Why ISIS Declared War on Egypt’s Christians
May 27, 2017 4:49 AM   Subscribe

It is unlikely that this strategy will succeed the way ISIS envisions in Egypt, but the attempt to implement it will leave a trail of destruction that will primarily devastate Egypt’s Christian minority. The group’s genocidal program may perhaps backfire as it did for their jihadi predecessors of the 1980s and 1990s, whose wanton killing of civilians dried up any base of popular support. But as the ISIS ideologue al-Harmasy hints, there is deep-rooted sectarianism in Egyptian society that has been fanned by Islamists for decades, to which government policies have also contributed.
-Mokhtar Awad is a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, here he examines reasons behind the latest strategies of ISIS in Egypt (alt)

Just hours after yet another violent attack on Coptic Egyptians, this time in the Minya region
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced on Friday that he had directed strikes against what he called "terrorist camps" [near Derna in eastern Libya], declaring in a televised address that states that sponsored terrorism would be punished.

"Egypt will never hesitate to strike terror camps anywhere ... if it plans attacking Egypt whether inside or outside the country," Sisi said.

Earlier on Friday, at least 28 Coptic Christians were killed and dozens more wounded by armed men who attacked them while they were travelling to a monastery in Egypt's Minya province.

The Christians were headed to the Saint Samuel Monastery, located outside Minya city, about 220km south of the capital Cairo, when the masked attackers, who came in three pickup trucks, opened fire of them before fleeing the scene.
This year has been particularly dangerous for Coptic Egyptians, and other minority populations, such as Sufi Muslims, whom ISIS has targeted inside Egypt (a shift from previous tactics primarily focused in the Sinai Peninsula, targeting military members, police checkpoints and other elements of the state);
Four months after an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 28 Christian worshipers in Cairo, the group struck Egypt’s Christians again—this time with a double church bombing on Palm Sunday that left at least 44 dead and scores injured. The attacks, only hours apart, targeted a church in the Delta city of Tanta as well as a church in Alexandria where Coptic Pope Tawadros II was leading a service. It was the single deadliest day of violence directed against the Middle East’s largest Christian community in decades.
Coptic Christian Egyptians, who make up about 10% of Egypt's population of 92 million people have expressed many fears.
An Islamic State campaign of murders in North Sinai prompted hundreds of Christians to flee in February and March.

Copts fear they will face the same fate as brethren in Iraq and Syria, where Christian communities have been decimated by wars and Islamic State persecution.

Egypt's Copts are vocal supporters of Sisi, who has vowed to crush Islamist extremism and protect Christians. He declared a three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of the church bombings in April.
The outflow, and access to information is being stemmed by the recent blocking of 21 news and journalism outlets (such as Mada Masr, and Al Jazeera) inside Egypt following closely on meetings between President Sisi, other regional leaders and President Trump—citing "fake news", and "terrorism".
posted by infinite intimation (4 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My moment of "hunh, I'm super ignorant": I had no idea that Coptic Christians had made up even 10% of Egypt's population. For some reason in my head I had always assumed that they were this tiny, tiny minority.

Fascinating post, horrible tragedies, thank you.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:18 AM on May 27, 2017

A pretty clear pattern in a lot of places over the last few decades is the way that governments and parties have encouraged extremist groups, tacitly or openly, as a way to curry favor with fringe sections of the population and intimidate political enemies. Almost without fail, these groups get too entrenched to control and unmanageable violence breaks out. The tactic remains as popular as ever, though.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:32 AM on May 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

I had no idea that Coptic Christians had made up even 10% of Egypt's population.

Yes. There are lots of them. They are a minority somewhat proportionately equivalent to African Americans in the U.S. (13% of the population).
posted by Modest House at 8:48 AM on May 27, 2017

This is pretty amazing:

One 2014 jihadi “study” by an ISIS ideologue, Abu Mawdud al-Harmasy, is instructive. ... that inflaming sectarian strife will be the key to “revealing the reality of the conflict and [inciting] the latent feelings of the Muslims towards their [Christian] creed;” to him, only after targeting minorities happened in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen did jihad take hold in those places.

The reactionary playbook is pretty much the same everywhere, isn't? Pit the majority against the marginalized to hoist yourself to power.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:03 PM on May 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

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