A state of disgruntlement was sparked among a number of Coptic Orthodox bishops who were absent from last week’s meeting at the Saint Mark Cathedral to discuss names of possible presidential hopefuls and others to represent the church in the constitutional assembly, according to a source inside the church who refused to have his name mentioned. [Ahmad al-Sa’dāwī, al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, March 12, p. 1] Read original text in Arabic
“The bishops were not pleased with the outcome of the meeting. The angry Coptic Orthodox prelates were Bishop Bīshūy, Secretary of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan of Kafr al-Sheikh and Damietta, Bishop Bassāntī of Helwan and al-Ma’sārah and Bishop Bafnotius of Samallūt in the Upper Egyptian governorate of al-Minya,” the source said.
The bishops rejected a talk about backing Dr. ‘Abd al-Mun’im Abū al-Futūh as a presidential candidate, having Bishop Mūsá of Youth as the sole representative of the church in the constituent assembly that will draft a new constitution for Egypt and failure to invite them to the meeting.
Some 22 bishops and metropolitans had held a closed meeting last week at the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Pope Shenouda III's office to discuss backing a presidential candidate and select representatives of the church in the constituent assembly to draft a new constitution for Egypt, according to the pope's lawyer, Counselor Ramsīs al-Najjār. [Ahmad al-Sa’dāwī, al-Shurūq al-Jadīd, March 12, p. 1] Read original text in Arabic
Three Coptic figures announced they would run in the presidential elections – Engineer ‘Ādil Fakhrī Danyāl, leader of al-Istiqāmah (Straightforwardness) Party – Under Construction, Mamdūh Ramzī, the assistant leader of the Reform and Development Party, and Mīlād Mīnā Karrās.
Ramzī in statements to al-Misrī al-Yawm newspaper, said he took the decision to run in the elections in response to steps taken by Dr. Sharīf Dūs, chairman of the General Coptic Organization in Egypt (GCOE), to collect approvals for the candidacy of “Brother” ‘Abd al-Mun’im Abū al-Futūh.
“My decision aims to enhance the Coptic presence in the Egyptian society to obtain the rights of 20% of Egyptians. The political groups taking lead in the scene now insist on sidestepping Copts away from the political map in the post-revolution Egypt. I am not going to run in the presidential elections for the fun of it but to enter into and win an honest ferocious battle,” said Ramzī. [‘Imād Khalīl, al-Misrī al-Yawm, March 12, p. 4] Read original text in Arabic
An official source in the Coptic Orthodox Church denied any relations whatsoever to the so-called General Coptic Organization in Egypt, expressing the church’s discontent about statements attributed to the chief of “this unknown entity” regarding the Copts’ position on presidential elections.
“The church flatly rejects statements published by this so-called organization and getting Copts involved in allegedly backing a presidential candidate,” the source explained, adding no one has the right to speak in the name of Copts. [Sāmih Mahrūs, al-Jumhūrīyah, March 12, p. 3] Read text in Arabic
Talking reality and elections on the ground away from sweet-spoken words, any presidential candidate clearly supported by Copts is definitely facing jeopardy because simply he/she would be dragged into a battle of religious polarization and conflict over religious identity, writes Mustafá al-Najjār in an opinion article in al-Misrī al-Yawm newspaper.
It is a real jeopardy because there are several opponent candidates who belong to religious groups that adeptly set that ambush and can magnificently fan the flames of religious polarization in order to achieve political gains.
Perhaps this is the main reason behind all presidential candidates’ refraining from a step to announce a Coptic vice president although the proposal seems to be making perfect sense but out of electoral calculations the candidates balk at this step.
The step could be a very important ring in a chain of attempts to break the religious stalemate caused by some proponents of hard-line fiqh visions who say non-Muslims may not be a president or vice president and keep scavenging the fiqh heritage to come up with terminologies that do not having anything to do with the reality like the al-Imāmah al-Kubrá, or the top positions in the state. [Mustafá al-Najjār, al-Misrī al-Yawm, March 12, p. 17] Read original text in Arabic
Meanwhile, the Maspero Youth Union and the Free Copts Movement on Sunday (March 11) gathered outside the Supreme Court to protest “unfair rulings against Copts and double-standards that only cause religious discrimination”.
“The protesting was caused by a recent court ruling sentencing Priest Makarios of al-Mārīnāb Church in Idfū, Aswan governorate, to six months in jail for violating the licensed height in the church building. This building is the only licensed one while other violating buildings in the same village have not been handled with the same measures,” Michael Armanius, the coordinator of the Free Copts Movement, said. [Rajā’ Līlah and Shādyah Yūsuf, al-Ahrām, March 12, p. 3] Read original text in Arabic
Locals’ efforts in al-Minya managed to contain a sectarian crisis caused by wishes of two Coptic girls to convert to Islam after they had differences with their father.
Mamdūh Ahmad Ismā’īl, a 42-year-old local resident of al-Rūbī village in the predominantly-Muslim town of Samāllūt, reported to security authorities that Maryam Kamāl ‘Ayyād ‘Abd Allāh, 17, and her sister Wafā’, 21, both residing in the village of Abū Sidhum, sought his help because they said their father refuses their wish to convert to Islam.
In the presence of Shenouda ‘Atā Allāh, the archpriest of Itsā church, Christian and Muslim clerics, Muhammad Tal’at, a member of parliament from the Salafī al-Nūr Party, and Brig. Yāsir ‘Isá, chief of the criminal investigations, the two young girls said they will remain Christians and that they were only angry and had problems with their father. [Sa’īd Nāfi’ and Teresa Kamāl, al-Misrī al-Yawm, March 12, p. 6] Read original text in Arabic
The Muslim Brotherhood announced that its visit, scheduled for Tuesday (March 13), is a friendly one that does not involve any political purposes and is only out of the two sides’ keenness on communicating and having fraternal ties.
“The Brotherhood’s delegation will be led by Murshid (Guide) Dr. Muhammad Badī’ and will include Dr. Mahmūd Ghuzlān, a member of the Irshād (Guidance) Office and the group’s media spokesman, and Dr. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Barr, a member of the Irshād Office and dean of the faculty of Usūl al-Dīn at the Azhar University, al-Mansūrah branch,” said Dr. Mahmūd Husayn, the Brotherhood’s secretary-general. [Hānī ‘Izzat, al-Ahrām, March 12, p. 7] Read original text in Arabic
A ‘urfī (informal) conciliatory session managed to bring back home five Coptic families that had been displaced from the village of Sharbāt in the western Alexandria district of al-‘Āmrīyah and end differences that broke out two months ago over a reportedly love affair between a Christian young man and a married Muslim woman. [Rajab Ramadān and ‘Imād Khalīl, al-Misrī al-Yawm, March 12, p. 1] Read original text in Arabic
[Reviewer’s Note: A report of the same content was mentioned by al-Ahrām, p. 6, March 12, 2012] Read original text in Arabic
Meanwhile, Sufi orders and affiliated parties formed a political alliance with some revolutionary parties and powers and leaders of Christian denominations under the name “Egyptian League” to review decisions by the People’s Assembly and Shūrá Council and to refuse whatever violates the principle of citizenship.
The new coalition will also discuss agreement over a presidential candidate and practicing pressures in order to avoid exclusion of any denomination from the constituent assembly draft a new constitution for Egypt.
“The step aims to set up a parallel parliament that would review all decisions by the People’s Assembly that does not express all groups of the Egyptian society,” said Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alā’ Abū al-‘Azāyīm, the founder of the Egyptian Tahrīr (Liberation) Party and leader of the ‘Azmīyah Sufi Order during a meeting he hosted on Sunday (March 11). [‘Usāmah al-Mahdī, al-Misrī al-Yawm, March 12, p. 3] Read original text in Arabic
Counselor Najīb Jabrā’īl, the chairman of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization, said a committee was set up to survey the religious and political hisbah lawsuits that had been filed since the law on pleadings, which gave the public prosecution the exclusive right to file those lawsuits, was amended. [Fātimah al-Zahrā’ Muhammad, al-Fajr, March 12, p. 15] Read text in Arabic