October 11, 2011

AP Headline, in Wake of Coptic Christian Killings: ‘Christians Under Siege’; Brotherhood-Salafi Alliance Ignored

Only at the self-described “Essential Global New Network” could the Sunday deaths in Egypt of 26 people, mostly Coptic Christians, be kept out of a story’s headline and their mention deferred until the third paragraph.

But that’s what readers will see in the four-paragraph grab which follows from a much longer item by the Associated Press’s Maggie Michael yesterday:

APpicOnCopticChristianDeaths101011at6pm

The headline might as well be: “You really don’t want to look at this; it’s thousands of miles away, and it’s boring. Don’t you want to read about those wonderful Occupy Wall Street folks?”

How hard would it have been to go with “26 Killed in Egyptian Religious Violence?” How hard would it have been to open the story as follows: “26 people, most of them Coptic Christians, were killed last night in rioting in Egypt”? Of course, the answer to all of these questions is, “not hard at all.” Or, if this is supposed to be “analysis,” why not open with “The death of 26 mostly Coptic Christian in Eqypt Sunday exposes the power vacuum left after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak”? Nah, that would make too much sense, and accurately communicate the post-”Arab Spring” realities on the ground. We can’t have that.

Subsequent paragraphs in Ms. Michael’s report betray a near-embarrassment at the media’s misreading of the so-called “Arab Spring” uprising in Egypt earlier this year, and also attempt a deception yours truly, who has not followed post-”Arab Spring” developments closely, was able to puncture in one quick Google search (bolds are mine throughout the rest of this post):

Under (former Egyptian ruler Hosni) Mubarak, the problems of Copts festered even if they faced less violence than they do now. Their demands for a law to regulate construction of churches went unanswered and attacks on churches went unpunished.

Copts shared in the euphoria of the 18-day revolution that ousted Mubarak and like so many other Egyptians their hopes for change were high. Mainly, they wanted to be on equal footing with Muslims.

At Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution against Mubarak, there were glimpses of a fleeting utopia where coexistence and mutual respect between Muslims and Christians was the rule. The iconic image of Christians forming a human shield around Muslim worshippers during Friday prayers to protect them from thugs and pro-Mubarak loyalists spoke volumes to the dream.

But shortly after Mubarak’s ouster, a series of assaults on Christians brought home a stark reality: The fading of authoritarian rule empowered Islamist fundamentalists, known here as Salafis, who have special resentment for Christians.

While the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood has long been Egypt’s best organized opposition movement, the Salafis are a new player in politics. They are ultraconservatives, close to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi interpretation of Islam and more radical than the Brotherhood. They seek to emulate the austerity of Islam’s early days and oppose a wide range of practices they view as “un-Islamic” — rejecting the treatment of non-Muslims as citizens with equal rights as well as all forms of Western cultural influence.

Ms. Michael and fellow reporter Aya Batrawy, who a month ago called those who stormed the Israeli embassy in Egypt “protesters” and falsely claimed that the 1979 peace pact with Israel “never had the support of ordinary Egyptians,” want us to believe that the violence is all the fault of the “new player” Salafis acting entirely on their own. The trouble is, guys, that the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood have been cooperating since May. At the time, the UK Telegraph’s Michael Weiss recognized the dangers:

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Salafi pact puts Egyptian Christians in great danger

Well, here’s another dismal “unity” pact for you.

The Muslim Brotherhood has announced an electoral coalition with a host of Salafi groups in Egypt, under the banner of seeking an Islamic state. “It was the recent attacks on the Islamic groups that brought us together,” the Brotherhood’s lawyer Sobhi Saleh explained to an Egyptian newspaper on Tuesday.

Saleh’s newfound siege mentality is at odds with the confidence he displayed on Newsnight a few months back. A woman or a Christian, the Islamist attorney told Tim Whewell, could never be president of a post-Mubarak Egypt because Muslims constitute “95 per cent of the population” (not true) and this is the “same policy as in Greece, Spain and in England” (what’s the Arabic for “Iron Lady”?).

Among the Brotherhood’s new parliamentary partners is Jama’a al-Islamiyya, a Salafi group that played a role in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and recently advocated the formation of a Saudi-style “modesty police” for Egypt.

But these are peccadilloes compared with Jama’a’s other claims to notoriety which include: Being cited by Ayman al-Zawhiri in 2006 as an affiliate member of al-Qaeda; … Having its spiritual leader Omar Abdel-Rahman (a.k.a. the “Blind Sheikh”) sentenced for life in the United States for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; … Killing 18 Greek tourists (14 of whom were women) outside a hotel in Cairo in 1996 because Jama’a militants mistook the travellers for Israelis; .Killing 9 tourists and injuring 35 more on a bus in Cairo in September 1997; Killing another 71 tourists in November 1997 in Luxor.

Whatever the motive, Gama’a’s alliance with the any segment of the Brotherhood will only be met with alarm by Egypt’s 8 million or so Coptic Christians who … make up a full 10 per cent of the population.

Since the pro-democratic happenings in Tahrir Square in January, Egypt’s Christian minority has been consistently persecuted by uncorked crazies.

A Google Web search on “muslim brotherhood salafi” (not in quotes) returns plenty of evidence that the alliance between the supposedly okey-dokey Muslim Brotherhood and the violent Salafis (don’t you just love the AP’s torture of the word “ultraconservatives”?) is alive and well — which is more than can be said for those who died in Sunday’s rioting.

The suggestion not to trust anything coming out of the Middle East via the establishment press continues to apply, especially news which renders the media’s “pro-democracy Arab Spring”meme a myth, as does the necessity for New Media outlets to dig for themselves and expose what they find.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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