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Egyptian Media and Islamic Justice

A few days ago an Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram, reported the massacre of six Muslim employees of the Al-Mokauloon al Arab construction company and the wounding of six others

when, apparently without warning or provocation, a Muslim bus driver stopped his bus, took out a rifle and began shooting. The incident took place about three hundred meters from the entrance of the company’s office building. The driver then returned to his seat and drove the bus to its final destination.

During the interrogation, the killer justified his action by saying that his fellow workers were teasing him for his refusal to allow some of them to search for historic relics underneath his home for their own personal gain. He purchased a gun from a police officer more than two years earlier for seven thousand Egyptian pounds ($1,500) for the purpose of defending himself against these "old monument mafia." Previously, he contacted the police to report this issue in order to protect his property but the police did nothing.

According to the same newspaper article, this outrageous act was particularly shocking in a society that is always peaceful and where civilians are not allowed to carry a gun without special permit. For these reasons the attorney general deemed the case urgent and ordered an immediate examination in order that justice would not be delayed.

On July 11, 2010, Osama Saraia, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram, the same government-controlled Arabic newspaper where the original story appeared, wrote a comment condemning the horrible incident,

The massacre committed by the bus driver of Al-Mokauloon al Arab is an ugly crime. This person is a real criminal and must be judged severely and given the proper punishment in order for all of us to feel safe. (translated from Arabic into English)

(http://www.ahram.org.eg/224/2010/07/11/10/28884.aspx)

For the remainder of the article, Saraia goes on to rule out mental illness as a defense and adopts a hard-line approach toward such crimes. Those from the West who are unfamiliar with the internal politics of Egypt will find it difficult to understand why those who know better will take serious issue with his straight-forward statements. It is certainly correct to agree with him in his call for immediate justice and maximum punishment, but the problem is that he gives the general impression that Egypt’s criminal justice system is fair and just, and similar to our democratic system in the West when, of course, it is not. Soraia’s statements project exactly what serves to present and protect the pristine image of Egypt seen by the West. Soraia’s comments lead us to believe that Egypt is a peaceful and stable country with justice for all, Muslim and non-Muslim. This is at best misleading.

Repeatedly we see that there are no guilty verdicts for those accused of killing Coptic Christians, no serious attempts at finding the facts in cases where Copts are massacred, no expediency in bringing justice to those families; but instead, false conclusions derived from scant evidence, hasty round-up of citizens, and paltry attempts to find the truth which satisfy appearances in the international community. Finally, no regard for safety and protection of Copts and their communities.

In short, Soraia’s commentary is no less than a cover-up for Egypt’s corrupt police force and its dual system of justice. He capitalizes on this crime to further a phony narrative that the Egyptian legal system serves everyone equally and affords everyone law and order. This is propaganda, pure and simple. Is the West gullible enough to accept this? The answer to this question could make all the difference to the minorities suffering in Egypt today.

We never read similar statements to Soraia’s when eight Copts were murdered leaving their church after celebrating Christmas mass this year. After almost seven months, there is still no real attempt at accuracy in this case or progress in reaching a judgment regarding the captured criminals. Soraia’s comments represent the hypocrisy of the Egyptian regime.

All citizens are equal under the law in civil countries while anyone who really knows Egypt knows their law is applied only when it is convenient to those in power in ways that are always against those who do not belong to the majority.

When innocent lives are taken, no one wants to see a killer get away with murder by reason of insanity, in any murder case. This then only casts more doubt upon the motive of Soraia’s chosen commentary about the Al-Mokauloon al Arab massacre when this editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram espouses an uncompromising stand even though he has been so conspicuously silent in instances where Coptic blood is shed in the same senseless fashion. His earnestness now on behalf of his fellow Muslims in this horrible massacre has reminded us of how he and his colleagues have chosen not to act likewise in response to Coptic tragedies when there have been numerous opportunities to do so.

Is Soraia himself and others like him so adapted to a perverted justice system under the Egyptian regime of the last 60 years that he can automatically use his position at Al-Ahram, once a respectable newspaper, as a mouthpiece to further the needs of the regime? Whether intentional or not, the myth he promotes continues to bury the truth of the Egyptian regime’s agenda and furthers the cause of inequality and instability which is fostered by rampant discrimination against the non-Muslim population of Egypt.

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