By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel
4:20 am, August 23, 2013
More than 100 Egyptian-Americans and their supporters gathered Thursday night in sympathy with Coptic Christians and in opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. Speakers maintained that the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was justified because of widespread displeasure with his regime.
William Assad, president of the Tampa-based Coptic Christians Against Persecution, said 22 million Egyptians signed petitions for the removal of Morsi — twice as many as the 11 million who voted him into office in 2012.
He equated the removal of Morsi with the impeachment of an American president.
“This was the will of the people and not a coup,” Assad said.
John Mansour, a spokesman for the event in Lake Mary, said support for the military doesn’t mean Egyptians have given up on democracy.
“We want to have some sort of democracy, something that protects our churches, our mosques, our orphanages, our people,” said Mansour, a Coptic Christian who works for an Orlando health-care company.
Coptic churches, schools, businesses and homes have been attacked by supporters of Morsi in retaliation for the military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters Aug. 14.
Neal Abid, a Muslim sales agent from Orlando, said the problem in Egypt stems from making the Muslim Brotherhood a political party that, once in power, tried to impose its religious doctrine on the population.
“Once you mix religion and politics, it’s dangerous,” Abid said.
The meeting Thursday urged unity among American Christians and Muslims in support of Christians and Muslims in Egypt and a return to democracy that included a new constitution, parliamentary elections and another presidential election.
The solidarity event, held at The Westin hotel, was organized by Coptic Christians Against Persecution.
Violence against the Copts followed a military crackdown Aug. 14 resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood followers. The protesters had been holding massive demonstrations since the military ouster of Morsi in July.
Earlier this week, violent groups of Islamists burned or attacked Coptic churches, schools, monasteries and businesses. At least 35 churches were torched and looted.
Copts were targeted not only because of their opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood, but because they are Christian, said Father Daoud Tawadrous, a priest with St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church in Maitland.
“When they wanted revenge, they took revenge against the Copts,” Tawadrous said.
The Copts, who represent an estimated 10 percent of Egypt’s population, aligned with secular and moderate Muslims in opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and suffered oppression under Morsi, Tawadrous said.
Though the Muslim Brotherhood contends the military takeover was the coup of a democratically elected government, the Copts say it was a people’s revolt against a dictatorial regime.
Tawadrous said his hope for the solidarity event Thursday is to draw attention to the vengeance against Christians who have been caught in the middle of the political power struggle between Islamists and secular Muslims in Egypt.
“We want to open the eyes of the world to that is going on in Egypt,” he said. “We have lived among the Muslims for centuries. This is our country as well as theirs.”
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