The Coptic Christians of Egypt are — by any definition – victims, especially since the fall of Mubarak, but senior Homeland Security adviser Mohamed Elibiary disagrees. To him, the Copts are to be reprimanded for promoting “Islamophobia” and opposing the Muslim Brotherhood.
The estimated eight million Christians of Egypt have rallied behind the presidential candidacy of General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who led the military in overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood rulers. Under his leadership, the Brotherhood has been banned as a terrorist organization. El-Sisi promised to rebuild or repair churches damaged by Brotherhood supporters and has even called for a reformation in Islam.
“If Egypt had not been saved by Sisi, you would have seen an exodus of all the Christians from Egypt,” says Naguib Sawiris, a high-profile Christian businessman in Egypt.
No one can rightly blame the Christians for backing El-Sisi, even if there are concerns about his government’s violations of civil liberties. The Christians view him as their rescuer and a strongman who can oversee a transition to a democracy. His main competitor, Hamdeen Sabahi, supports Al-Qaeda when it kills U.S. soldiers and is not viewed as a viable candidate.
Mohamed Elibiary, an openly pro-Muslim Brotherhood senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, takes issue with the Copts support for El-Sisi. In a tweet on April 12, he linked to a TIME Magazine article titled, "Christians and Tyrants." He added that some Coptic leaders and activists “have been extremely unwise & immoral.” The tweet can be seen below:
Elibiary was previously taken to task in September for his criticisms of the Copts. He tweeted that, since 9/11, “extremist American Coptic activists have nurtured anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiments.” In another, he spoke of the “need to reform Coptic activism in US including stop[ping] promoting Islamophobia.”
He also criticized Coptic Christian leader Michael Meunier, president of the Al-Hayat Party, for communicating with the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He said that Meunier was “aid[ing] Islamophobes anti US Muslim community agenda.”
In defending himself, Elibiary said “It is not Anti #Copt when I welcome fair analysis encouraging US #Copts 2 stop working w/ #Islamophobes 2attack American Muslim Ldrs & orgs.”
Therein lies the double-standard: If you criticize the Brotherhood and its American affiliates, Elibiary labels you an “Islamophobe” with an “anti-Muslim” agenda—but when he criticizes Copts, he’s quick to say that doesn’t mean he’s “anti-Copt.”
Elibiary’s comments were condemned by major Coptic leaders.
His attitude towards the Copts stands in sharp contrast to his almost daily defenses of the Muslim Brotherhood on Twitter. It is clear that he views the Copts as a problem for Egypt and the Brotherhood as a solution, comparing the group to Christian evangelicals and the Protestant Reformation.
In an April 14 tweet, he circulated a pro-Brotherhood quote from an article:
The Clarion Project has closely documented Elibiary’s affection for the Brotherhood, including his personal ties to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood network, such as his former position as a board member for a chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and close friendship with the now-imprisoned CEO of the Holy Land Foundation, a Brotherhood entity shut down for financing Hamas.
On March 3, Elibiary said he met with the relatives of Hamas leaders years ago. In another tweet on April 13, he recalled meeting with a Muslim Brotherhood leader from Cairo years ago:
Contrary to Elibiary’s consistent defense of the Brotherhood and criticism of the Copts, it is not the Christians who need to be reined in.
Christians were persecuted under the Mubarak regime, but it increased under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and especially after the Brotherhood fell from power. The toppling of President Morsi by the military was endorsed by the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as tens of millions of Muslims and the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University.
Yet, it is the Christians—a mere 10% of the total population—who are most victimized by the Brotherhood’s supporters. And there is not a single example of violent reprisals from Christians.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not officially engaged in the violence—its Salafist supporters are—but its rhetoric instigates it. Fifteen human rights groups including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights condemned the Brotherhood in August for its “clear incitement to violence and religious hatred in order to achieve political gains.”
As soon as protests against the Brotherhood began, its leaders began justifying violent retaliation. Safwat Hegazy, a prominent Brotherhood cleric who campaigned for Morsi, said:
“We say and I say to the Church: Yes, you share this country with us; but there are red lines—and our red line is the legitimacy of Dr. Mohammed Morsi. Whoever splashes water on it, we will splash blood on him.”
After Morsi fell, Brotherhood supporters were videotaped saying they would wage violent jihad. A Salafist woman who said she is not a member of the Brotherhood but stands by the Islamist group threatened, “I tell the Christians one word: You live by our side. We will set you on fire! We will set you on fire!”
One chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party made a Facebook post with a blistering attack on the Coptic Pope, essentially branding him an oppressor of Islam and Muslims. According to mainstream sharia (Islamic law), that makes him and the church legitimate targets for jihad.
After listing the grievances against the Copts, the Brotherhood post said: “Burning houses of worship is a crime. And for the Church to declare war against Islam and Muslims is the worst offense. For every action there is a reaction.”
The Copts’ only issue right now is self-preservation. Criticizing them for backing El-Sisi and opposing the Brotherhood — especially coming from a senior advisor to the Department of Homeland Security — should raise serious questions about that person's agenda.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.
The Institute on Religion and Democracy contributed to this article.