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The PJ Tatler

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Terror Tracker

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January 23, 2011 - 5:38 pm

Egypt’s government blamed a small al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Gaza for the Alexandria bombings, ignoring rising anti-Christian sentiment throughout the country and exaggerating support from local Muslims. The nation’s press is no better, distorting accounts of support for Christians to take the spotlight off of the republic’s “Coptic Question.”

Following the January 1st attack in Alexandria, which killed 23 people and underlined the sour relations between Muslim and Christians [Copts]in Egypt, mainstream and Arab media came out with articles praising the solidarity of Egyptians over the attacks. Al-Ahram, a majority state-owned paper in Egypt, spread statements that Muslims acted as “human shields” and quoted local Muslim voices calling for unity.

While some Muslim voices were present, the number of protestors in support of Christians was never officially reported. Contrary to the official report, Egyptian Christians filmed abuse of protestors by police and the arrests of the small numbers of Muslims who did show up for the protests. Critically, Egypt’s press was silent about ending false reports against Copts, including claims that churches held Muslim converts hostage. This was the initial source of al-Qaeda threats against Copts in the first place. Instead, they called the attack an attack on Egypt and buried Coptic concerns in nationalist rhetoric.

Egypt’s government also blamed, The Army of Islam, for the attack. However, the Gaza-based group has been unsuccessful at carrying out any large attacks on Israelis and is currently repressed by Gaza’s Hamas regime. The Army of Islam also rejected the claim, despite agreeing with whoever did carry it out. For an al-Qaeda affiliate to turn down responsibility for a massive and popular attack, one that would have catapulted it to stardom in the world of jihad, it’s pretty unlikely they were involved.

So what’s left at the dust clears? Egypt has shunned any real responsibility for anti-Christian sentiment and vehemently rejected calls for change in supporting Christians. The nation’s society and educational system still treat Copts as second-class citizens. The bombing could have been a catalyst for change, but the Egyptian government is treating it as a state threat and not a threat against an endangered minority.

In Egypt, there is an old saying; “The rope of lies is short.” The rope may be short; but, it is still enough for Egypt’s regime to hang itself.

Terror Tracker is a senior researcher on Islamism and radicalization at an intelligence think tank in Washington DC.
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