Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Are Christians being crucified by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?

Christian online news sources have been full of stories for the past few days about the crucifixion of Christians and government opponents by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The earliest version of this story seems to be in a Christian Post article here. All of the articles I have found quote the same article which has since been removed from the Sky news Arabic web site:

Several Middle East news agencies are confirming reports that some of the Muslim Brotherhood operatives have "crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others."

I can't find any corroboration for this story. The Coptic Orthodox Church has no information on this on its official UK news service, another UK Copticnews service or on other Coptic news sources (e.g.

I have found one article rebutting the claim here.

There are also no photos or videos which you would expect given the prevalence of camera phones in the middle east (they even got film of Colonel Gaddafi after his capture and the execution of Saddam Hussein).

On the balance of probabilities - especially given the Copts silence on this when it would strengthen their case - this story is unlikely to be true. It may even have been propagated by Islamists looking to intimidate Coptic Christians in outlying areas of Egypt.

Oddly, the people allegedly crucified were not Christians (as is being reported on Christian discussion boards and Facebook pages) but media opponents of the government. My guess is that the part of the story about media outlets being attacked is true, but the crucifixion part is not.

I have found  a cached copy of the original Sky News Story.
Also evidence of the killing of Coptic Christians in Egypt, but not the crucifixion story.

Update 23rd August 2012
This story is continuing to morph. Here is the latest iteration from the American Centre for Law and Justice from 21st August:
Numerous reports have emerged this week that the radical Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, that now controls the government of Egypt, has begun crucifying Christians in that country.
Even though the original source story does not mention Christians and refers to only one instance of crucifixion.

Read the full article here from 21st August:

Interestingly, the ACLJ wrote to Hillary Clinton on 22nd August with a slightly reduced claim:
Supporters of the recently installed Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt have begun to publicly crucify opponents of the regime. It appears that secular Egyptians and Coptic Christians are at heightened risk.
Note that they have not included their earlier claim that the brotherhood has "begun crucifying Christians in that country".

The first widely circulated report of this incident seems to come from Worldnet Daily on the 18th August:

A very good article by Jonathan Kay of the Canadian National Post dissecting the spread of the story:

Which contains a statement from Sky News Arabia:

Yesterday I contacted the management of Sky News Arabic, and asked them about the crucifixions. According to Fares Ghneim, a Sky communications official, the crucifixion claim “began on social media. It started getting pick-up from there and eventually reached us.”
“Our reporters came across reports of the alleged crucifixions and a story very briefly appeared on the Sky News Arabia website,” he added. “The story — which was taken down within minutes — was based on third-party reports and I am not aware that any of our reporters said or confirmed anything along the lines of what is quoted in the article [by WorldNetDaily] … What’s unclear is where websites in North America got [the] Sky News Arabia bit from. As mentioned [previously], none of our correspondents confirmed this issue or commented on it. Clearly there is an intermediate source the websites got the info from, but as of yet we haven’t been able to identify it.”

And Jonathan Kay's opinion from the same article:
Why do so many people believe this made up story? For the same reason that people believe all urban legends — because they play to some deeply held narrative that resides in our deepest fears. In this case, the narrative is that the Arab Spring is part of an orchestrated Islamist plot to destroy Western civilization (beginning with Israel). Believers in this narrative (who are especially numerous in America’s right-wing Evangelical circles) are so hungry for news items that purport to offer confirmation that they ignore the credibility of the messengers. If they had checked out the credibility of WorldNetDaily, for instance, they would have found that the site’s past “scoops” have included the claim that drinking soy milk makes you gay, and that Barack Obama himself is gay (presumably from aforesaid soy milk).

It should be noted that the ACLJ letter to Hillary Clinton asked for all aid to Egypt to be stopped. This is at the same time as Egypt is negotiating for funds from the IMF and president Mursi is planning a visit to Washington. Its not outwith the bounds of possibility that these stories are being stoked by those opoposed to continuing US involvement in the middle east peace process.

Numerous sources?
One of the common threads of all the reports of this story from the past 48 hours is that they are claiming multipe reports and multiple sources as evidence that the story is true. Take for example this article from American Thinker:
This story is hard to believe but comes to us from multiple sources
Although when you read the multiple sources they direct you to they all quote from the original (and now deleted) Sky News Arabia article with no other sources.

Christian Reaction
Reaction from Christians is starting to boil over. See this video from Paul Begley as an example.

Article by Doug Hagmann from Tuesday 21st April "confirms" that it is Christians who were crucified and and concludes:
Based on the limited facts presented above, and there are many more untold, it should be clear who and what is behind Arab Spring, and the motives of the same. If Obama and his cabal of sycophants continue to promote Arab Spring as a success and tolerate the persecution of Christians, it should be clear what’s in store for the Christians and Jews of America.
The time for Christians and Jews in America and throughout the West to speak up is now. To quote Thomas Mann, “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”

Update 24th August
Walid Shoebat - a former Muslim commentator on middle east issues has produced some further evidence which he claims proves the story. You can read his article here.

Here is the eye witness report extracted from his article:
...they propped up a young man and tied him up on a tree.....Yes, this is the incident… I saw a young man was beaten to a pulp while he was hung on the tree… Yes this is what I witnessed … he was a young man less the 21 years old...…women even ran to mosques and men ran after them to attack them in the mosques. No one was spared.”
Whilst "beaten to a pulp while he was hung on the tree" is pretty gruesome it is not a crucifixion, so this eyewitness testimony does not corroborate the crucifixion story as Shoebat claims. There is also no indication that the person was a Christian. People running into mosques for shelter suggests otherwise, but it could go either way.

Update 28th August - Final!
I think this will be my final update on this, but its an interesting one. Following on from my questioning of various bloggers and people circulating the crucifixion story via Twitter I am starting to see a revisionist position being adopted to justify their belief that the story is true. Because the "eye witness" account and photograph do not support the original story they are starting to revise their definition of what constitutes crucifixion. Whilst I had been looking for someone who had actually been nailed to something, they are willing to accept much less. Take this revision by Walid Shoebat of his original article:

Here is the truth of the matter: Kay was right on an assumption he made; no one can produce a Passion of the Christ type crucifixion that occurred outside the Presidential Palace with a Jesus look-alike showing bloody hand marks. That is if one defines crucifixion that nails must be hammered into the hands and the feet. Crucifixion is when a victim is affixed to a tree or a cross by ropes or nails, or some combination thereof. In this case, the evidence is clear; crucifixion by roping victims to trees did happen. [from - underlining added by me]

If this definition is accepted then the available evidence fits this definition and you can declare the crucifixion story as true.

We truly are living in a world of doublespeak.

My take on this
From what I can find the actual incident seems to have been that:
A number of government opponents from a media organisation (probably muslims because the survivors ran into a  mosque for shelter)  were ambushed or kidnapped by an Islamist group and taken to a public place where they were beaten up. This included one 21 year old man being tied to a  tree and beaten.  If the photo in circulation is genuine then one man had a wound to his side. One or more people may have died.
How we got from that information to Christians being crucified outside the presidential palace is the real story. It shows how stories can change as they are spread. Especially where indignation is involved and there is an information vacuum. There may also be a perverse form of wishful thinking by Christians who would view an event like this as evidence that prophecies were coming true and the second coming will be soon.

Let me get this straight: I am not denying that these crucifixions happened. They may have done, but there is currently insufficient information to make that statement. Government opponents are being attacked every day in Egypt (Muslims and Christians). These attacks are being widely reported with plenty of corroboration. The difference with this story is the crucifixion angle, the claim that it was Christians and the lack of corroboration.