Arab-West Report organized for the University of Vienna, Austria, a visit to see Egypt in transition. The program was very varied and well organized. The group was very enthousiastic. Egyptians were very hospitable and Egypt was not dangerous for foreign visitors unlike the impression one would get from Western media reports.
Following my lecture at Vienna University and Pro-Oriente in Vienna, June 20-23, 2011 we received the attached excellent recommendation for our work which, we hope, will result in a closer cooperation between our Egyptian NGO, Center for Arab-West Understanding (CAWU) and the University of Vienna. My lecture also resulted in a visit of an Austrian university delegation to Egypt that had the following purpose: Understanding place of Christians in a Muslim society, study possibilities for relations between University of Vienna and Egyptian institutions for the sake of advancing intercultural dialogue. The text of my lecture for the European Parliament on May 8 served as reading advice, click here.
The verdict passed by al-Minya Criminal Court on May 21 convicting 12 Copts and sentencing them to life imprisonment while acquitting eight accused Muslims in the same case, known as the Abū Qurqās sedition case, has caused widespread anger among the Copts. Arab-West Report asked intern Cassie Balfour to research the background of the arrest of 20 persons from Abū Qurqās, around 270 km south of Cairo, in beginning in April 2011 and the following verdict on May 21. It soon turned out that this could not be done with a simple internet search with (telephone) interviews, but that it was needed for an Arabic speaking person to investigate on location. Arab-West Report asked me to do so, not only because I know Arabic, but I also have friends in Abū Qurqās who were willing to help me understand what happened in this Upper Egyptian town.
[Editor: This is a report of a meeting between a delegation of the University of Vienna, Austria, and Dr.’Amr As’ad, former board member of the Center for Arab-West Understanding on May 25, thus before the second round of the elections. Yet, ‘Amr’s remarks are nevertheless still very interesting to read.]
A press release of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organizations claimed on September 27 2011 that between February and September 2011 100,000 Christians had left Egypt in fear for violence and uncertainty. The claims of EUHRO were accepted in English language media without much questioning while Egyptian spokesmen and newspapers were more critical of the migration figures as presented by EUHRO. Jaco Stoop provides an overview.
Al-Misrī al-Yawm published on July 15, 2012 an article entitled "Netherlands agree to grant political asylum to Egypt's Copts". In the article the Dutch Coptic Association was quoted saying "The Netherlands officially approved the Association's request to grant political asylum to Egypt's Copts, after submitting evidence." The Association quoted the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) as saying that the agreement was based on the decision of the Dutch Parliament.
Al-Misrī al-Yawm added that Dr. Bahā' Ramzī, head of the Dutch Coptic Association, stated "Based on the report of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 2012 and the situation of Christians in Egypt, it was agreed to grant asylum to Egyptian Christians in Holland." ['Imād Khalīl, al-Misrī al-Yawm, July 15, 2012] Read original text in Arabic
This is a comment on an article with similar title published today on a blog called “Salamamoussa. Reclaiming Egypt,” named after Salāmah Mūsá (1887-1958), a well-known journalist, writer, and advocate of secularism and Arab socialism who was born into a wealthy, land-owning Coptic family in the town of Al-Zaqāzīq located in the Nile Delta. I earlier commented on previous articles of Salamamoussa that were also related to migration:
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) presented two opposing opinions from editors of large London-based dailies, Tāriq Al-Humayid, editor of the Saudi Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, opposed to Muhammad Mursī, and 'Abd Al-Barī ‘Atwān, editor of Al-Quds Al-'Arabī, rejoicing over Mursī’s narrow victory. Atwan, MEMRI writes, is a harsh critic of Saudi Arabia. Both newspapers published their articles on June 25, 2012.
What is written about Christian citizens in Egypt is not subject in any case to the logic of journalistic treatment as it is subject in many cases to the logic of intimidation and exaggeration or underestimation and stultification.
Arab-West Report advocates accurate reporting about Islam and the different streams that exist among Muslims, including Salafīs who indeed often have been misrepresented in various media. On the other hand Arab-West Report expects that Muslim authors and leaders present an accurate picture of Christians and various Christian institutions such as the Vatican. This was unfortunately not the case with an article in the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Fath, founded by Salafi Shaykh, Muhammad Hasān, which appeared on 15 June 2012 (page 3): “The Vatican Calls for Recognizing Christians in Arab Constitutions and Christianization in Nigeria”.