While Egypt’s Coptic Christians are mourning the death of Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, a controversial Muslim cleric and scholar, known for his negative comments against Christians, is causing a storm online by releasing a video in which he calls Shenouda the “head of infidels” and says “Let him go to Hell.”
The video from Wagdy Ghoneim was posted Sunday, one day after Shenouda III passed on. In response to the cleric’s remarks, a complaint reportedly has been filed with the attorney general.
Pope Shenouda III passed away on Saturday evening at the age of 88. His funeral is set for Tuesday.
According to an English translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., Ghoneim accused Shenouda III of inciting sectarian violence in Egypt by allegedly declaring that Muslims are occupying Egypt.
“Praise be to Allah. With the grace of Allah, the head of unbelief and polytheism, known as Shenouda, died yesterday, may Allah exact revenge from him,” Ghoneim said, according to MEMRI’s translation. “God’s worshippers and the trees and the animals were all relieved by his death. Egypt is relieved by his [death], because he generated sectarian strife.”
The nonprofit, which “bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East,” also provided translations of more poignant parts of the cleric’s speech:
“This dead accursed criminal, known as Shenouda, was told that the Koran says, in Surat Al-Maida: ‘And [beware the day] when Allah will say: Oh Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people: Take me and my mother as gods beside Allah?’ [Shenouda] said: ‘We don’t take Christ and his mother as gods beside Allah. He Is God.’
“The truth is that he was very clear in his enmity to Islam. When the Muslim Brothers would chant their slogan: ‘The Koran is our constitution,’ he would respond: ‘The New Testament is our constitution.’ When they would say: ‘Death for the sake of Allah is our highest aspiration,’ he would say: ‘Death for the sake of Christ is our highest aspiration.’
“He used to say that Egypt was under Muslim occupation. He demanded to abolish the Islamic shari’a and turn Egypt into a Coptic state.
“He wanted to cause civil strife. He wanted to set Egypt ablaze.
“Are we supposed to send condolences or be sad about someone like this? We should be happy that he died. Let him go to Hell. May Allah exact revenge from him in the Hellfire – from him and from all those who follow his path.”
The strong statement caused an immediate reaction from Egyptian activists. Three lawyers reportedly filed a complaint Monday with the attorney general, for what they called defaming Christianity.
“There was no consideration whatsoever as to what the Copts are going through. This is a kind of hate speech,” Nabil Ghobrail, one of the attorneys behind the complaint, told Ahram Online.
The video was seen by more than 150,000 viewers within the first 24 hours of being uploaded, the online publication claims. It has also evoked many critical comments online.
Ghoneim is known for statements of hostility toward Christians. In 2010, he was criticized for having publicized statements like “We are a nation that excels in the production of the art of death,” and “Brothers, we pray to Allah that we be terrorists, if terror means Jihad for the sake of Allah.”
Coptic Christians constitute almost 10 percent of Egypt’s population.
Pope Shenouda III was an internationally respected figure. Condolences after his death were sent by world leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI and U.S. President Barack Obama.