Tabloids Blamed for anti-Coptic Riot; more Violence to Come?

ASSIST links to a website with some background to the recent anti-Coptic riot in Alexandria [sic for typos]:

Mr. Mostafa El Bakry, Chief Editor and CEO of El Osboa Newspaper stated that a play was performed at Saint George and Antonious Coptic Church, that insulted Islam and the Muhamed the profit. He demanded an apology from the church and the Pope.

– Same week, Thousands of CDs were distributed in Cairo colleges and labeled “Ramadan Gift”. The CD contained the Play. In the begining of the play there was a comment; “This play is blessed and approved by Pope Shenouda” …This CD was distributed by either Islamic extremists and/or Security Forces.

– El Sheikh Aly Gomaa from El Azhar and Pope Shenouda confirmed that the play did not insult Muslims.

…A daily news paper called “Al Fager – Dawn“, has confirmed that isalmic fanatic have released a fatwa that killing pope shenouda is Halal “ok by religion”…

But most worrying:

A massacre planed by the Extremists is to take place on Friday 10-28-05

The Fanatic Extremists newspaper claimed that they are going to have a massacre for all Christians, Priests, and Pastors. They started putting signs and marks on some Christians, priests, and pastor’s houses.

Most Christians are considering leaving their homes fearing for their lives and their loved one’s after their houses have being marked.

Some expect that this might happen also on Tuesday 11-1-05


Uppity Copts complaining has been a subject of Mustafa al-Bakri and his news weekly Al-Osbou before. Al-Ahram explains in this 1998 report:

Hafez Abu Se’eda, secretary-general of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), has been remanded in custody for fifteen days pending trial on serious charges of harming Egypt’s national security.

Abu Se’eda’s arrest came almost a week after a press campaign was launched against human rights groups which receive foreign funding, especially EOHR…The prosecutor general is investigating charges made by the privately-owned Al-Osbou newspaper that EOHR received a $25,000 cheque from the British Embassy in return for a report it had issued on the alleged persecution of Copts in the southern village of Al-Kosheh.

A Sunday Times report on Al-Kosheh apparently contained some inaccuracies; a report from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders added that “EOHR appears to have been made a scapegoat for Egyptian authorities anger over an article in a foreign newspaper”.

Then in 2004:

The independent weekly newspaper Al- Osbou’ on Monday launched an attack on a conference held in Zurich, Switzerland entitled, “Egypt’s Copts, a minority under siege”. “The extremist Zionist Daniel Pipes headed the participants: a suspect alliance in Zurich between the American right and some members of the Coptic expatriate community,” wrote Al-Osbou’ in the headline of one article.

…In commentary Al-Osbou’ wrote: “The Zurich conference is no different than its predecessors which utilised the Coptic minority as a pressure card and pretext to solicit foreign intervention in Egypt’s affairs. The American right wing is inciting expatriate Copts to raise a furore at a time when [the US] is targeting Syria, the Sudan, occupying Iraq, and massacres increasing in Palestine. The aim is to put Egypt in a defensive position or at least mar domestic moves being undertaken to attain change. They want Egypt weak, easy to extort and submitting to the US and Israeli agenda.”

Well, Pipes is certainly objectionable, although I don’t blame the Copts for seeking out a powerful ally. But of course, the joke is that it’s the likes of al-Bakri that provide much of his ammo (al-Bakri is also good for providing MEMRI fodder).

The US State Department also notes the following about al-Bakri:

During 2004 and 2005, allegations in several countries claimed that the United States was trying to impose a “new American Koran” on Muslims.

These claims are false. A small, private evangelical Christian group in the United States has written a book called The True Furqan, which seeks to convert Muslims to Christianity, but this group has no connection with the U.S. government. Furqan is another term for Koran.

…Mustafa Bakri, editor of Egypt’s sensationalist, anti-U.S. Al-Usbu newspaper, made other false claims in the newspaper’s December 6, 2004 edition:

The first edition of The True Koran was published secretly in the United States and Israel.

The True Koran was drafted with direct Israeli participation and with direct instructions from U.S. President George Bush.

Twelve more books will be published as part of The True Furqan series.

Bakri has a long history of making disinformation claims. Abbas al Janabi, who served as the personal secretary to Saddam’s son Uday from the mid 1980s until 1998, said in 2003 that Bakri had long been on Saddam’s payroll and was “very loyal to Saddam.”…

Al-Ahram, however, blames a different tabloid for the incendiary story about the Coptic DVD:

Last week’s sectarian tension in Alexandria began in much the same way previous Muslim-Christian disputes had: with the publication of a tabloid story. This time, the newspaper in question — Al-Midan — published an article about a church play that defamed Islam. The play — which begins with a poor Christian university student converting to Islam after a group of Muslim men offer him money to do so — was called I was blind but now I can see. The twist in the plot comes when the convert later decides to return to Christianity. The same Muslims then threaten him with violence.

…Sameh Fawzi, the editor of Watani (My Nation), a prominent Coptic newspaper, says that “reading a number of tabloid newspapers will clearly reveal how a sensitive topic like religion is often manipulated to pit Muslims and Christians against each other.” Several newspapers, for instance, have recently been running stories claiming that churches are doing intensive missionary work among university students across the country

…Waleed Orabi, the journalist who wrote the Al-Midan story, said he had obtained a CD of the performance from a source inside the Alexandria church where the play took place. He refused to provide any other details on the matter.

Al-Midan (which should not be confused with a Communist newspaper of the same name based in Sudan) is known for sensationalism. The Jewish Virtual Library gives a nice example:

In an article in the ‘Al-Midan’ newspaper of late March [2001]the writer Abu Bakr deals with the children’s game ‘Pokemon’, claiming that the game cards containing Pokemon figures encourage Western thought, animal worship and the theory of evolution. In an article dealing with the same subject which was published afterwards, the author claimed that the Pokemon figures appearing on bags of Israeli-Jewish produced potato chips prove his claims.

In the same year, allegedly inaccurate reporting of the views of Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi in the newspaper led to a bizarre court case in which an Islamist lawyer tried to force her husband to divorce her.

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