Monday, January 17, 2011

EU and Vatican criticised

The People's Assembly launched a scathing attack against the European Parliament accusing it of disseminating false reports about the "repression of Christians" in Egypt, reports Gamal Essam El-Din
Egyptian MPs, belonging to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and opposition, opened fire on the Brussels-based European Parliament, accusing it of interfering in Egypt's internal affairs. Speaker of the People's Assembly Fathi Sorour told MPs in a session on Monday morning that he condemned the way in which the European Parliament had "tried to exploit the attack which hit the Two Saints Church on the New Year's Eve in order to imply that there is a systematic policy of repression against Coptic Christians in Egypt". Sorour said that in a meeting with a delegation from the Bundestag (German parliament) yesterday, he had stressed that "the terrorist attack against the Alexandrian church targeted Muslims and Christians alike and the European Parliament's statements about repression of Christians in Egypt are entirely unfounded".

Supporting Sorour, senior NDP MPs accused the European Parliament of propagating lies about Egypt. Abdel-Ahad Gamaleddin, NDP spokesman in the People's Assembly, insisted that "the European Parliament's statement claiming that Coptic Christians face persecution shows how most European institutions are completely ignorant of the situation in Egypt."

Chairman of the assembly's National Security and Defence Committee Amin Radi urged the European Parliament to exercise restraint before publishing false statements about religious conditions in Egypt.

"The European Parliament should fully understand that the bomb attack against the church was aimed at sowing discord between Christians and Muslims in Egypt," Radi said.

The Ghad Party's Ragab Hilal Hemeida accused the European Parliament of offering money to its clients in Egypt to spread lies and instill a kind of "creative chaos in the country".

MPs also attacked Pope Benedict XVI for issuing a statement that reflected "the spirit of the Crusades". "Please, Pope of the Vatican," pleaded independent Coptic MP Gamal Assad Abdel-Malak, "stop recalling the spirit of the Crusades. Copts in Egypt do not face repression and are not in need of the protection of the Christian West." 

"Since Napoleon Bonaparte's French Expedition and until the Zionist colonialist campaigns of today the West has been trying to exploit what it calls the Coptic issue and other religious minorities to interfere with the internal affairs of Egypt. Yes, there are some discriminatory policies against the Copts but these are nowhere near a systematic policy of persecution."

Abdel-Malak urged the government "not to dig its head into the sand like an ostrich and assume everything is OK with Egypt's Copts". He asked the ruling NDP to enter into "open discussion" of Coptic grievances "so as to close the door to foreign meddling".

Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, was also singled out by MPs for attack. Saad Al-Gammal, chairman of the assembly's Arab Affairs Committee, charged that both "the Mossad and the extremist Islamist organisation Al-Qaeda are seeking to inflame sectarian strife in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen."

"Mossad now serves the interests of Al-Qaeda and vice-versa. Neither will be able to break the national unity of Egypt."

Raafat Seif, spokesman of the leftist Tagammu Party, refused to join the anti-European Parliament tirade, saving his criticism for the proliferation of policies that allowed the growth of the kind of intolerance that culminated in the Alexandria bombing.

"Such policies include the growth of extremist education in private and government schools, the use of television and print media and mosques to spread hate against others, including Copts, describing them as infidels," said Seif.

NDP MPs tried to stop Seif from continuing until Sorour intervened. He went on to denounce "the extremist ideology of Wahabi Islam which had imposed itself on Egypt at the expense of the moderate and centrist ideology of Al-Azhar, which calls for tolerance, freedom of religion and inter-faith dialogue".

In response, Sorour urged MPs not to link Coptic grievances with the Alexandria bomb attack. "In so doing," he argued, "MPs are repeating foreign allegations that the bomb attack is somehow linked to Coptic grievances and the repression of Christians in Egypt."

Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab reiterated the argument that the bombing was an attempt to sow divisions among Egyptians. He warned MPs against confusing issues "by connecting the crime to Coptic grievances".

NDP MPs also criticised coverage of the attack on television channels. "Coverage of the bombing was at odds with the national interest," said Abdel-Ahad. "Channels which refuse to toe the national line should be closed."

Zakaria Azmi, chief of the presidential staff and a heavyweight NDP MP, accused daily newspapers of being so desperate to obtain a scoop that they had published conflicting reports about the results of the investigation into the Alexandria attack.

"Such irresponsibility could force citizens to lose confidence in the investigating authorities," he said. Newspapers should remember that the penal code criminalises all forms of intervention in ongoing investigations," said Azmi.

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