Egyptians unite against al-Qaeda threat to Copts

President Hosni Mubarak on Nov. 6 condemned threats by the al-Qaeda franchise in Iraq against Coptic Christians in Egypt and promised to protect them. The Islamic State of Iraq, claiming responsibility for a bloody hostage taking in a Baghdad church last weekend, threatened to target the region’s Christians if the Coptic church did not release two women the group claimed had were being held against their will after converting to Islam. Mubarak told Pope Shenouda III in a phone call that he rejected “pushing Egypt’s name into the terrorist act that targeted a church in Baghdad.”

In an Internet audio tape, the Islamic State of Iraq referred to two priests’ wives who left their homes in separate incidents and who were rumored to have converted to Islam before police escorted them back. The Coptic church denies they had converted to Islam. (Reports didn’t explicitly say the church denied the women were being held against their will!)

Muslim leaders in Egypt also condemned the threats. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the oldest Islamic seat of learning, said, “This is something to be rejected and strongly denounced, and it serves none but those who want to spark discord and target national unity.” He condemned the hostage-taking as “heinous.”

The Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement: “The Muslim Brotherhood is stressing to all, and primarily Muslims, that the protection of holy places of all monotheistic religions is the mission of the majority of Muslims.” (AFP, Nov. 7; AFP, Nov. 4)

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