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September 06, 2016

New York Times Covers Anti-Coptic Violence Admirably

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Rod Nordland speaking at the National Press Club earlier this year. (YouTube screenshot.)

The New York Times offered its readers some excellent reporting about anti-Christian violence in Egypt. In a piece by Rod Nordland published on Sept. 4, 2016, the Times recounts the ongoing violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt and details the varying responses that this violence elicits from different parts of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The article, titled “Egypt’s Christians Say They Are at a ‘Breaking Point’” also provides details about how the Sisi regime in Egypt is trying to manage the public relations crisis anti-Christian violence presents to the government.

The article opens with a quote from Imam Mahmoud Gomaa, a Muslim cleric who has been appointed to “keep the peace” in upper Egypt, the scene of regular acts of anti-Christian violence perpetrated by mobs of angry Muslims. “Everything is good,” he said.

Then, Nordland reports about how Bishop Makarios said “just a few hours later” that he has “nothing to do with Mahmoud Gomaa.” It’s a brutal counterpoint to of Gomaa’s dissembling.

The stark difference in viewpoints between Gomaa and Makarios sets the tone for the rest of the article, which reports that Christians in upper Egypt have “suffered violence and humiliation at the hands of local mobs. “Houses have been burned, Copts attacked on the streets and hate graffiti written on the walls of some churches,” Nordland reports adding that “the turning point came in May when an older Christian woman was stripped naked by a mob…”

A few paragraphs later, Nordland returns to Imam Gomaa. “’No one has been killed,” the imam reports. “No one has been wounded. There’s no conflict. The problem is really with the journalists writing about it.”

Nordland also reports that perpetrators of anti-Christian violence in Egypt are oftentimes released without punishment and quotes Bishop Makarios as he details how Copts are oftentimes intimidated into accepting non-judicial settlements by civil society institutions that are ostensibly formed to “reconcile communal differences.”

Nordland’s ability to produce such an effective and clear-eyed piece about Islamist violence against Christians may be rooted in his experience reporting and writing The Lovers: Afghanistan's Romeo and Juliet, the True Story of How They Defied Their Families and Escaped an Honor Killing published earlier this year by Ecco. This book tells the true story of two young Afghanis from different Muslim sects who got married over the objections of their families, objections that were rooted in part, in Islamic law.

Hopefully Nordland’s article will have a salutary effect on public officials inside and outside of Egypt, prompting them to take the steps necessary to protect Coptic Christians in the land of their birth.

Posted by dvz at September 6, 2016 02:44 PM

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