In the weeks before the New Year's Day suicide bombing of an Egyptian church, al-Qaida-linked websites carried a how-to manual on "destroying the cross," complete with videos on how to build a bomb and the locations of churches to target — including the one that was attacked.But I thought that "it goes without saying that no Muslim, whatever their political leanings may be, will ever commit such an inhumane act."
They may have found a receptive audience in Alexandria, where increasingly radicalized Islamic hard-liners have been holding weekly anti-Christian demonstrations, filled with venomous slogans against the minority community.
Only two or three days before Saturday's bombing, police arrested several Salafis spreading fliers in Alexandria calling for violence against Christians, a security official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
According to authorities, the strong belief among investigators is that local extremists who knew the area and the nature of their target were behind the blast. The Egyptian weekly Al-Youm Al-Saba said police were examining photos of the Salafis' weekly protests for suspects.
In the weeks before the attack, al-Qaida militants on the Web spewing calls for "jihad," or holy war, on Egypt's Christians laid out everything anyone would need to carry out a bombing.
One widely circulated posting includes a so-called "Jihadi Encyclopedia for the Destruction of the Cross," with a series of 10 videos describing how to build a bomb.
In the videos, an unidentified militant in a white lab coat and a black mask is shown listing the ingredients to make TNT and mixing up the chemicals in beakers.
The site lists Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, along with phone numbers and addresses — including Alexandria's Saints Church. "Blow up the churches while they are celebrating Christmas or any other time when the churches are packed," it says.
I'm shocked. Shocked!
After I wrote this, I saw an amazing letter by a Christian who essentially predicted the fatal attack on Egyptian Copts on December 24th:
Egypt is another place in the Middle East where Christians are in peril. They are more numerous in Egypt than they are in Iraq, but they are targets of a similar strain of hostility. In January of 2010, six Christians were murdered outside the church where they were celebrating Christmas mass. (Christians in Egypt are Coptic Orthodox Christians who celebrate Christmas in January.)
This was only one of several attacks that took place in Egypt during the past year and given the level of hostility, it's likely more acts of violence will take place in the next few weeks. Imams have appeared on television accusing Coptic Christians in Egypt of storing weapons in their churches and of being in league with Zionist Jews from Israel. In Muslim majority Egypt, these are lethal charges. When prominent religious and political leaders make accusations like this, it's a signal to others that personal attacks on Christians will be tolerated and condoned.