Got news? Egyptian Copts tortured for some strange reason

Yes, I know that we’re talking about a report on Fox News. That fact alone, for many readers, will mean that GetReligion is once again venturing into the world of alternative, niche, “conservative” news.

I recognize that. However, I still want to know why this event is getting little or no coverage in the mainstream press here in North America.

Let’s start at the top, which includes the first hint of what, for me, is the most interesting and important element of this hellish report:

Islamic hard-liners stormed a mosque in suburban Cairo, turning it into torture chamber for Christians who had been demonstrating against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in the latest case of violent persecution that experts fear will only get worse.

Such stories have become increasingly common as tensions between Egypt’s Muslims and Copts mount, but in the latest case, mosque officials corroborated much of the account and even filed a police report. Demonstrators, some of whom were Muslim, say they were taken from the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in suburban Cairo to a nearby mosque on Friday and tortured for hours by hard-line militia members.

“They accompanied me to one of the mosques in the area and I discovered the mosque was being used to imprison demonstrators and torture them,” Amir Ayad, a Coptic who has been a vocal protester against the regime, told MidEast Christian News from a hospital bed.

As I have said many times (including this all-but-MIA GetReligion post about human rights, public rapes in this case) my starting point in reading coverage of Egypt is that there is no one Muslim point of view on these kinds of hot-button issues, such as the freedom of the nation’s religious minorities to practice their faith and be active in public life.

If you assume this to be true, what are the most important words in this news story?

How about the fact that some of the abused demonstrators where Muslims, along with the statement that “mosque officials corroborated much of the account and even filed a police report”?

Now, I do not read Arabic. Is there a GetReligion reader out there who can read the actual document (pictured above) to which the Fox Report links via URL? Click here to see the document itself.

Journalists often hint that they hesitate to cover stories about persecuted Christians — as well as Jews, Baha’is and members of minority forms of Islam — because they turn into emotionally loaded and one-sided debates, the political equivalent of “he said-she said” fights.

That does not appear to be the case this time around:

Officials at the Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque said radical militias stormed the building, in the Cairo suburb of Moqattam, after Friday prayers.

“[We] deeply regret what has happened and apologize to the people of Moqattam,” mosque officials said in a statement, adding that “they had lost control over the mosque at the time.” The statement also “denounced and condemned the violence and involving mosques in political conflicts.”

So what does this mean?

This news story, as many do, seeks commentary from an expert here in the United States, one Shaul Gabbay of the University of Denver:

“It will only get worse,” said Gabbay. “This has been a longstanding conflict, but now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power, it is moving forward to implement its ideology — which is that Christians are supposed to become Muslims.

“There is no longer anything to hold them back,” he continued. “The floodgates are open.”

Gabbay said the violent militias that allegedly tortured Ayad work hand-in-hand with police and may, in fact, be beyond the control of increasingly unpopular President Mohammed Morsi. While he may benefit from roving bands that attack demonstrators, they also undermine his claim of being a legitimate leader.

“Egyptian society is split over the Morsi regime, and it is not just a Coptic-Muslim split,” Gabbay said. “The less conservative elements of the Muslim society are increasingly uneasy with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Christian Copts are an easy target, but they are not alone in their mistrust of the Brotherhood.”

Read it all.

But here is my main question. What is it about this event, this news story, that produces the following results when you type the words “Egypt,” “mosque” and “torture” into the news slot in a search engine? Yes, I tried some slightly different terms, such as adding Ayad’s name, or the name of the mosque, and it makes little difference.

File through these results and then tell me: Why is this a “conservative” news story, especially in light of its emphasis on debates among different campus within Islam in Egypt? Didn’t stories about human rights, freedom of speech and torture used to be part of what the press considered a “progressive” agenda?

Got news?

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Ivan

    The Arabic in the linked photo is too blurry to read.

    • Albert Ibrahim

      This is correct. The print is not clear enough to even hazard a guess at what the document says.

  • Mattk

    ” However, I still want to know why this event is getting little or no coverage in the mainstream press here in North America.”

    I know you were serious when you wrote this, but, really, it could have been sarcasm.

  • Julia

    “He and other Copts continued to demonstrate alongside at least 1 million Egyptians on Tuesday”

    I clicked on one of those “You may also like” options – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2011/02/who-are-those-coptic-people-anyway/

    The quote above is from a 2011 Reuters piece that was featured in that Get Religion post. Can you believe that Reuters was writing about Copts as if they aren’t indigenous Egyptians? They write about Copts as if that is a minority ethnicity and the “Coptic church” as if all Coptic Christians in Egypt belong to one church. There are Copts who are a different kind of Orthodox than those associated with Constantinope and other Copts who are in communion with Rome and other Copts who are various kinds of Protestants. And maybe some who are Ethiopian Christians of one sort or the other.

    I don’t notice the media in 21013 being much better at describing the situation of Christians in Egypt or even who these people are.

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