Amid Unrest, Egyptian Christians Fear for Their Future

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Published February 07, 2011

| FoxNews.com

Christians in Egypt increasingly live in fear of discrimination and persecution, and political change may not be a change for the better.

Some Christian demonstrators were seen praying peacefully with Muslims, as protests gripped Tahrir Square in Cairo. But with an uprising in the streets and upheaval in the government, Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, aren't likely to end up with someone in power as tolerant of them as even President Hosni Mubarak has been.

“I don’t believe Mubarak is a good man, but he’s at least ten times better than the Muslim Brotherhood is,” a popular tweeter named Maged told FoxNews.Com. “Imagine if they took control with American approval.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is a radical Islamic group that in recent years has tried to tone down its extreme image in search of a greater role in the Egyptian social and political structure, but some argue that the group never really shed its extremist past.

Maged described an ascendant Muslim Brotherhood as the “mother of all fears," a nightmare for Christians: “About 90 percent of the population here believes that slitting our throats is their way to heaven.”

Already, the uprising has led to new attacks on Egyptian Christians. A church in Rafah, near Egypt's border with Gaza, was hit with a firebomb, but the church was empty and no one was injured.

Two days later, not far from Cairo, 11 members of two Christian families were killed in a brutal attack in which four others were wounded. That attack, which has not been widely reported in the mainstream media, apparently took place because of the lax security situation at the time.

Egypt has the largest Christian community in the Mideast. But life has not been easy for Egyptian Christians under Mubarak, as they complained of discrimination and at times persecution. The new year began with a bombing at a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria that left 23 dead.

While the Copts and other Christians may not have gotten the protection they needed under Mubarak, the situation will almost certainly be worse if the Muslim Brotherhood takes control of the country.

“The Muslim Brotherhood has a long-term commitment to establishing an Islamic state under Shariah rule in Egypt,” Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, told FoxNews.Com. “The Copts and other Christians should be worried. They would be reduced to 'dhimmi' status – denied the right to celebrate Christmas and weddings or otherwise publicly display their faith.”

Shea continued: “Christians would be defined by the state to be a dangerous fifth column.” And she predicts there would be a mass exodus of Christians, similar to the one in Iraq. Given the size of the Christian population in Egypt, Shea noted “this would be tantamount to the end of religious diversity and pluralism in the Middle East and would inevitably lead to a deepening of Islamic radicalization.”

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