants in anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations planned for 24 August is a religious obligation’. While this quote was given by an Azhar sheikh named Hisham Islam, his comment was rejected by the Azhar’s official Islamic Research Academy and the government Ministry of Endowments, saying he had no right to speak in the Azhar’s name.
Websites supporting the accuracy of the story also give as corroborating evidence verse 5:33 of the Qur’an, which states:
Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.
They also quote Egyptians, including a parliamentarian Adel Azzazy from the Salafi-oriented Nour Party and a Salafi sheikh , who called for the crucifixion penalty to be applied in Egyptian law.
Since Kay’s report, however, these websites have put forward additional evidence. The deleted URL for the Sky News Arabic report reveals Arabic text translated ‘Crucifixion-Opponents-In front of-Palace-Presidential-In Egypt’.
Then on August 22, WorldNetDaily published a report containing a video which is alleged to carry the original report, since deleted. It is entitled as described above, and written by ‘Samir Omar’. The original video was published on YouTube on August 8.
It also links to websites purporting a photo of an injured man from the incident, one of which can be determined as posted on August 9.
Furthermore the post links to the ‘Lawyers’ Union’ which demanded the incident be investigated. Strangely, however, the link is to a Christian website, quotes the ‘Lawyers’ Union for Democratic and Legal Studies’ – much less authoritative sounding – and does not mention ‘crucifixion’ at all, though it does mention ‘bloody’ and ‘terrorist’ activities.
The link to the investigation by ‘The Secular’ organization, however, does mention crucifixion as being reported, though its own wording speaks of ‘striking’ against protestors.
The strongest evidence in support of crucifixion, however, is mentioned by Walid Shoebat in his blog on August 24. He responds directly to Kay by quoting Ramda Fuad of the Egyptian National Party, who is portrayed as an eyewitness to events. Her testimony is carried on Haqq wa Dalal radio, and was posted on YouTube on August 9. Shoebat writes:
She described the beatings and burnings of tents set up by opposition. What she adds is in fact confirmed by other sources, that the Muslim Brotherhood as she stated “stripped men naked” (photos were produced), “beat women in horrifying ways” and even witnessed one of the crucifixions:
“They propped up a young man and tied him up on a tree”.
The interviewer interrupted:
“What do you mean they tied him to a tree? I heard of a crucifixion.”
“Yes, this is the incident… I saw a young man was beaten to a pulp while he was hung on the tree… Yes this is what I witnessed … he was a young man less the 21 years old.”
Fuad explained that “…women even ran to mosques and men ran after them to attack them in the mosques. No one was spared.”
Shoebat then mentions the gruesome picture mentioned above as evidence of the validity of Fuad’s testimony.
It should be noted that in the absence of police security, citizens have often taken the law into their own hands. Two incidents were related in Sharqiya, when thugs were beaten, killed, and hung naked from a tree in disgrace.
Kay responded again with another article, posted August 24. He spoke with Michael Carl, author of the ‘Run Amok’ article in WorldNetDaily. Carl, he states, stands by his story but would mention nothing of his sources, because ‘the Muslim Brotherhood “would kill my sources.”’
Arab West Report editor-in-Chief Cornelis Hulsman states in response, ‘Not mentioning sources is a traditional method of people not wanting transparency in their reporting.’
Kay also relates the 2009 report of Nathan Brown uncovering a similar ‘crucifixion hoax’ attributed to Hamas against Gaza Christians on Christmas. Hulsman related a similar hoax in Egypt from 1998, during the sectarian tensions suffered in al-Kushh.
Lastly, he correctly notes that none of the photos described so far actually depict scenes of crucifixion.
A key first question to ask in evaluating the above evidence is this: Did anything at all take place outside the presidential palace the evening of August 8?
The short answer may be yes.
Though not conclusive, the stories posted on August 9 by the Lawyers’ Union and The Secularist, as well as the radio interview with Fuad, appeared on the web very quickly after the event. These organizations are not well known, however, and questions must be asked why there was no traditional coverage of the ‘crucifixion’. There are many independent newspapers in Egypt which would relish the opportunity to negatively portray the Muslim Brotherhood. None of them did.
The four Arabic language media outlets quoted earlier in the article should not be given credence. These only convey the news reported by Sky News Arabic, which was subsequently removed by editors. Yet it does suggest that something took place that day, else there would be no controversy at all.
The photos provided on various websites do not establish anything, however. Damning for the credibility of the report is that there is not one photo of an actual crucifixion. Furthermore, the photos that do exist cannot tie the picture to the event in question. Websites providing photos only carried the Sky News Arabic story and were not eyewitnesses; from where did they obtain these photos?
The strongest evidence is provided by the eyewitness testimony of Fuad; this should not be readily dismissed.
It can be noted, however, that Fuad is identified as a leader in the National Party. This is a post-revolutionary offshoot of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, and thus in opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. Is it possible she would invent or embellish her remarks?
To claim such enters into the world of conspiracy, but similar is the claim that Sky News Arabic removed their story after pressure, or that Carl’s eyewitnesses ‘would be killed’. Any of these possibilities are within the realm of possibility, but do not serve as evidence.
Neither is evidence found in the reports of the Lawyers’ Union or the Secularist, as put forward by claimants. The former does not mention crucifixion at all, and the later only states it was reported.
It should be noted that ‘crucifixion’ conjures notions of Jesus upon the cross in standard presentation, nailed to two perpendicular pieces of wood. What is alleged is simply that people were strung up upon a tree. Could it be they may have been only minimally tied to the trunk?
If there was an altercation that evening in front of the presidential palace, however, there are no names of victims provided. Furthermore, all that would be known was that the alleged attack would have been the work of ‘thugs’, as has been common during Egypt’s traditional period. It would be impossible to tie these thugs to the Muslim Brotherhood, or establish they were doing its bidding, except through due process of law.
In light of the assembled evidence, however partial, the best conclusion is that the stories circulated by Algemeiner and WorldNetDaily, and popularized by the Shoebats and others, are meant as propaganda pieces against the Muslim Brotherhood.
There is insufficient evidence to establish that crucifixions took place at all. While it appears there may have been an altercation, even imagining a possible victim tied to a tree, it is a far, far jump to label this as Muslim Brotherhood crucifixions.
While the Qur’an does contain of verse about crucifying a brand of criminal, and marginal Egyptian forces have called for its implementation, the linking of this possible event with these sources is a clear effort to demonize the Muslim Brotherhood as a political force. Even if someone was strung upon a tree, these websites know full well the image of crucifixion in the Western mind is of Jesus and his horrific killing, along the lines of the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’.
This is irresponsible and dangerous journalism. Such verses of the Qur’an deserve rational questioning. The quotations of Salafi politicians and preachers are unnerving. The agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood is under suspicion. But the websites in question have not simply failed to properly investigate a likely hoax; they have aided and abetted it.
The result is the deception of hundreds and thousands of otherwise innocent readers. Again, though entering into the dim world of conspiracy, is this the point? Do these websites serve an agenda to engender opposition to Islamism as a political movement by any means necessary?
Again, Islamism as a political movement may well deserve opposition. Carrying and embellishing ‘news’ of this sort, however, serves neither truth nor peace. On the contrary, it hurts international relations, damages internal Egyptian politics, and provides a precursor to enmity and perhaps even war.
There is much in Egypt these days that is murky and few if any political players who are above suspicion. If such a culture of rumor, slander, and mudslinging is imported to the West, however, all will be the losers.
Or, perhaps it is already here.
Jayson Casper blogs regular on Egyptian politics, religion, and culture at A Sense of Belonging. Follow him on Twitter at @jnjcasper.