Please disable your Ad Blocker to better interact with this website.

The Secret Apparatus

Jihad & the War on Egypt’s Coptic Christians: Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Testimony

Jihad & the War on Egypt’s Coptic Christians: Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Testimony
25 minute read

As reported by the Center for Security Policy:

Cynthia Farahat testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House of Representatives. Reps. Frank Wolf and James McDermott presented “Under Threat: The Worsening Plight of Egypt’s Coptic Christians.”

Other witnesses included Kathy Fitzpatrick (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State); Nina Shea (Director, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute); Dina Guirguis (Member, Egyptian American Rule of Law Association); Adel Guindy (President, Coptic Solidarity International); and Raymond Ibrahim (Middle East specialist and Associate fellow, Middle East Forum).




Thank you Chairman Wolf and Chairman McGovern for organizing this important hearing. I am very pleased to have the honor of testifying in front of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission today about the current status of Copts in Egypt.

I am an activist and writer in Egypt, and have been involved in the political process for nearly a decade. I am a Copt. I addressed the crowd at last year’s protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and have participated in Coptic demonstrations in Maspero.

With my colleagues I helped found two political parties: first, the Masr El-Om (Mother Egypt) Party in 2004, and then the Liberal Egyptian Party in 2006. Both were dedicated to the values of secularism, human rights, capitalism, the rule of law, and rejection of pan-Arabism and Islamic imperialism. This platform was controversial with the Mubarek regime for many reasons, but the most important was the conscious rejection of the application of Islamic law and jurisprudence, shariah and fiqh, in the state’s affairs. The Liberal Egyptian Party was rebuffed by the regime and rejected as a legal entity twice in court, putting these important ideas outside legal discourse in the country. As a consequence of my activism, I have been living in fear and under constant threat and harassment, from the Mubarek regime and its subsequent military junta and from Salafist jihadists who were as threatened by classical liberalism and freedom as the rulers themselves.

The ideas I dedicated my life to promoting are articulated best in America’s founding documents, in the writings of Thomas Jefferson, and in the Enlightenment works that, in turn, inspired them. The regime’s opposition to these concepts-summed up in a word,liberty-also unlocks the reasons for the persecution of Copts.

The large and educated minority of Copts in Egypt is the biggest obstacle for Islamists to turn Egypt into another Iran or another Saudi Arabia. Through propaganda and acts of state violence the governing body of Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), has attempted to manufacture[1] a violent conflict between Coptic Christians and Muslims. With the full power of the state, media and the military at their disposal, however, any such “civil war” will be one-sided tragedy; it will be a massacre of Christians at the hands of the state, its vast paid militia and Salafis sympathetic to the cause.

At present, SCAF has imprisoned 12,000 civilians in military court for political crimes. Meanwhile, the regime has freed of hundreds of convicted terrorists from prison, like Col. Aboud al-Zomor,[2] the mastermind behind the Sadat assassination, and Badr Makhlouf,[3]the Emir of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya of Qena that was convicted with murdering tourists in a 1993 terrorist attack. This double standard sends a message that advocating for freedom and equality for Copts and other minorities in Egypt will have severe consequences.



In contrast to the terrorists released, among those imprisoned were liberal dissidents like Maikel Nabil Sanad, a Coptic blogger and political activist, and Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a secular Muslim pro-freedom blogger who was previously imprisoned by Mubarak’s regime in 2006. He has been our ally for years, and has written hundreds of posts on his blog to support freedom of speech and religion for Copts and Bahai’s.

As a secular Muslim, Abdel-Fattah was a more serious target of the regime. Under the dictates of shariah, he is considered a traitor and apostate from Islam, and the appropriate punishment is death. Abdel-Fattah was at the protests in Maspero on behalf of equality for Copts. Outrageously, he might be facing murder and terrorism charges-as the regime is trying to frame the massacre of dozens of Copts in Maspero on him.

Michael Mosad was, like myself, a liberal Coptic political and human rights activist. I knew him well. He was one of the people killed by the Egyptian military at Maspero on 9 October 2011. He was at the protest with his fiancé, Vivian, and the newly engaged couple was terrified. Suddenly, she said she did not feel Michael’s hand in hers. She then saw him caught in the wheels of a military vehicle that drove onto the pavement and ran him over. His skull was fractured and his legs were nearly severed from his body. As she sat next to him crying and calling for help, soldiers gathered around Michael, brutally beating and kicking his motionless body. Vivian threw her body over his to protect him. She begged them to stop, but military officers beat and cursed her; they called her an infidel, “Christian sons of dogs,” and worse.

Nawar Negm, a Muslim political activist who was in the protest to support Copts said the peaceful protestors were being randomly shot at, and that organized mobs in civilian clothes started attacking Christians.[4] The mobs were backed by soldiers whom she saw checking the hands of protestors for crosses before brutally beating them, as many Egyptian Christians tattoo crosses on their hands.

Another Muslim photographer, Ali Khalid, who was at the site and was shot in the face said, “I have seen death with my own eyes, at the hands of the people who claim to be the protectors of the country.”[5]

Bothayna Kamel, another courageous Muslim woman, and a prominent TV presenter and journalist in Egypt who was among the protestors, witnessed the horror herself. She said:

As the attack on the protest started I went to hide with a priest and Muslim and Christian protestors inside a nearby building where Al-Hurra TV station’s office is located. We hid inside the office, and I could hear the police and army soldiers attacking the building as they were screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ and dragging protestors inside the building. Don’t tell me these were Islamic organizations or Salafis; the military and police have the same bigoted minds. After they left the building and we felt it was safe to leave the office, we saw the blood of protesters who were beaten by soldiers screaming ‘Allahu Akbar,’ covering the floors and stairs of the building. To get out of the building safe, you had to tell the police and the army, ‘I’m a Muslim who believes in one God’-otherwise they attack you.[6]

This was happening as the military police attacked the Jan25 television station and terrified the broadcaster, who screamed hysterically on air as they confiscated the video footage that was shot of the protests[7]. Minutes later, an extremely gruesome video[8] of murdered Copts in the entrance of Jan25 station emerged on YouTube. Some of the protestors were dead; others were dying.

Even after the killings, the SCAF and its media machine was intent on flaring tensions. That evening, the regime’s state-run television incited Muslims to converge on Maspero and ‘defend’ the Egyptian army against the gathering of unarmed Christians: “The Egyptian army is under attack from Coptic protestors, and we urge the honorable citizens to go to Maspero and aid the army.” [9]

In order to justify their war crime against the Copts, Egyptian officials later claimed [10]to CNN that Copts killed 12 army troops. This propaganda was also repeated by official state TV as the army was massacring Christians in the street. Not only didn’t he army not convict the criminals responsible for the murder and torture of Copts at Maspero, the Egyptian army held a press conference claiming their soldiers were not armed, and that the armored vehicle used to crush Copts beneath its treads was stolen by a protestor. In other words, the regime’s spin amounted to a theory in which Coptic protestors stole an armored vehicle, ran themselves over, and shot themselves. I’m sure the regime would also give credence to the farcical possibly floated by the Al-Fagr newspaper, blaming the massacre on Israelis.[11]

The Coptic Christians at Maspero were killed with live ammunition, and with weapons the military probably acquired through its average of $2 billion in annual military aid from the United States.[12]  A massive shipment of 21 tons of tear gas was just sent to Egypt from the US before the elections.[13]  These weapons are not used by the military against militant Islamists who are trying to subvert and destroy our country, institute shariah law, and inflame the broader Middle East; these weapons are used against the allies of the United States of America, the Copts and the secular moderate Muslims.

Like the regime’s hostility toward classical liberalism, the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt is deeply embedded in the ideological foundation of the current military oligarchy, which shares history, doctrine and personalities with the Muslim Brotherhood. While the Muslim Brotherhood does not formally or organizationally rule Egypt, its ideas have ideologically controlled the country for nearly sixty years since the overthrow of the monarchy by the July 1952 coup d’état (euphemized as the “July Revolution”).

The fear of Islamists seizing power in Egypt and the situation worsening for Copts and the whole region, assumes that the Muslim Brotherhood does not already wield power yet may be able to hijack the current political unrest. In fact, this situation already exists; both the Mubarak regime and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have subtly colluded with Islamists against Copts for decades. The real question, then, is not whether the Muslim Brotherhood and other militant Islamic groups will seize power but whether it will continue to hold it, either directly or by proxy.

In 2005, Mubarak allowed eighty-eight Muslim Brotherhood members into parliament as a useful tool for scaring the Western governments into thinking that democracy in Egypt would inevitably bring the Islamists to power.



Not only does the Egyptian constitution since 1971 make the shariah “the principal source of legislation,”[15] but the Free Officers (as the perpetrators of the 1952 putsch called themselves) were closely associated with both the Muslim Brotherhood’s military wing or “secret apparatus” (Nizam al-Khass) and the Young Egypt Society (Misr al-Fatat), a nationalist-fascist militia established in 1929 by religiously-educated lawyer Ahmad Hussein. Both Egyptian presidents hailing from the Free Officers-Gamal Abdel Nasser (1956-1970) and Anwar Sadat (1970-1981)-received their early political schooling in the Young Egypt Society. The Young Egypt Society transformed into the National Islamic Party in 1940.

The Muslim Brotherhood spread its xenophobic and militant ideas through its magazine, al-Sarkh’a (Scream), which combined vicious attacks on Western democracy with praise for Fascism and Nazism and advocacy of the implementation of shariah rule. In a famous letter, Hussein invited Hitler “to convert to Islam.” This outlook was shared by the Muslim Brotherhood’s publication, al-Nazir, which referred to the Nazi tyrant as “Hajj Hitler.” The Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, was also an unabashed admirer of Hitler and Mussolini. As late as 1953, Anwar Sadat, whose pro-Nazi sympathies landed him in prison during World War II, wrote an “open letter”[16] to Hitler in a leading Egyptian newspaper. He applauded the genocidal tyrant, pronouncing that the leaders of the Axis Powers, “guided their peoples to unity, order, regeneration, power, and glory.”

The Young Egypt Society’s attempted assassination in 1937 of Egypt’s democratically-elected liberal prime minister, Mustafa Nahhas, got the organization banned. In the 1940s, the officers took their radicalism a step further by collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood’s military wing. Some even joined the Brotherhood themselves; Nasser himself reportedly joined in 1944. In his memoirs, Khaled Mohieddin, a fellow Free Officer claimed that Banna had personally asked Nasser to join the Brotherhood, recounting how he and Nasser swore allegiance on a gun and a Qur’an.[17]

This background has continuing relevance because it forms the DNA of the regime that has ruled Egypt from 1952 to the present day; this military oligarchy has pursued means and goals that originated in the Muslim Brotherhood and the Young Egypt Society.

Moreover, the Young Egypt Society’s Islamic-socialist and fascistic ideas are very much alive and well today. In 1990, the party was reestablished and granted a license to work as a legal entity by Mubarak’s regime that has long been considered an ally of the west. This organization’s approval by the state could not be in starker contrast to the rejection of my own Liberal Egyptian Party and its pro-freedom platform.

Following Hassan al-Banna’s murder on February 12, 1949, by government agents in retaliation for the assassination of Prime Minister Nuqrashi Pasha a few weeks earlier, the military and civilian wings of the Muslim Brotherhood split. Nasser proceeded to form the Free Officers movement, which mounted the 1952 coup. In the coming decades, the military regime and the Brotherhood would maintain a strenuous relationship interrupted by occasional outbursts of violence and terrorism-notably a 1954 attempt by the Brotherhood on Nasser’s life-and repressive countermeasures by the regime including mass arrests and sporadic executions. But this should be understood not as a struggle between an autocratic, secular dictatorship and a would-be Islamist one but a struggle between two ideologically similar, if not identical, rival groups, hailing from the same source.

Indeed, the symbiotic relationship between the jihadist ideologues and the current regime continues, as it has from 1952. For example, the SCAF has revealed alarming extremism last summer when they publically consulted with Salafi jihadist Mohammed Hassan on how to deal with Copts instead of prosecuting their attackers. Hassan is known in Egypt for incitingMujahedeen in Gaza to kill Israelis before killing themselves in suicide attacks.[18]



Given the shared history and entwined ideological affinities of the Muslim Brotherhood and the military regime that has ruled Egypt since 1952, it is hardly surprising that both Mubarak’s regime and the SCAF would persecute the Coptic community with religiously motivated enthusiasm. The world often wonders why secularists, liberals and Copts are unorganized in Egypt; this situation exists because we-not the Brotherhood-were under daily threats and state security surveillance, and our parties banned from politics. Meanwhile, the regime cynically empowers the Brotherhood and other Salafi jihadist groups against which it can play out a drama meant to both oppress moderate and liberal opposition internally, and to frighten western governments from the prospect of a peaceful transition of power to a civilian government.

This well-executed drama is not new, and its contours should be familiar to all Americans in two different contexts: the United States’ relationships with Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority. In both these cases, “moderate” leaders pose as allies, using the threat of a more radical replacement to coerce the US for support and funding. In both countries too, there exists a seamless spectrum of potential coercion-from “radical” to “moderate” to “ally”-that is based on political expediency rather than on ideology. And the constant refrain is the demand for more American money and support.

Broadly speaking, the template with which these nations play the US is based on the decades-long the myth of the secular Turkish military’s ability to maintain constitutional, secular and pro-west governance in that country amid threats from Islamist groups. The failure of the Turkish military to stem the tide of the slowly encroaching Islamism of the AKP owes to the fact that, over time, the sympathies of the military will invariably shift; there is no guarantee subsequent generations will feel the same commitment to secular rule that their predecessors had. In Egypt, the situation is even worse. As we have seen, the military regime since 1952 is ideologically committed to oppose secularism and is bound by shariah, specifically as it relates to the treatment of minorities or dhimmis.

There is overwhelming evidence that Egypt’s military is, at present, enacting this play at American expense. Last week, former Ambassador Marc Ginsburg reported that the SCAF has been directly funding the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts in the current parliamentary elections. As the regime receives billions in military aid and assistance from the United States, this collusion between so-called “allies” and the Muslim Brotherhood is a deeply cynical act, and one that betrays the true intentions of the regime. The thought that the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood is occurring, albeit indirectly, through the largess of the American taxpayer is shocking, and should cause a re-evaluation of these transfer payments.

As Ambassador Ginsburg also points out,

The military leadership has not only channeled financial support to the Islamists, it has also secretly collaborated with Salafists who have attacked Copts throughout Egypt in a show of support for more punitive discriminatory acts against Egypt’s Coptic minority to curry further favor with Salafists.”[19]


In conclusion, three things must happen in order for the Coptic Christians to stand a chance of seeing their present human rights situation in Egypt improve significantly:

First, the United States should cease all American aid to Egypt until there is demonstrable, verifiable evidence that the Egyptian government is allowing non-Muslim religious minorities in Egypt to exercise the freedom of speech and religion without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

Second, the Obama administration should explain and possibly reevaluate its vetting process for foreign national employees of or advisors to American embassies, particularly in Egypt, where Egyptian nationals loyal to the military regime have used their embassy positions to deny Coptic religious asylum requests to the United States.

Third and finally, the United States must avoid legitimizing the joint effort by the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s ruling military regime to use “blasphemy” laws against non-Muslim minorities in Egypt, and therefore should decline to meet with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss any agenda to apply “blasphemy” laws globally under the guise of confronting “Islamophobia.”




DECEMBER 7, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s an honor to be able to testify today in front of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission about the status and plight of Copts in Egypt. I’m a Coptic classic liberal political activist. I’m also a writer and researcher in Egypt. I just came to the US last month. I’ve been involved in a political process for over a decade. And I’ve addressed the protestors in Tahrir Square and also I’ve been involved in Maspero protests. To be able to discuss the plight of Copts and why they are – why they are persecuted in Egypt, I would have to ask the question who are the current rulers of Egypt? Who are the Supreme Council of Armed Forces? What is their ideology and are there – are they are secular autocrats like they like to give the impression to Western governments? Or is it something else? What I claim here – and these are all historic facts – that the current military oligarchy originates from the Muslim Brotherhood organization. In 1952, the free officers perpetrated a coup detat against the Egyptian monarch. The free officers were the branch of the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood organization. They only split after the death and the assassination of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1949. Before that, they were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the first president of Egypt, the actual first president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser. He was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and in ’44, he joined and swore allegiance to Hassan al-Banna on a Koran. This is the founding father.

This is according to Khaled Mohieddin, a fellow free officer and also previously a member of parliament in Egypt. This is according to his own biography. These are the founding fathers, almost ninety people that perpetrated the 1952 coup detat were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the reality of the basis of the current ideological foundation of the Egyptian army and the regime and the oligarchy that has had control for over six decades, sixty years of this, this is what we are having. And it was inevitable that shariah law becomes part of the constitution. In 1971, President Sadat introduced shariah law to the constitution and now I think it’s, qualifies to say that Egypt is a constitutional theocracy and it’s not a modern state. The consequences were that Copts are no longer, according to shariah law, identified or defined as citizen. I have an Egyptian passport, but I’m not a citizen. The concept of citizenship is a Western concept that does not apply to us in Egypt. I’m a woman and I’m a Copt. I’m a fourth-class citizen in Egypt. A first-class citizen in Egypt is the Sunni male, Muslim male. The second-class is the Sunni female. The third-class is the Coptic male. And fourth-class is the Coptic female.

And that’s why none of the people that committed crimes, none of the criminals that committed crimes against Copts were prosecuted in any way. Because it is against shariah law and that’s a fact. It’s not an opinion. To persecute someone for – a Muslim, for killing, raping, torturing, or vandalizing the property of a non-Muslim or a dhimmi. So this is our legal status. And this has been happening under the Mubarak’s so-called moderate regime, an ally of the West, and it’s now happening now. It was only inevitable that they take their radicalism a step further and start killing Copts in the street in front of TV cameras with live ammunition and running them over with armored military vehicles they probably got from the United States of America. One of my friends was in the protests. I was supposed to go there on the ninth with him. And with other people. What happened was my friend was there. Michael Mossad [PH], with his fiance, Vivian, and they were walking. And he felt, when he started – when the army started attacking Maspero and they saw them screaming, Allahu Akbar, like they are going on an Islamic fatwa and an invasion, they got scared and they decided to leave. But he called his family and he told them, I’m going to die tonight. And I want to – I want to say goodbye. Because I’m going to get killed tonight. That’s what happened to my friend. He got on the pavement and then they turned around to leave, but what happened was the armored vehicle got on the pavement to intentionally run him over and they did run him over and almost severed his legs from his body and crushed his skull. And as he – as Michael was lying there, breathless and dying, his fiance kept screaming for help, asking someone to come and help him, or – what happened was, the military started beating him up. They kept beating up his motionless body and beating her up and spitting on her and calling her an infidel and so much worse.

At the same time, while this was happening, I was watching Egyptian television where a military official would say, they would talk about the Copts and he would say, the Christian sons of dogs. We are, according to the state, the Christian sons of dogs. That’s how the state defines us. And this is the current ally of the United States of America. So that’s the situation and that’s what happened in Maspero. Bussein Akamel [PH], a moderate Muslim and secular Muslim TV personality and journalist in Egypt said that she was in Maspero and I also know her, she was there and as she got terrified of the attacks by the military, she went to hide inside the building of Alhurra TV channel. What happened was, she said the military started attacking the building while screaming Allahu Akbar, dragging Christians inside the building and beating them and torturing them. And then when she said the screams stopped and we felt we were safe to get out of the building, she said we were walking in blood of Copts and to get out of the building or safe, you had to say I’m a Muslim who believes in one Allah. That was a jihadist attack. This looks like a jihadist attack. It doesn’t look like military trying to protect or stabilize a situation. That was religiously inspired. After that, also Nawad Enigen [PH], she is a Muslim political activist and also a TV personality, she stated that she saw the military checking the hands of Copts for crosses before attacking and torturing them in the street. They kept around, checking the hands of protestors, because most Copts put crosses on their hands. And there are people in this room, there are Copts in this room with crosses in their hands who wouldn’t have passed this test of the military. It’s something that was also happening. This was the situation at Maspero and it was even so much worse. If I had more time, I could even write a book from the amount of testimonies and my personal friends and my losses. My personal loss that day.

What I would – I would like to add that right now, currently, the Egyptian regime, military regime, is transforming into a Pakistani model. We are now approaching another Pakistan in Egypt. It is going to be inevitable unless there are serious measures taken to dismantle the current status quo. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are now funding Salafi jihadists and the Muslim Brotherhood. And the US is now currently funding the military that has evidently funded the Muslim Brotherhood in the past elections. As former ambassador Marc Ginsberg states in his article last month, that he confirms evidence that the military is funding Salafi jihadists, the al-Qaeda style jihadists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Obviously, from money that might have come from the USA. And also they have brokered a deal with Salafi jihadists. Now to force the West – the equation is, they want to force their Western, so-called, allies to choose either between the military dictatorship or between the Islamists. That’s the equation. Although that’s not the reality of things. Tahrir Square was filled with moderate and was filled with secular Muslims. There are six million Sufis that are formally cooperating with Copts that could be better alternative instead of this vicious equation. Right now, the equation is, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood Salafi jihadists, Egyptian military and the US on one side. And now the Copts and seculars, moderate forces, moderate Muslims, are on the other. And I think the US has always been our ally and this is not part of the equation that they should be. When President Bush’s administration suggested that they might condition aid, our lives became immediately better in Egypt. It was like someone clicked on a button and the world looked totally and entirely and completely different. What happened was, Mubarak had to leverage, because that’s how America gets leverage. And by giving us more freedom. What we did was, we started co-founding secular political parties that called for – that were against Islamic imperialism and against theocracy and pro-free market and human rights. In this atmosphere, we were able to work. Because that’s how countries reform to better ideas and modern ideas. When secular Muslims and moderate Muslims and Copts are getting death threats, how are we going to spend – how are we going to spread our ideas? Not everyone can tolerate getting messages like the messages and the death threats I used to get. That’s not an atmosphere that was – that is open to spread ideas of reform and modernity. So that’s the current situation now.

What we would like to ask and my condition – sorry – my conclusion of this is, America should look at the plight of Copts as a national security issue. We’re America. It’s not only a humanitarian crisis, but these are the true allies of the United States and true believers of the ideas and  – the beautiful ideas that this country stands for. These are the true allies. In conclusion, three things must happen in order for the Coptic Christians and moderate Muslims to stand a chance of seeing their present human rights situation in Egypt improve significantly. First, the United States should seize all American aid to Egypt until there is verifiable evidence that the Egyptian government is allowing non-Muslim religious minorities in Egypt to exercise the freedom of speech and religion without fear of intimidation. Second, president Obama’s administration should explain and possibly re – sorry, reevaluate its vetting process of foreign national employees or advisers of American embassies, particularly in Egypt where Egyptian nationals, loyal to the regime have used their embassy positions to make it hard for Copts to apply for religious asylum and requests to the United States from the American embassy in Cairo out of fear of being targeted by Egyptian state security. Third and finally, the United States might – must avoid legitimizing joint effort by the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s ruling military regime to use blasphemy law against non-Muslim minorities in Egypt and therefore should decline to meet with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation














[14] A more in-depth treatment of the relationship between the Egyptian military regime and the Muslim Brotherhood can be found in “The Arab Upheaval: Egypt’s Islamist Shadow,”Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2011.


[16] Open letter from Anwar Sadat to Adolf Hitler, al-Musawwar (Cairo), Sept. 18, 1953.

[17] Khaled Mohieddin, Memories of a Revolution (Cairo: American University of Cairo Press, 1995), p. 45.