Egyptian Christians and al-Sisi in turmoil after the attack

The last attack in Cairo, Sunday, December 11, against the Coptic faithful gathered in the church of Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, left 25 dead and 49 wounded. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has always shown a certain benevolence towards Christians, decreed three days of national mourning and promised to do everything to avenge the victims. There is also an emergency for him on the political level, this attack could cause him to lose the support of many Christians, the frustration being growing, while, moreover, the raïs is contested for his authoritarianism and the state. economy of Egypt.

Lhe suffering felt by the Egyptians at this time will not be in vain, but will engender an uncompromising decision to track down and bring to justice anyone who allowed this heinous crime, whether by inciting, promoting or carrying out it ”, President Sisi said on the day of the attack. A stated will which does not, however, win support, Christians even daring to ask for the fall of the regime after having carried Marshal Sissi to the skies, he who had delivered Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood. Journalists supporting the government were attacked by Christians when they arrived at the scene of the attack.

For Philip Luther, Director of Research and Advocacy for the Near East and North Africa atAmnesty International, “The Egyptian authorities must do everything in their power to ensure that the investigation they announced after today's attack is effective, independent and impartial and brings those responsible to justice. They must send the message that attacks targeting religious minorities will not be tolerated. »On his account Twitter, the human rights activist wrote on the same day:

“The Egyptian authorities announce an investigation, but they must address their systemic failure in responding to past violence against the Copts to be credible. "

This demand for a revision of the system was, however, one of the wishes of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who had delivered a speech in front of the largest Islamic university in the Sunni world, Al-Azhar, to ask for a pacifist reinterpretation of Islam in order to redact elements of violence which have aggregated over the centuries. Faced with the failure of his attempts to get Al-Azhar to distinguish faith from ideology, the President altered his words this spring, speaking no longer of "religious revolution", but of "rectification" of religious discourse, hoping to obtain a minimum of concessions, without which Islamist violence will continue to be preached in many mosques in the country. However, the Egyptian system is closely linked to religion because of the strong religious practice, which has the consequence that, even if the power wants to protect minorities, the will is not always relayed on the ground. And the credibility of the authorities may also be affected at the level of the investigation into the attack last Sunday.

To discredit the investigation to bring down the Government?

While the Ministry of the Interior quickly accused the Muslim Brotherhood and announced the arrest of four individuals, three men and a woman as well as the hunt for two other suspects, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and gave another identity to the suicide bomber than that provided by the authorities. On the occasion of the funeral, Sissi had identified the human bomb as being Mahmoud Chafik Mohamed Mostafa, assuring that tests had made it possible to recognize him; Islamic State assures us that his name is Abu Abdullah. Whether the results of the genetic investigation are real or not, the challenge brought by the Daesh group can only cast doubt on the credibility of the investigations. And this may be the goal, in order to precipitate the fall of a regime already criticized for its authoritarianism and economic mismanagement, and who would lose even the support of Christians. In Spain, the Popular Party, the big favorite in the legislative elections, had lost in 2004 after the Government's lie was discovered following the attack on a train in Madrid; the authorities chose to accuse ETA when the crime was committed by Islamists.

For several months, Copts have been increasingly annoyed by the presidency of al-Sisi, a dissatisfaction that had already crystallized around the law on the construction of churches, not ambitious enough for them. Clerics had however flown to the President's aid to reassure Christians who, tired, did not necessarily see the complexity of the situation for a Sissi who must deal with caution. Thus, Mgr Kyrillos William, Coptic-Catholic bishop of Assiout, in Upper Egypt, wanted to reaffirm his confidence in the raïs:

“There is corruption in all the ministries… we discover scandals every day. President Al-Sisi, who is very loyal, is surrounded by men from the old regime: he often has to swim against the tide! The unity of the Egyptian people is close to his heart. He says loud and clear that all are equal. Christians see a big change. The president is not afraid of being criticized for this reason by Muslim fundamentalists! "

Al-Sisi fails to completely prevent violence against Christians, and the security forces themselves are often attacked by Islamists. The President often only responds, failing to be able to prevent it, whether on Egyptian soil or outside. In May, a mob of 300 Muslims attacked Christian homes in southern Egypt, and Sisi demanded that the authorities render justice to Christians and that their property be restored at state expense within a month. Its most significant action was the bombardment of ISIS positions in Libya after the latter had beheaded 21 Copts including 20 Egyptians, and the President had decided to grant a life annuity to the families of these Christians left to earn enough to feed them in Libya, as well as to build a church to pay homage to them.

During the funeral of the victims of the last attack on Christians, President Sisi went with several members of the Government to the victims, they walked alongside the coffins, while even under President Mubarak, who was not hostile to Christians, such trials did not see the authorities moving in numbers. For Viktor, Professor of political science at the University of Cairo, the perpetrators of the attack wanted to punish Christians for their support of President Sisi.

Hans-Søren Dag

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