An Egyptian friend writes that Osama bin Laden’s lieutenant and the “brains” behind al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has released a new, three-part letter titled “Message of Hope and Glad Tidings to Our People in Egypt,” which has yet to be released in full but is being reported in the media. Among other rantings, in its second part, it demonizes and incites violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the largest remaining religious minority in the Middle East. My friend also gives more details on the murder in Upper Egypt, the southern part of the country (the Nile flows north), of Fr. Daoud Botrous, a Coptic priest (some say Orthodox, others say he was Catholic), who was stabbed and then reportedly beheaded. Yesterday, the AP reported the following about this murder: “A fellow clergyman, Danoub Thabet, says his body had several stab wounds. He says neighbours reported seeing several masked men leaving the apartment and shouting ‘Allahu akbar,’ or ‘God is great,’ suggesting the killing was motivated by the divide between Egypt’s Muslims and its minority Coptic community.”
My friend’s letter follows:
I spoke with my family this morning and they reported disturbing news from Asyut, Upper Egypt. Catholic Father Daoud (David) from Musha (pronounced: moo-sha) was brutally murdered in his Asyut home in Upper Egypt. Father Daoud was alone in his home at the time of his killing as his family was abroad (not sure which country). The attackers beheaded Father Daoud after they killed him with knives and robbed his home.
Today, there was a possible casing by a Muslim individual of an area with predominately Christian residents. Residents confronted this individual and physically beat him. He used his cell phone to contact someone, resulting in the arrival of a large crowd of armed Muslims.
Both Christian and Muslim religious leaders intervened and prevented a potentially violent clash between the two groups.
Separately, Al-Qa’ida’s number two leader . . . Egyptian born Ayman al- Zawahiri has issued (actually yet to be released!!!!) a three-part message commenting on events in Egypt. In his second part of the message series, Zawahiri spends considerable time inciting violence against Coptic Christians and the Coptic Church. Zawahiri stated that Copts were one of the main problems leading to the situation facing Egypt today. Zawahiri alleged that Copts have aspirations to form a separate State with Asyut being its capital. He calls [Coptic Orthodox] Pope Shenouda a Zionist traitor who invited America to intervene in Egypt’s affairs in collusion with the “traitor Zionist” Mubarak. . . . Zawahiri specifically mentioned the cases of Kamilia Shihata and xxx who converted to Islam, then [were] “kidnapped” by the Coptic church where they are undergoing brainwashing and re-conversion to Christianity. Zawahiri denies Al-Qa’ida’s involvement in the attack against al-Qidissin Church in Alexandria [the Coptic church that was bombed on New Year’s Day], and squarely puts the blame on Mubarak’s government, and on the Christians themselves. He cited Christians in Alexandria showing a movie that hints at Muslims being freed by accepting ’Issa (Jesus) the son of Mary. Zawahiri confuses the name of the Church and says that he thinks it was the St. George’s Church that showed the movie and was also the same church that was bombed.
— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.