Islamists are making determined attempts to cleanse the Middle East of Christians. Throughout Egypt Christians have been driven from their homes and their historical roots.
The city of Rafah, a town on the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, used to have a Christian community. According to tradition Rafah is the place where the infant Jesus crossed over into Egypt when fleeing the persecution of Herod. Today Rafah is effectively run by Jihadis who use it as a crossing point as they smuggle arms into Gaza. The Christians of Rafah have been driven from their homes.
Last month Mohammed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt met with Coptic families in El Arish, a town roughly 30 miles from Rafah. He attempted to reassure them that the personal threats and violence, machine gun fire and church burning they had experienced in Rafah would not be repeated.
Morsi told the Coptic Christians that he would work to find them new homes and jobs elsewhere in Egypt. Unsurprisingly this did not please the Copts as their community had been settled in Rafah for close to 2,000 years, long before Mohammed invented Islam.
The Muslim Brotherhood are attempting to placate two utterly opposed groups; the even more radical Islamists who wish to see Egypt ruled by strictly enforced sharia, and those who wish a free and democractic society in Egypt. Which groups gains the most influence is still to be seen. In this atmosphere Morsi’s action in naming a Christian as a deputy prime minister is seen by ordinary Christians, rightly fearful of their future, as a token gesture.
At present the Egyptian constitution is being rewritten. The committee charged with the task is dominated by Islamists of varying virulence. Playing a leading role in the discussions are Salafists, adherents of the fastest growing Islamic movement in the world. Many Salafists in Egypt have stated that when the new constitution comes to a popular vote the will reject it if it does not demand conformity with Islamic law.
One constitutional committee member, Yasser Borhamy, a physician as well as a top Salafist cleric, is of such a high intellectual standard that he recently told Egyptians not to drive Chevrolet cars as they are decorated with a cross.
Continuing in his attempt to become a presenter on Egypt’s Top Gear Borhamy also told Egyptian taxi drivers that they should not stop for Coptic priests. His rationale was that the priest might be going to church which would be a sin and to drive them would be to assist in their sinning.
More seriously Article 2 of the proposed new constitution is designed to ensure religious freedom. Borhamy and his fellow Salafists reject this out of hand and refuse to compromise on this as it might lead to “devil worship or apostacy from Islam.”
We can, however, be reassured, Borhamy has publicly stated that while he deeply hates Christians he is still capable of treating them justly. When the Muslim Brotherhood can appear as moderates we have to worry for the Christians of the Middle East.