Rev. Majed el-Shafie, an Egyptian Muslim who converted to Christianity and was
tortured and condemned to death, fears that the current upheaval in Egypt will
strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood.
Shafie is alive today because he
managed to escape Egypt and get to Israel by driving a jet-ski from Taba in
Sinai to Eilat in 1998.
Rev. Shafie, who was eventually given political
asylum in Canada and now lives in Toronto, is the president and founder of the
largest human rights organization monitoring events in Egypt, known as One Free
World International, El-Shafie Ministries.
His organization, which
monitors violations in Egypt and other Arab states against the Christian
minority, has 24,000 people in Egypt alone updating him on the situation on the
“We have people all throughout Egypt who are informants
letting us know what is really going on there.
Many of these people are
volunteers who do this because they believe in it. But others are Egyptians,
including some who work in the police and the army, who take bribes to be an
informant. That is how we do it.”
According to Shafie, “the Muslim
Brotherhood has used the demonstrations in Egypt to advance its agenda. They are
going street to street, door to door asking people to go out to demonstrate...
They want a hand in the new government. They are being more aggressive, more
active, are coming out in full power.”
Shafie says that the Muslim
Brotherhood is popular with the poor, illiterate people of Egypt “because they
provide the basic food and necessities to them... The Muslim Brotherhood is very
wealthy. They own supermarkets in Egypt and they get funds from countries such
as Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
He believes that if elections are held in
Egypt in the near future, the Muslim Brotherhood will likely come to
Shafie, 34, was born a Muslim in Cairo to a distinguished family
of lawyers and judges. He was exposed at an early age, through a Christian
friend, to hatred toward the Christian minority in Egypt. He decided to convert
to Christianity and subsequently wrote a book about it. As a result, he became
an outcast and a victim of oppression.
He began a mission to insure that
the Christians in Egypt had all the same legal rights as the Muslim community
there. After beginning a ministry which built two churches, a Bible school and a
medical clinic, he established a newspaper to request that the Egyptian
government grant equal rights to the Christian community.
did not tolerate this, and Shafie was arrested in 1998 and taken to the torture
section of the Abu Zaabel prison in Cairo.
“I was jailed at Abu Zaabel
jail and tortured for seven days, and then put under house arrest for three
months... After receiving the death penalty, I escaped from house arrest and hid
with a Beduin family for two months in Sinai.
“Then I went to the Hilton
hotel in Taba, [near the border with Israel] and I stole a jet-ski and landed in
front of the Princess Hotel in Eilat, in Israel... It was about a three-minute
ride on the jet-ski,” he said.
But when he got to Eilat, Shafie was
imprisoned again – this time by Israeli authorities because the government did
not know what to do in his circumstances. Legally, he could not stay in Israel;
but if they sent him back to Egypt, he would be executed.
“I was in an
Israeli prison because under the peace treaty with Egypt, they couldn’t take me
in,” he said.
He stayed in prison in Israel for “one year, three months,
15 days, 12 hours and 24 minutes. When you are in prison you count every
Shafie was eventually released through the assistance of the UN,
Amnesty International and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which
managed to obtain political asylum for him in Canada, where he emigrated and
became a citizen in 2006.
Shafie, who founded as One Free World
International, El-Shafie Ministries in 2004, cautioned that the United States
should not support Mohamed ElBaradei’s attempt to become the leader to replace
Mubarak, as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would “ride to power on his
He said, “I am concerned that under the current
circumstances, Mubarak’s abrupt departure will create a political vacuum, which
will be filled by Islamic extremists. The West appears to be embracing Mohamed
ElBaradei, a former head of the UN nuclear inspection agency, as a replacement
for Mubarak. This is of serious concern as ElBaradei, in addition to betraying
heavy anti-Israel sentiment through his actions at the UN agency, is
communicating with the Muslim Brotherhood, [which has up to now been] a banned
Islamic extremist movement, in order to actively involve the Brotherhood in the
future political landscape of Egypt.”
Shafie noted that ElBaradei has
said he intends to include the Muslim Brotherhood, which he has referred to as
“an integral part of Egyptian society,” in the political process, and that
ElBaradei has called the Brotherhood “a conservative group that favors secular
democracy and human rights.”
Many Western news outlets have adopted the
claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is a conservative, nonviolent movement. But,
Shafie countered: “Nothing could be further from the truth. While it officially
renounces violence, the Muslim Brotherhood is the ideological parent of
terrorist movements such as Hamas and al-Qaida. Members and supporters of the
Muslim Brotherhood are behind daily forced conversion attempts, violent attacks,
and torture against Egyptian Christians. The Brotherhood cooperates with Hamas
in Gaza and [its] leaders are determined to launch war against
“This is a very serious matter and we cannot, under any
circumstances, allow the Muslim Brotherhood to increase its influence in Egypt.
To do so would be to condemn the Egyptian people, from Christians and other
religious minorities to moderate and secular Muslims, to a regime of oppression
and religious tyranny that will make Mubarak’s repressive regime seem like a
beacon of freedom.”
Shafie said that in Egypt there are “daily
persecutions” by Muslim extremists of the Christian population, which makes up
about 10 percent of the Egyptian population.
For example, he said that on
January 30, a week after the demonstrations began, not far from Cairo, members
of two Christian families were killed in a brutal attack by Muslim
“They were randomly killed... Muslim extremists took
advantage of the fact that with all the ongoing chaos there were no police
around,” Shafie said. But, he notes, “this was not widely reported in the
mainstream Western media.”
According to Shafie, the two families were
killed by “Jamt Islamiya,” a group that “was born out of the Muslim
Shafi believes that if the Muslim Brotherhood rose to
power, they “will say at the outset that they respect the treaty with Israel,
but then shortly afterwards they will say they want to reform the
Shafie is of the view that “Obama needs to work with the
Egyptian army and Omar Suleiman, as democracy can’t occur tomorrow.
regime needs to be supported until Suleiman can reform the constitution and
educate the people, and allow freedom of the media, freedom of speech and work
toward a free election.”
When asked how long he felt would be needed
before a free election could take place in Egypt, Shafie answered, “Five years
from now, there should be an election...
Democracy in Egypt is an infant
– it needs to learn to crawl before it can learn to walk.”
family in Egypt but “is not in communication with them since they disowned me
after I converted to Christianity.” He emphasized that “the people of Egypt have
been living ‘in darkness’ under a dictatorship for 30 years – you can’t expect
them to adjust to the light right away.”
“Thirty percent of the
population is illiterate – they can’t read and write their own name – you can’t
give them absolute democracy in the beginning, because it’s easy for them to
turn to extremism. The United States and other countries should support Omar
Suleiman. We need slow change.
“Democracy as we know it in the West
cannot simply be transplanted into Egypt, a country that has never experienced
any form of true democracy.
Democracy cannot survive where people cannot
read their own constitution. It must be taught, nurtured and brought to maturity
so that it can flourish.”
If there were elections now, Shafie says the
Muslim Brotherhood would win because they are “the most organized group.” In his
view, any transitional or new government under Suleiman “will be playing with
fire by including the Muslim Brotherhood.”
He is also concerned that if
democracy is brought to Egypt too quickly, “we will see the same scenario that
we saw in Gaza and the West Bank in 2006, where Hamas won the elections,” or we
risk “repeating the Iranian scenario, where pro-democracy forces deposed the
shah in 1979 but were quickly overcome by the radical Islamic
He noted, “When Egypt had elections in 2005, even though
they were rigged, the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 out of 454 seats in the Egyptian
parliament. The Brotherhood really got more than 88 seats; but once they got 88
seats, the regime shut down the elections completely.”
peace treaty with Israel, Shafie said that the peace was not one that was really
“It was a cold peace that the Egyptians entered into [in
order] to get money from the Americans,” he said. “There is no love lost between
Egypt and Israel.”
He said Mubarak’s regime was supporting Hamas under
the table by enabling the smuggling of weapons from Sinai into
There are reasons for Israel to be concerned about developments in
“There is now a whole wellequipped army in Egypt [due to American
support Egypt received after entering into the peace agreement with Israel]. It
is a built-up modernized army that could in the future be at war with
Shafie said that unlike Egypt, the Arab gulf states are stable,
even though there is no democracy there “because the people are wealthy.” He
said that “Saudi Arabia has a higher standard of living than Egypt.”
Egypt, due to Mubarak’s corrupt regime, Shafie said, “the rich have gotten
richer and the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle class is disappearing.
The average Egyptian salary is under $2 a day.”
Rhonda Spivak is editor
of the online newspaper The Winnipeg Jewish Review, found at
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