Coptic Analyst Offers Warning to Jews (and Christians) About Potential Attacks in Wake of New Zealand Shooting
Jews and Christians living in the West, and Europe especially, need to increase their vigilance against jihadist violence in the aftermath of the murder of 50 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. That’s the warning from Michael Armanious, a Coptic Christian who has been living in the United States since the late 1970s and monitoring anti-Western and antisemitic propaganda on Arab social media for over a decade.
“I’m hoping people will pay attention and be careful,” he said.
Armanious reports that a number of extremist commentators in both the Middle East and Germany are using the New Zealand attack as justification to incite hostility toward Jews living in the West. The messages, which started showing up on YouTube hours after the attack, differ in detail from one commentator to another — but the overall message is that Jews are responsible for Islam’s bad reputation in the West and are ultimately responsible for violence and discrimination against Muslims in the United States and Europe.
Armanious is appalled that these commentators have ignored the outrage and expressions of support from Christians and Jews throughout the world in response to the New Zealand attack.
“[The preachers] wouldn’t admit that Christians and Jews were the first to stand in solidarity with the victims,” he said. “They also can’t admit that the shooter came from the far right, which hates Jews. Still, they think Jews are able to convince [people] to hate Muslims.”
To lend credence to his warning, Armanious cites a number of videos on YouTube. In one video uploaded on March 15 (and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute) Salafist preacher Abdulaziz Al-Khazraj Al Ansari from the Persian Gulf declares that the Jews have never forgiven Europeans for the suffering they endured during the Holocaust. To get their revenge against Europe, Al Ansari declares that Jews are working to damage Christian-Muslim relations.
Armanious reports that in the video, Al Ansari declares that he has seen commentary on the Internet in which Muslims have called on their fellow believers to kill all Christians and Crusaders, and that in response, Christians have declared Muslims to be terrorists and jihadists. “There’s no way a Christian would say this and there’s no way a Muslim would say this,” Armanious quotes Al Ansari as saying. The divisiveness between Christians and Muslims, Al Ansari declares, is the result of Jewish provocation. “Nobody else causes discord in the world,” he said. According to YouTube, this video has been watched more than 76,000 times.
Another commentator who has far fewer viewers on YouTube is Hussein Badini, whom Armanious describes as an extremist living in Germany. In a video uploaded on March 19, Badini accuses Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of working to bring Jews back to Egypt and using government money to build synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. He also accuses el-Sisi of destroying mosques, but not churches, in that country. This patent falsehood, Armanious warns, does nothing but incite violence against Jews and Christians on the part of Badini’s listeners.
In another video uploaded on the following day, Badini declared that “for each action, there is a more powerful reaction.”
“Do not underestimate us,” Badini warns Westerners. “We are sick and tired and might do something big soon.” Armanious adds that while Badini’s videos have only obtained a couple of thousand viewings, his rants represent the feelings of most rank-and-file members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany.
“We need to get the warning,” Armanious said.
Armanious is also concerned about the hostility broadcast by Abdel Bari Atwan, a well-known Arab journalist who has lived in London for 40 years.
In a video uploaded to YouTube on March 15, Atwan, who has appeared on the BBC many times, declared that concerns about antisemitism in the West are part of a campaign to destroy Muslims in Europe. “’Antisemitism’ is a movement to wage war against Arabs and Muslims in Europe,” Armanious quotes Atwan as declaring.
Atwan, who suggested that news about the terror group ISIS is a myth intended to stoke Islamophobia (“There’s no such thing as Daesh”), also declared that Muslims and Arabs are potential victims of a Holocaust similar to what happened to Jews in Europe. “[Atwan] said, ‘We are the new Jews of Europe,’” Armanious noted. “He said there’s no such thing as antisemitism and he’s saying the Muslims are the new Jews.”
These and other expressions of hatred that started showing up on YouTube soon after the New Zealand massacre have prompted Armanious to conclude that anti-Jewish and anti-Christian violence may likely be in the offing.
“They might start targeting Jews and Christians in Europe or the Middle East,” he says. “You have to remember that there are millions of people in the West who do not speak English or the local language, and who rely on these videos for their information about what’s going on.”
This is not the first time that Armanious has warned of impending attacks after seeing a crescendo of incitement broadcast on the Internet. He made a similar prediction in late 2010, in an open letter to then-president Barack Obama.
In the December 24, 2010 letter, Armanious stated: “The tendency of blaming the State of Israel for every problem in Egypt, and linking it to the Copts, is on the rise, especially in the past few months. By associating the Copts with the Jewish state, extremists and government officials are inciting hostility toward a beleaguered, defenseless minority.”
On January 1, 2011, eight days after Armanious issued this warning, jihadists in Egypt bombed the Two Saints Church in Alexandria, killing 23 Christians.
Dexter Van Zile is the Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA).