A prize winning Egyptian author and former Shell Oil CEO has blamed the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for the deteriorating position of religious minorities in Egypt. According to a report carried by an Italian news portal:
Coptic Christians, women and other minorities are paying the price of increasing Islamisation in Egyptian society, leading author and intellectual, Tarek Heggy, has told Adnkronos International (AKI). The fundamentalist opposition Muslim Brotherhood was one of the groups responsible and was indoctrinating young people through its welfare work, Heggy said.“I believe the major problem for the Copts in Egypt is related to the overall cultural environment. The more radical society becomes, the worse the situation gets. This is also true for Bahaiis,” Heggy said, referring to a smaller religious minority in Egypt which now numbers only a few hundred people. Heggy was speaking in the southern Italian coastal town of Otranto where he was awarded the prestigious 2008 Grinzane Terra D’Otranto prize for dialogue, tolerance, solidarity and integration. Copts – who form some 10 percent of Egypt’s population and the largest Christian community in the Middle East – have been the target of periodic attacks by Muslim hardliners in recent years. The Islamisation of education in recent decades is a major cause of an intolerant mindset that has developed in Egypt, which the Muslim Brotherhood has helped create under the guise of aid to local communities, Heggy argued. “The Muslim Brotherhood is well regarded by the average Egyptian, who equates the government with autocracy, corruption and repression,” Heggy said. ”The group is seen as less corrupt and more supportive of people, and serving them in the real arena of need – health and education. ” The Muslim Brotherhood gives extensive aid to local communities, including medical assistance and private lessons for school children for a symbolic fee – a major draw for poor Egyptians, many of whom view the group positively. A trip to a regular dentist costs 12 euros – half a teacher’s monthly wage – while there are 80 children in an average class in state schools, Heggy said. “The Egyptian government is handling the Muslim Brotherhood as a security issue alone,” he said. “But it is a cultural, social, political, educational, religious and economic problem.”…The fundamentalist Wahabi influence has penetrated education in Egypt, where Arab literature, poetry and plays have been replaced with sacred Islamic texts in schools, Heggy said. Up until the 1960s, Egypt was a truly Mediterranean society, but this has been gradually replaced by an Arab/Bedouin culture. Besides schools, mosques and the country’s media – radio and TV – have also been Islamised, he said. “The four entities that have most influence on people have also been influenced by anti-secular cultures,” Heggy stated. Egypt’s 1971 Constitution defines Islam as the state religion and Islam as the main source of law. “The Coptic problem is that of pressure on a minority, intolerance towards others and a lack of acceptance of pluralism. The more Egypt is influenced by the Wahabi interpretation of Islam, the worse it is for the Copts, ” said Heggy.
The report described Heggy as a former Shell Oil Egypt CEO who has written more than 200 books featuring the themes of democracy, tolerance, and women’s rights in Egypt and the MIddle East.