Egyptian Christians are open targets for attack as radical groups advocate discrimination, bigotry, and violence.

In Egypt, the Islamic fundamentalist movement has been growing for 20 years, leaving in its turbulent wake many victims among the state security apparatus, vocal secularists, and advocates for moderation within the government. Yet it is Coptic Christians who are increasingly the focus of violent attacks, religious bigotry, and blatant discrimination.

Ethnic Copts are descendants of the indigenous inhabitants of the Nile Valley, before the Muslim conquest of A.D. 642. Copts are traditionally Christian, and the largest Christian group, the 5 million-member Coptic Orthodox Church, which represents 10 percent of Egypt’s population, traces its traditions to the gospel writer Saint Mark in the first century.

“Islamic extremists killed at least 27 Copts, robbed and murdered Coptic shopowners and burned scores of Copt-owned properties, including several churches,” the U.S. State Department noted in its 1992 human-rights report on Egypt. “The government does not always prevent attacks and does little to correct nonviolent forms of discrimination—including its own.”

Copts driven out

The new “Islamized climate,” contends Rifaat Said, chairman of the Egyptian Committee for National Unity and secretary-general of the opposition Tagammu party, is primarily the result of intentional policies of the government in its formal dealings with the Copts.

The elimination of Copts from high-level posts in the government, security police, diplomatic corps, military, and the public sector was among the offenses Said enumerated.

At the same time, while extremists continue to burn churches and shops owned by Christians, the government still requires ...

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