Posts tagged Muslim Brotherhood
Hundreds of Christians were under siege inside Cairo’s Coptic cathedral last night as security forces and local residents, some armed with handguns, launched a prolonged and unprecedented attack on the seat of Egypt’s ancient Church.
At least one person was killed and at least 84 injured as Christians inside the walled St Mark’s cathedral compound came under a frenzied assault from their assailants in the main road outside.
The fighting erupted after a mass funeral for five Copts who were killed during violent clashes in a north Egyptian town on Saturday. A Muslim man also died in the clashes, which happened after an Islamic institute was daubed with offensive graffiti.
Following yesterday’s service thousands of Christians poured out on to the street and began chanting slogans against Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian President and long-time member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Muslim Brotherhood and extremist groups here want us to leave. They don’t accept Copts. But this was our country, ever since the time of the pharaohs.”
Late last night President Morsi issued a statement in which he said he had spoken to Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic church, and had given orders for the cathedral and citizens to be guarded. He said protecting the lives of Muslims and Christians was a state responsibility and added: “I consider any attack on the cathedral as an attack on me, personally.”
The man killed in the clashes outside the cathedral was named by the state news agency, MENA, as Mahrous Hana Tadros, a Christian name. MENA said 11 of the 84 injured were police officers.
Earlier, witnesses described how they were attacked by locals from Abbasiyya, the north-east Cairo neighbourhood where the cathedral is located. After being hit by rocks from the roofs of nearby buildings, the mourners were reportedly forced back into the cathedral compound.
Wael Eskandar, an Egyptian blogger who attended the funeral, said he saw people being showered with broken bottles from the roof of an apartment block opposite. After being attacked, he said, the people “started racing out of the side street and destroying the nearby cars”. He added that he was not sure if those attacking the vehicles were mourners. As night fell the streets around St Mark’s were echoing to the sound of gunshots and exploding tear gas canisters. Young men on either side of the 18ft-high compound wall exchanged a continuous hail of rocks and broken masonry. Others hurled Molotov cocktails and let off fireworks.
The security forces positioned outside the cathedral launched volley after volley of tear gas into the compound. Some of the thousands of onlookers gathered in the road cheered as the canisters rocketed towards Christians perched on the walls overlooking the main street.
One young man, his right hand clasped around a shiny steel handgun, clambered on top of a petrol station alongside the cathedral and blasted a single round at those trapped inside. He was helped down by a friend who was also carrying a handgun, before they both jogged off through a nearby line of riot police who had been watching the young man take aim. Soon afterwards there was a flash from inside the compound as a young man stepped up on to the perimeter wall and fired a weapon towards the thousands of onlookers below.
A second later a number of people recoiled as they were hit by birdshot. Handguns and other weapons, many of them homemade, are becoming a more common feature of the violence which has regularly convulsed the country since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
“Only God can save us from what is happening right now,” said Mina Zakaraya, a 25-year-old Coptic seminarian who was positioned inside the compound. At the cathedral’s rear entrance, panicked young men ushering people inside demanded to see the cross which most Copts have tattooed on their wrist.
“I’m worried about the situation in Egypt,” said Makram Girgis as he sat on the steps leading up to the imposing cathedral building. source - Independent UK
CAIRO (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday rewarded Egypt for President Mohammed Morsi’s pledges of political and economic reforms by releasing $250 million in American aid to support the country’s “future as a democracy.”
After meeting Morsi and his defense and intelligence chiefs on Sunday, Kerry flew to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and planned later stops in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where his focus is expected to be the crisis in Syria and Iran. source – AP
Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood; Now In America
An Egyptian magazine claims that six American Islamist activists who work with the Obama administration are Muslim Brotherhood operatives who enjoy strong influence over U.S. policy.
The Dec. 22 story published in Egypt’s Rose El-Youssef magazine (read an IPT translation here) suggests the six turned the White House “from a position hostile to Islamic groups and organizations in the world to the largest and most important supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The story is largely unsourced, but its publication is considered significant in raising the issue to Egyptian readers.
The six named people include: Arif Alikhan, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for policy development; Mohammed Elibiary, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council; Rashad Hussain, the U.S. special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Salam al-Marayati, co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and Eboo Patel, a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships.
Alikhan is a founder of the World Islamic Organization, which the magazine identifies as a Brotherhood “subsidiary.” It suggests that Alikhan was responsible for the “file of Islamic states” in the White House and that he provides the direct link between the Obama administration and the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.
Elibiary, who has endorsed the ideas of radical Muslim Brotherhood luminary Sayyid Qutb, may have leaked secret materials contained in Department of Homeland Security databases, according to the magazine. He, however, denies having any connection with the Brotherhood.
Elibiary also played a role in defining the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy, and the magazine asserts that Elibiary wrote the speech Obama gave when he told former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave power but offers no source or evidence for the claim.
According to Rose El-Youssef, Rashad Hussain maintained close ties with people and groups that it says comprise the Muslim Brotherhood network in America. This includes his participation in the June 2002 annual conference of the American Muslim Council, formerly headed by convicted terrorist financier Abdurahman Alamoudi.
He also participated in the organizing committee of the Critical Islamic Reflection along with important figures of the American Muslim Brotherhood such as Jamal Barzinji,Hisham al-Talib and Yaqub Mirza.
Regarding al-Marayati, who has been among the most influential Muslim American leaders in recent years, the magazine draws connections between MPAC in the international Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure.
Magid heads ISNA, which was founded by Brotherhood members, was appointed by Obama in 2011 as an adviser to the Department of Homeland Security. The magazine says that has also given speeches and conferences on American Middle East policy at the State Department and offered advice to the FBI.
Rose El-Youssef says Patel maintains a close relationship with Hani Ramadan, the grandson of Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, and is a member of the Muslim Students Association, which it identifies as “a large Brotherhood organization.” source – IPT
Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report.
The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group. And it claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.
It warns that converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East. The report, by the think tank Civitas, says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree.
“A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”
It cites estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” says the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.
He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”
The report, entitled Christianophobia, highlights a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a “Western creed” which can be used to undermine them. State hostility towards Christianity is particularly rife in China, where more Christians are imprisoned than in any other country in the world, according to the report.
It quotes Ma Hucheng, an advisor to the Chinese government, who claimed in an article last year that the US has backed the growth of the Protestant Church in China as a vehicle for political dissidence.
“Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities,” he wrote in the China Social Sciences Press.
“Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the regime…in China and overturn it,” he added.
The “lion’s share” of persecution faced by Christians arises in countries where Islam is the dominant faith, the report says, quoting estimates that between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.
“There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands,” it claims.
The report shows that “Muslim-majority” states make up 12 of the 20 countries judged to be “unfree” on the grounds of religious tolerance by Freedom House, the human rights think tank.
It catalogues hundreds of attacks on Christians by religious fanatics over recent years, focusing on seven countries: Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Burma and China.
It claims George Bush’s use of the word “crusade” after the September 11 attacks on New York created the impression for Muslims in the Middle East of a “Christian assault on the Muslim world”.
“But however the motivation for violence is measured, the early twenty-first century has seen a steady rise in the strife endured by Christians,” the report says.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq left Iraqi Christians “more vulnerable than ever”, highlighted by the 2006 beheading of a kidnapped Orthodox priest, Fr Boulos Iskander, and the kidnapping of 17 further priests and two bishops between 2006 and 2010.
“In most cases, those responsible declared that they wanted all Christians to be expelled from the country,” the report says.
In Pakistan, the murder last year of Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s Catholic minister for minorities, “vividly reflected” religious intolerance in Pakistan. Shortly after his death it emerged that Mr Bhatti had recorded a video in which he declared: “I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.
“I prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather than to compromise. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us.”
The report also warns that Christians in India have faced years of violence from Hindu extremists. In 2010 scores of attacks on Christians and church property were carried out in Karnataka, a state in south west India.
And while many people are aware of the oppression faced in Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy activists, targeted abuse of Christians in the country has been given little exposure, the report says.
In some areas of Burma the government has clamped down on Christian protesters by restricting the building of new churches.
“Openly professing Christians employed in government service find it virtually impossible to get promotion,” it adds. source – Telegraph UK
Obama arms the Muslim Brotherhood to the teeth
The Obama administration took a careful look at the political calendar before announcing that the first four F-16 fighter planes – of the 20 approved in a $1 billion US foreign aid package to Egypt – would be delivered Jan. 22.
The announcement came Tuesday, Dec. 11, as Cairo and other Egyptian towns were set for massive rival demonstrations for and against President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to hold a referendum on a pro-Islamist constitution Saturday. It therefore came in for rising criticism in Washington of the wisdom of sending the jets to an unstable Egypt in the grip of a strong political confrontation.
A broad range of opposition groups – pro-democratic, liberal, secular, women and Christian – are demanding that President Morsi cancel the referendum. The Muslim Brotherhood is mobilizing its supporters to counter this protest. As the first anti-Morsi groups began gathering in Tahrir Square Tuesday, nine were hurt by masked gunmen.
The opposition has clipped President Morsi’s wings once by making him annul the near-dictatorial powers he gave himself. Forcing him to forego the referendum would further undermine his authority.
So the president fought back by authorizing the military to secure state buildings and arrest civilians in the incendiary days leading up to Saturday’s referendum. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Monday, six Egyptian Air Force F-16 fighters flew symbolically over Cairo.
However, the 2nd and 9th Divisions stationed around Cairo stayed in their barracks and the only uniformed personnel visible on the street were the Republican Guard troops on permanent duty in the capital’s center.
By approving another 20 F-16 jets for Muslim-ruled Egypt on the day of the competing demonstrations, President Obama showed the Egyptian people that he stands foursquare behind President Morsi and that more US military aid is on the way.
The first four jets will arrive in Egypt the day after Barack Obama’s Jan. 21 swearing-in for a second term as US president at the Capitol – and not by chance. That date also coincides with Israel’s Jan. 22 general election.
Obama is therefore using those warplanes as a signpost for the Muslim-Arab Middle East – and the Israeli voter – to show them that he is sticking unswervingly to his policy of support for the region’s Muslim Brotherhood – and especially the Egyptian president – even if Morsi did slip up by a grab for sweeping powers that alienated most of the opposition.
The US promise of new fighter planes was also a recommendation to the Egyptian army to pick the right side and opt for President Morsi if they wanted US military assistance to keep coming. Washington was also ready to consider providing them with more high-tech items in addition to those already supplied.
At all events, President Obama has made his choice, opting for Egypt’s Islamists against the pro-democracy and liberal opposition – a choice that he might have found embarrassing when he campaigned for his second term.
Israel had a dark premonition of what was coming. Obama began laying the background for his strong alignment with Islamist Egypt last month with the dramatic announcement of a ceasefire in Cairo on Nov. 20, that was delivered jointly by Morsi and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
By this announcement – and by maneuvering Israel into abstaining from a ground operation in the Gaza Strip to complete its air operation against Palestinian terrorist targets – Obama pulled the Egyptian president out of his hat as a fully-fledged international figure ready to jump to the top of his newly-minted Sunni Muslim Middle East coalition. In addition to Egypt, its chosen members were to be Turkey, Qatar and the Palestinian Hamas. Israel was to be a secret partner and contributor of high-grade intelligence.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was ready to fit into the role cast Israel by the US president. He therefore chose to hold back from a ground incursion in the Gaza Strip and then agreed to the radical Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal visiting Gaza last week.
His reward came at the same time as Washington’s announcement of the 20 F-16 fighters for Egypt: The US has appropriated $650 million worth of ordnance to refill the Israeli arsenals depleted by the massive Pillar of Defense air offensive in Gaza.
Under this deal, the US will supply the Israeli Air Force with 6,900 satellite-guided “smart bombs;” 10,000 mixed bombs – including 3,450 one-tonners and 1,725 bombs weighing 250 kilograms – as well as two kinds of buster-bunkers – 1,725, GBU-39 bombs and 3,450 BLU-109s. source – DEBKA
The fruits of the Arab Spring
RELATED STORY: US President Barack Obama Behind Morsi’s Power Grab In Egypt
Al-Masry Al-Youm spent three hours in total in the torture chambers established by the Muslim Brotherhood at the gates of the Ittihadiya Palace in the suburb of Heliopolis. The central torture chamber, which is located in front of the gate facing the Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz Mosque on al-Merghany Street, is secured with a cordon and iron barriers, where the Central Security Forces (CSF) prevent the access of any persons without the authorization of the Brotherhood.
We entered the chamber with a great difficulty, after a fellow journalist from the Misr 25 TV channel facilitated. The channel is owned by the Brotherhood. There are brigades and police officers in military uniforms, as well as others in civilian clothes from al-Nozha police station, who oversee the beatings, whippings and torture. Fifteen others from the group, distinguished by their strong bodies, are supervised by three bearded and well-dressed men who decide who will be in the chamber and who may leave, even if the person is a member of the Brotherhood.
The torture process starts once a demonstrator who opposes President Mohammed Morsi is arrested in the clashes or is suspected after the clashes end, and the CSF separate Morsi’s supporters from his opponents. Then, the group members trade off punching, kicking and beating him with a stick on the face and all over his body. They tear off his clothes and take him to the nearest secondary torture chamber, from which CSF personnel, members of the Interior Ministry and the State Security Investigations Services (SSIS) are absent.
It is hard to determine how many locations there are, given that the torture chambers are established as near as possible to where a person is arrested. Before the interrogation process starts, they search him, seize his funds, cellphones or ID, all the while punching and slapping his face in order to get him to confess to being a thug and working for money.
They ask him why he took to the street, whether he got paid to take part in the protest and whether he supports Mohamed ElBaradei, founder of the Constitution Party, or Hamdeen Sabahi, founder of the Egyptian Popular Current or the dissolved Egyptian Nationalist movement. As long as this person denies the allegations, they beat him and insult his parents. After that, a person will videotape the interrogation and contact the Misr 25 TV channel to tell them about the interrogation and arrest.
After a while, the detainee is transported from the secondary torture chamber to the central one. On his way, the beatings and insults continue. Every time the prisoner encounters a member of the Brotherhood, that person gets in his share of the insults and beatings.
They also may collectively insult him before he enters the central room, while a Brotherhood lawyer hands over his national ID card, his funds and his belongings to the SSIS chief. Some members of the group claim to have seized weapons from the detainee and handed them over to the officers at al-Nozha police station. However, we were unable to verify that.
A young detainee shouted in the faces of the men in the chamber: “I am a bearded sheikh, and Sheikh Safwat Hijazi will avenge me. I am a friend of all sheikhs. God is all I need and he is the best guardian; I am a Muslim just like you.” Another bleeding man said, “I am educated; I am not a thug, leave me alone.” A third person, born in the region of Sayyida Zaynab, was accused of following Fathi Srour, former speaker of the People’s Assembly, and got a significant share of the beatings.
The health conditions of some of the prisoners was very bad and they were unable to answer questions. Some of them were bleeding all over their bodies, severely exhausted and not receiving any medical aid. However, some got a bottle of water to drink or something to use to stop their bleeding.
Once 10 people had been arrested, police officers and state security chiefs in the chamber demanded that the three Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the room secure passage for the prisoners to the nearby al-Nozha police station and prevented the Brotherhood members from attacking them again.
This all really happened
Once the arrested group left, another arrived. Outside the central torture chamber, three people were detained and brought into the security room within the palace at the main gate on Al-Ahram Street.
The Brotherhood youth don’t have control over this location. Their role ends once they hand over the arrestees to the guards. We successfully took a picture of one of the detained men, but the other two were already in the palace. The Brotherhood youth accused one of them of possessing a weapon and shooting a member of the group. Some detainees remained in the secondary torture chambers and were not handed over to the state security officers.
We left the place and found blood flowing on the sidewalk of the palace. Someone had tried to cover the blood with soil to remove it. However, no one will be able to clean the image of this blood from the memory of Egyptians for hundreds of years. source – Al Monitor
Mohamed Morsi gives Egypt’s army police powers ahead of referendum
President Mohamed Morsi has ordered Egypt’s army to take on police powers – including the right to arrest civilians – in the run-up to a divisive constitutional referendum that has triggered mass street protests.
The decree, published in the government gazette, takes effect on the eve of mass rival protests on the referendum and follows street clashes that have left seven people dead and hundreds injured.
It orders the military to fully co-operate with police “to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period, up to the announcement of the results from the referendum,” according to a copy of the decree obtained by AFP.
The military, which ruled Egypt between the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and the election of Morsi in June this year, has sought to remain neutral in the political crisis.
It has warned it “will not allow” the situation to deteriorate, and urged both sides to dialogue.
Army tanks and troops have since Thursday deployed around Morsi’s presidential palace but they have not confronted thousands of protesters who have gathered there every night.
The opposition, made up of secular, liberal, left wing and Christian groups, has said it will escalate its protests to scupper the referendum.
It views the draft constitution, largely drafted by Morsi’s Islamist allies, as undermining human rights, the rights of women, religious minorities, and curtailing the independence of the judiciary.
Morsi, though, has defiantly pushed on with the new charter, seeing it as necessary to secure democratic reform in the wake of Mubarak’s 30-year autocratic rule.
Late Sunday, the main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, called for huge protests in Cairo to reject the December 15 referendum.
It dismissed a key concession Morsi made rescinding another decree giving himself near-absolute powers as too late, saying he had already used it to railroad through the draft constitution.
“We do not recognise the draft constitution because it does not represent the Egyptian people,” National Salvation Front spokesman Sameh Ashour told a news conference.
Going ahead with the referendum “in this explosive situation with the threat of the Brothers’ militias amounts to the regime abandoning its responsibilities,” he said. In recent days, the protesters have hardened their slogans, going beyond criticism of the decree and the referendum to demand Morsi’s ouster.
The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, shot back that it and allied Islamist movements would counter with their own big rallies in the capital in support of the referendum.
“We are calling for a demonstration Tuesday, under the slogan ‘Yes to legitimacy’,” the Brotherhood’s spokesman, Mahmud Ghozlan, told AFP.
Morsi’s camp argues it is up to the people to accept or reject the draft constitution.
If the charter is rejected, Morsi has promised to have a new one drawn up by 100 officials chosen directly by the public rather than appointed by the Islamist-dominated parliament. But analysts said still-strong public support for Morsi, and the Brotherhood’s proven ability to mobilise the grassroots level, would likely help the draft constitution be adopted.
“The Muslim Brotherhood believes that it has majority support so it can win the constitutional referendum,” said Eric Trager, analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
If that happens, he warned, it would “set up the country for prolonged instability”. source – Telegraph UK