Geopolitics

As Egypt Descends In Chaos, Islamists Turn On Coptic Christians

Since the army's assault on Muslim Brotherhood began, Egypt's non-Muslim minority, the Copts, have been killed and their churches and buildings burned by radicals in the Brotherhood.

Faithful pray in burned Egyptian Coptic Church
Faithful pray in burned Egyptian Coptic Church
Christophe Ayad

-Analysis-

CAIRO — Soon after government security forces began their assault this week on protester camps set up in solidarity with deposed President Mohamed Morsi, much of the country was already ablaze violence. Among the chief targets, from Alexandria to Aswan, have been the sites of worship and other buildings belonging to Copts, or Egyptian Christians.

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 25 churches were attacked Aug. 14 and 15, as well as cultural and community centers, schools, houses and shops. The attacks, mostly committed with Molotov cocktails, have affected 10 of the 27 Egyptian provinces. Several dozens of civilians not associated at all with the protests in Cairo have allegedly been killed, although it is currently impossible to verify the numbers.

The scale and timing of these events suggest that they were more or less coordinated, and maybe even orchestrated, which is deeply troubling. At the same time, if no order had been given, then it may be even more worrying. That would mean that the anti-Coptic propaganda spread by the Islamist nebula’s most extremist preachers has sunk deep into its militants' minds.

Worse in the small villages

The heads of the Muslim Brotherhood have suggested over the last several weeks that the Church and Coptic businessmen financed the massive June 30 demonstration that led to President Morsi’s ouster. It's a strategy designed to rally Muslims — 90% of the Egyptian population — to their cause.

Anti-Coptic acts of violence were on the rise even before Wednesday’s attack. “That day, the ones who came to take over Tahrir square were Copts from all over Egypt,” a Muslim Brotherhood journalist told us in early August. As evidence, he put forward the presence of Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II next to Egypt Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when Morsi’s resignation was announced. When we pointed out that the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the president of the most prestigious Sunni university in the Arab world, was also there, he dismissed it. “He doesn’t represent the true Muslims,” he said.

If the Copts’ situation in Cairo is alarming, it is truly desperate in certain remote villages of Upper Egypt, where the inhabitants hide in their homes in fear of attacks.

On Thursday, the government claimed that these community attacks constituted a “red line,” while its strong man, al-Sisi, promised to rebuild the destroyed worship sites. On Thursday, 84 people, several members of the Muslim Brotherhood among them, were taken to a military court for anti-Christian acts of violence in Suez.

The pro-Morsi coalition denies any anti-Coptic acts of violence and accuses the intelligence services of committing them as a means to “tarnish the reputation” of the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s an unconvincing accusation.

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Society

Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.


Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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