Egyptians, world leaders condemn Alex attack, call for unity

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By Heba Afify

ALEXANDRIA: Representatives from Egypt’s entire political spectrum, governments across the world and international organizations condemned the attack on an Alexandria church that left 21 dead and 97 injured on New Year’s Eve.

While government authorities blamed foreign entities, opposition groups blamed the government for its inability to protect its people. Many international bodies also condemned the attack, which a plethora of scholars emphasized goes against Islamic teachings.

The attack prompted opposition groups to join forces and form a national committee to promote civil rights.

An explosion went off outside Al-Qeddesine Church (The Church of the Two Saints) as worshipers were leaving New Year’s Mass in the early hours of Jan. 1. Initial reports indicated it was a car bomb but the Ministry of Interior later said it was likely a suicide bomber.

President Hosni Mubarak addressed the nation Saturday afternoon, declaring that those responsible for the attack — who he said were not Egyptian — will not succeed in hindering national security.

Mubarak added that Egypt’s national security is his personal responsibility and that he is confident that those who carried out the attack will be captured and prosecuted.

“All of Egypt was targeted by the attack,” said Mubarak. “Blind terrorism does not differentiate between Muslims and Christians.”

Various officials and ministries, including the Ministry of Interior, reiterated Mubarak’s statement that “foreign elements” were responsible.

The parliament condemned on Sunday the attacks in a joint meeting of the defense and national security, human rights, religious, and health committees. A delegation of the four committees visited the site of the attack and the injured in hospitals.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mofid Shehab said the situation was tense, “but everything now is under control.”

Minister of State for Family and Population Affairs Moshira Khattab echoed Mubarak’s belief that the bombing was carried out by foreigners aiming to agitate and divide Egypt’s citizens.

Khattab called on families and schools to carefully monitor children’s education to ensure that extremist ideas are not being transmitted to them.

She added that it is every Egyptian’s duty to be tolerant of other religions and to silence voices that call for extremism.

Al-Azhar spokesperson Refa’a Al-Tahtawy said that the attack is targeting the national unity for which Egypt has always been known, calling upon Muslims and Christians to remain calm and ignore provocations.

Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa announced in a statement that Muslims — as well as Islam in general — were not responsible for this attack.

Gomaa offered his condolences to the victims’ families and called on all Egyptians to ignore rumors and to stick together in order to prevent the terrorists from achieving their goal of causing rifts between citizens.

The Muslim Brotherhood in a statement strongly condemned the “hideous crime.” The officially banned opposition group stated that this crime is not accepted by any religion, and that Islam calls for protecting the rights of non-Muslims; therefore, the Brotherhood considers this an attack on Muslims as well.

The Brotherhood’s statement added that this incident was a part of a conspiracy to break Egypt’s social unity.

Al-Ghad Party demanded the dismissal of Interior Minister Habib El-Adly for his negligence in dealing with threats previously made by Al-Qaeda towards Egypt’s Copts.

Leaders from Al-Wafd Party, Al-Ghad, Al-Tagammu, the Brotherhood, Al-Gabha Party, Al-Wasat Party and the Kefaya Movement for Change met at Al-Wafd’s headquarters on Saturday afternoon to declare a united stand against the attack.

“Egypt is in danger,” said Al-Wafd Party President Al-Sayed Al-Badawy during a press conference held shortly after the meeting. “This is the day when we all have to unite as one and take a stand.”

Al-Badawy added that the government’s corruption and suppression allowed outside forces to tamper with the country’s security.

The meeting resulted in a resolution to form a national committee that will aim to protect civil rights and national solidarity, in addition to raising awareness about the dangers of religious discrimination. The national committee will have branches in all governorates.

Attendees of the meeting decided to stage a number of silent protests to mourn the victims of the attack, adding that they will attend Christmas Mass on Jan. 7 at the Church of the Two Saints.

“We are calling for [the nation to mourn together, which] will consolidate national unity and [further] the spirit of tolerance that have always characterized the Egyptian people,” said Al-Badawy.

Saad El-Katatney, a former Brotherhood MP, stated that the government is using its security forces to pursue political activists while failing miserably at actually protecting the state’s security.

He added that the new committee formed by various opposition forces will have an active role in helping the community, as opposed to government committees that only strive to quell public anger.

Ten opposition movements — including the April 6 Youth Movement and the Popular Campaign to Support ElBaradei — issued a joint statement that held the government responsible for the attack.

The joint statement said that the government was not firm in dealing with specific religious and educational platforms which created a culture of hatred between religions, which breeds attacks like these.

Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination (EARD) also blamed the government for not putting an end to provocations made against Coptic Christians by religious extremists.

The EARD demanded that security forces be held accountable for failing to protect Egypt’s Copts, while also demanding that all calls for discrimination against Christians in mosques, the media, and certain school curriculums be put to an end.

EARD called for a revision of Egyptian law to ensure that it does not condone or promote any religious discrimination.

Mohamed ElBaradei, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, commented on the attack through his Twitter account, stating that a regime unable to protect its people should stand down.

He added that the tragic event is symptomatic of “a disintegrating society about to implode.”

On the international level, President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek issued a statement on Saturday denouncing the attack and calling on Egyptian authorities to bring those responsible for the incident to justice.

Buzek also stated that an understanding must be reached between Muslim and Christian communities in Egypt, and that the European Parliament is very concerned about developments regarding Christian minority communities in the Middle East.

“It is clear that there are some fundamentalist elements seeking to create sectarian divisions within Egyptian society, where Christianity has been an integral part of the fabric of society for two millennia,” Buzek stated.

European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton also expressed her deep sadness over the incident, offering her sympathy to the victims’ families and friends, as well as to the Egyptian authorities.

“There cannot be any justification for this attack,” Ashton stated. “The rights of Christian Copts to gather and worship freely must be protected.”

The US Embassy in Cairo also issued a statement on Saturday to extend its condolences and condemn the attack.

“I strongly condemn the separate and outrageous terrorist bombing attacks in Egypt and Nigeria,” US President Barack Obama said on Saturday.

“The perpetrators of this attack were clearly targeting Christian worshipers, and have no respect for human life and dignity. They must be brought to justice for this barbaric and heinous act,” Obama stressed.

A Coptic Christian woman, center-left, cries out in emotion as a Coptic Christian man, center-right, expresses his anger following morning mass inside the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. Grieving Christians, many clad in black, were back praying Sunday in the blood-spattered church where 21 worshippers were killed in an apparent suicide bombing, feeling betrayed by a government they say has not done enough to keep them safe. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)


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