CAIRO — An online campaign for boycotting Coptic businesses in Egypt is drawing fire from scholars and the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's biggest opposition group, as a violation of the tenets of Islam and a threat to social fabric.
"This campaign is un-Islamic. It is forbidden," Ahmed Abdel-Rahim, professor of theology and philosophy at Al-Azhar University, told IslamOnline.net on Sunday, March 29.
"Boycott can only be used against enemies not against countrymen and compatriots," he explained.
A campaign has been launched on the social network Facebook urging Egyptian Muslims to boycott businesses owned by Copts.
Organizers claim the campaign is a response to the church persecution of Christian women who converted to Islam, citing the case of Wafaa Constantin.
Constantin’s conversion in 2004 sparked protests and fanned religious tension, forcing the authorities to hand her over to the church.
The campaigners claim that she and others like her are being held against their will be the church.
Copts have a major economic clout in Egypt.
They control one-third of the country’s wealth, according to official estimates in 2007.
Major Egyptian companies of telecommunications, motors and construction are owned by Copts.
"This campaign is a crime," journalist and script-writers Belal Fadl wrote in the mass-circulation Al-Masri Al-Youm daily.
Fadl, a Muslim, urged the country’s attorney general to take a suo-moto notice of the case and issue an official investigation.
Poisonous Professor Abdel-Rahim warned that the anti-Copts campaign would only fuel religious hatred.
"This is a poisonous campaign which only serves in ignite sectarian divisions," he said.
"Islam endorses full citizenship rights for all people, regardless of their religion."
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Muslims make up 90 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people and Christians 10 percent.
The largest group of Egyptian Christians belongs to the Coptic Orthodox church.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, also denounced the anti-Copts campaign.
"This campaign is totally rejected," senior Brotherhood member Essam Al-Erian told IOL.
He said such campaigns tarnish the tolerant image of Islam.
"It will open the door for claims of persecution of minorities in Egypt and will allow foreign interference."
Bishop Matta Sawiris, the deputy leader of the Coptic Church’s synod, agrees.
"It is an irresponsible call, which would fuel sectarian tension," he told IOL.
"It will play into the hands of expatriate Copts to claim persecution of Copts in Egypt."