Magdi Khalil is an Egyptian-born human rights activist and prominent figure on Arabic media, such as Al Jazeera and Al Ahram. He is director of the Middle East Freedom Forum, an Egyptian think-tank that campaigns for human rights, secularism, and democracy. On February 26, Mr. Khalil addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call on the situation of Egypt's Copts.
If Islamists failed to terrorize America on Christmas Day, they amply succeeded in terrorizing the Copts, Egypt's indigenous Christian minority, when they shot and murdered six Copts leaving church after Christmas mass. But according to Mr. Khalil, not only are the Copts increasingly being persecuted by Islamists; the Mubarak regime increasingly scapegoats them in order to redirect public anger from its own corruption and onto the Copts, exasperating an already intolerable situation for Egypt's Christians. (Considering that Egypt bases its constitution on Shar'ia law, which mandates the subjugation of Christians, this is only to be expected.)
The result is a systematic program of public persecution and state discrimination, or what Mr. Khalil terms "state crimes" against the Copts. In fact, when it comes to religious freedom, Egypt ranks just behind nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
According to Mr. Khalil, Copts have suffered over 1,500 attacks and have lost millions of dollars worth of property. Yet they have received no compensation, as Islamists (who "always stick together") occupy prominent positions in law enforcement, the legislative council, and the intelligence services. Most tellingly, Coptic girls are frequently abducted, raped and forced to convert to Islam — yet not a single perpetrator has been prosecuted by the state.
Mr. Khalil affirmed that the Nag Hammadi massacre of six Copts on Christmas Eve was likely carried out with the sanction of state-security forces, as the police took several hours to arrive at the scene of the massacre, a phenomenon that occurs regularly whenever Copts contact the police due to Islamist attacks.
Despite all this, according to Mr. Khalil, hope for political reform in Egypt rests primarily in the Copts themselves, as they are by nature Egypt's foremost proponents of secularism and democracy, and better relate with the West and Israel.
Asked if Mubarak is the better of two evils — the other being the Brotherhood — Mr. Khalil asserted that there are several popular liberal reformers within Egypt, emphasizing that Mubarak uses the Brotherhood as a pretext vis-à-vis the West to justify his autocratic regime.
Mr. Khalil concluded his speech by calling on Americans and others to raise awareness of the Copts' dire situation and to support organizations such as his Middle East Freedom Forum, which campaigns for Copts to participate in Egyptian politics and works to promote human rights, democracy, and secularism for all.
Summary written by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.