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Egypt: Why No Pardon for Christian Broadcaster Bishoy Boulos?

The identity card of Bishoy Boulos

The identity card of Bishoy Boulos

Release International

An Egyptian Christian who reported attacks against churches is still behind bars  weeks after other journalists were pardoned.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the release of two Al Jazeera journalists jailed after reporting unrest. They were on a list of 100 people pardoned ahead of the current UN summit in New York.

But one broadcaster who remains behind bars is Bishoy Boulos, a convert to Christianity who was imprisoned for reporting attacks against churches.

Bishoy Armia Boulos is also known by his former Muslim name, Mohamed Hegazy. He was arrested on December 4, 2013, in the Egyptian city of Minya.

The security service claimed he was working for The Way TV, a Coptic, Christian-owned, US-based religious television channel. They accused him of contributing to a “false image” that there was violence against Christians in Minya.

The charge asserted that reporting the burnings of churches and attacks against Christians would in some way “harm the national interests of the state.”

Two related charges were dismissed on appeal. Bishoy should have been released in May. But then a second charge was levelled against him of blasphemy against Islam. And that case is still under investigation.

“Bishoy’s continued detention probably has more to do with his earlier conversion from Islam than to any alleged offence connected with reporting,” says Paul Robinson. Robinson is the Chief Executive of the UK-based Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.

“Release rejects the charge that reporting church burnings somehow created a ‘false image’ of the troubles facing Christians in Egypt,” he adds. “Minya has been the site of numerous well-documented attacks on Christians, church buildings and Christian-owned properties. A fact-finding visit by Release International in 2013 confirmed reports that scores of churches had been burned.”

According to Bishoy’s lawyer, his client has been badly beaten in Tora prison, as well as being dragged across a concrete floor. His head has been shaved, a punishment normally reserved for violent criminals.

The blasphemy charge for which he is awaiting trial is linked to his attempt to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian on his official ID card. Bishoy has faced a long history of opposition, harassment and detention for asserting that right.

Born in 1982, Bishoy converted to Christianity in 1998. After his conversion he was arrested several times and tortured to try to make him recant his faith.

He received international media attention in 2007 as the first Egyptian Christian convert to file a lawsuit to try to change his religious status.

As a result, he was threatened with death. Islamic scholars demanded his execution and the Egyptian minister for religious endowments publicly affirmed the legality of executing Muslims who converted to Christianity.

Bishoy’s wife, Christine, also changed her faith. According to press reports, parents on both sides of the family threatened to kill the couple, who have been ostracized by other family members. They were forced into hiding with their daughter, Miriam.

Bishoy’s lawyer asserts that the time allotted for investigations into the “blasphemy” charge has now elapsed. He has filed a formal complaint with Egypt’s attorney general about his client’s treatment and continued detention.

“Bishoy’s case casts doubt on assurances of religious freedom in Egypt’s new constitution, and reflects the continuing vulnerability of Christians in Egypt – especially those from a Muslim background,” says Robinson.

Release has launched the campaign #everyright to call on the Egyptian government to make good its pledge of religious freedom for all, which is guaranteed in the constitution.

The Release campaign #everyright includes an online petition, which can be signed at releaseinternational.org

“The continued persecution of Bishoy Boulos reveals two things,” says Robinson. “The authorities are reluctant to face the truth about continuing attacks against Christians, and converts to Christianity remain at serious risk despite the country’s new constitution, which is supposed to protect religious freedom.

“Unless there is a clear mechanism to enforce the rights of the country’s Christian minority, those rights are likely to remain every bit as theoretical as they have been in the past,” he added.

See related article: Imprisonment, Torture in Egypt: The Case of a Christian Convert

Tue, September 22, 2015 Egypt Targets Mosques and Preachers to Tackle Islamism

Pictured: Supporters of Egypt's President Sisi. Sisi came to power on the back of popular sentiment against the Islamist excesses of the Muslim Brotherhood. He is going after them in the mosques as well as on the streets. (Photo: © Reuters)

Pictured: Supporters of Egypt's President Sisi. Sisi came to power on the back of popular sentiment against the Islamist excesses of the Muslim Brotherhood. He is going after them in the mosques as well as on the streets. (Photo: © Reuters)

Elliot Friedland

Egypt has been stepping up efforts across the country to curb extremism and prevent radicalization through an aggressive campaign of surveillance and monitoring of preachers.

Since August this year, cameras have been placed inside mosques throughout Egypt, beginning with the major ones before they were rolled out to mosques throughout the country.

The cameras are intended to monitor sermons and other mosque activities in order to detect and rapidly respond to Islamist thought being propagated inside them.

The Ministry of Religious Endowments already closed some 27,000 unauthorized mosques in order to consolidate all religious places of worship under governmental authority. The government argued that unregulated mosques saw a proliferation of radical preachers and ideas drawing young men towards extremism.

The government has also proscribed all Muslim Brotherhood texts from mosque libraries and forbids libraries from obtaining new books without governmental approval.

It controls preachers as well. Only those with a permit from the Ministry of Religious Endowments can deliver sermons or teach classes. All imams have been forced to sign a form repudiating the Muslim Brotherhood and all terrorist groups and acts. Failure to do so will result in being called in to explain why not to a governmental panel.

Since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi was elected, after a popularly-backed coup which overthrew the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood government, Egypt has been in a desperate fight against Islamism. Since October 2014, the Egyptian government has officially recognized the Islamic State as an ideological descendent of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Egyptian government has been heavily criticised by rights groups for its intrusive policy regarding the mosques. Although many of Sisi’s critics say he has gone too far in his pursuit of Islamists, supporters say that he is doing what needs to be done to crush the Muslim Brotherhood and protect Egypt from theocracy.

His targeting of the ideology rather than simply trying to arrest or kill Muslim Brotherhood members is an approach that tackles the root causes rather than just the symptoms.

It is not yet known whether these draconian measures are a temporary stop-gap intended to force Islamist extremism out of Egypt or if Sisi will prove to be another dictator like Mubarak.

For more information about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and their attempts to create an Islamic State there, see Clarion Project's Special Report: The Muslim Brotherhood.


Egyptian Court Sentences 3 Al Jazeera Journalists to Prison

Submitted by Emily on Sun, 2015-08-30 10:35

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Mon, August 3, 2015 Egyptian Militia Claims Allegiance to ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood

Screenshot from 'A Message to the Agents of the Despots.'

Screenshot from 'A Message to the Agents of the Despots.'

While Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood claims it does not carry out military operations, a new armed militia says (Arabic link) it belongs to both the brotherhood and Islamic State.

The Battalion of al-Ansar in Giza produced a video in which it threatened to carry out terror attacks against the army and police force. It also promises to “slaughter” civilians to avenge those killed in Muslim Brotherhood protests in the country.

The video, "A Message to the Agents of the Despots," alleges that informants are helping the security forces learn of Muslim Brotherhood activities.

“We’re coming for you with slaughter," says the narrator.  "We know your whereabouts and your movements. Know that we are preparing.”

The video includes the ISIS flag but according to el-Watan the battalion belongs to the Brotherhood. The clip includes attacks on police vehicles and their torching along with ISIS clips showing barbaric slayings.



Tue, July 28, 2015 Muslim Brotherhood Spiritual Leader Okays Suicide Bombings

Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradawi. (Photo: Screenshot)

Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradawi. (Photo: Screenshot)

Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the world’s most eminent Sunni clerics, has issued a fatwa permitting suicide bombers to self-detonate if requested by a group.

Qaradawi responded to a question on a TV show regarding a person blowing themselves against a group who belongs to a tyrannical regime, even if it results in casualties among civilians.

Qaradawi says it is permitted, provided it occurs within the framework of a group. Individuals are prohibited from carrying out suicide bombings on their own.

The remarks were made during the program Ala-Masouliyati (I Am Responsible) which is broadcast on the Egyptian satellite channel Sada el-Balad (The Echo of The Country).  

An Egyptian TV host opens by saying

“Look what Qaradawi is saying, O religious sages. What is your opinion, O Egyptians, O Islamic world? O the West? Come and see this criminal, come and see what Qaradawi is saying.”

It then cuts to the clip itself.

An interviewer asks Qaradawi: “Especially in the Syrian war, when a person blows himself up against a certain group which belongs to the tyrannical regime, even if it causes casualties among civilians, what is the law?”

Qaradawi responds: “The basic thing is this, it’s not allowed unless it is within the planning of a group. Generally, a person fights and is killed, but to blow himself up, the group must have a specific need for this. When the group sees that it needs someone to be a suicide bomber against others, when it is needed, and the group plans how he will do it, with a minimum number of casualties, it is permitted.

“An individual is not allowed to do it. If a person wants to blow himself up, NO! You are not allowed to act on your own. You must act within the borders of the group, you give yourself to the group. The group is the one which sends individuals according to its needs. But individuals don’t act on their own. This is what is needed on this issue.

The TV host then returns, castigating Qaradawi.

He says “Of this Mufti the terrorist tells you that it doesn’t matter if your victims are civilians? If the group tells you to you can do whatever you want? You have a fatwa that allows the spilling of blood, assassinations, blowing up, suicides, no problem at all! Even if a person is a civilian! The civilian doesn’t matter!”  

In April 2014 the Huffington Post listed Qaradawi in a slideshow called 'Muslim Leaders Condemn Terrorism.'

This video is in Arabic

Egypt Kills 241 Sinai Jihadis

Submitted by Emily on Tue, 2015-07-07 06:50

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Tue, June 30, 2015 Did the Muslim Brotherhood Kill Top Egyptian Prosecutor?

Egypt police stand guard at the site of the bomb attack which killed Attorney-General Hisham Barakat (Photo: © Reuters)

Egypt police stand guard at the site of the bomb attack which killed Attorney-General Hisham Barakat (Photo: © Reuters)

Egypt’s lead prosecutor Hisham Barakat was killed in a car bomb attack on his motorcade June 29. The 65 year old died of his wounds in hospital.

Several others were wounded in the attack.

He is the most senior official in the Egyptian government to have been killed since the popularly backed coup in 2013. As attorney general he brought to trial thousands of Islamists, dozens of senior Muslim Brotherhood members as part of the new government’s crackdown on the now outlawed Islamist group. Many of those have been sentenced to death.

A group calling itself the Popular Resistance in Giza claimed responsibility for the attack on its Facebook page, but later took the post down. That Facebook page has since disappeared from Facebook.

Egyptian media reports that the Popular Resistance in Giza is the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

An unnamed local resident told CBC “We feel like we’re living in a time of war – like we can’t take our kids out. We thought everything was supposed to be safe now.”

Meanwhile, on the same day, the Islamic State released a video of an earlier attack on Egyptian judges.

The clip opens with Quranic verses being sung and images of various Egyptian judges and deposed Egyptian President Muhammed Morsi.

It then goes on to show the drive by shooting of an Egyptian judge

For more information on the Muslim Brotherhood take a look at our factsheet.

Egypt Court Hands Morsi Death Sentence in Blow To Muslim Brotherhood

Submitted by Emily on Wed, 2015-06-17 09:38

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