By Richard Engel
Middle East Times
The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brothers, Mustafa Mashour, has come 
under fire after an interview published in the Al Ahram Weekly last week 
and now seems to be changing his message. 
    In the interview, Mashour confided to Weekly reporter Khaled Dawoud 
that according to the Brother's platform Egyptian Coptic Christians 
should pay a tribute to Muslims. The contributions, known as gizia, have 
recently been widely condemned by both Muslim and Coptic intellectuals.
    The Middle East Times learned that gizia is a prominent practice in 
certain villages near Minya, Qusiyya, and Abu Qurqas. In certain towns 
gizia collection is controlled by terrorist groups such as the Gamma 
Islamiya, while in other hamlets money is collected by local Muslim 
'mafia' bosses.
    "The gizia is not as bad as the Christians think, it is a kind of 
tax they pay the Muslims to protect them in case another country attacks 
them. And in case the Christian Egyptian is poor or is not able to pay 
the gizia for any reason the government should not only pay for him, 
but also support him financially, as it was the case during the early 
years of Islam," reported the government weekly tabloid Rose Al Youssef 
on13 April.
    Mashour further upset the sensibilities of those trying to improve 
relations between Copts and Muslims, damaged by recent terrorist 
attacks against Copts in Middle Egypt, by stating that Christians could not 
be trusted to hold high positions in the military.
    "We do not mind having Christian members in the People's Assembly, 
but the top officials, especially in the army, should be Muslims since 
we are a Muslim country. In case they don't want to pay the gizia they 
can join the army, but not to be top officials," Mashour was quoted as 
saying in Rose Al Youssef, which also reprinted the Weekly's article.
    "Many Christians still object to this point of view. During this 
time, Egypt can be exposed to any attack by a Christian country and it is 
our role, Christians and Muslims, to protect our country."
    Mashour added that he met with Pope Shenouda. The Coptic leader 
said he believes the Copts are grateful to Muslims.
    "[Pope Shenouda] told me when Muslims came to Egypt they saved the 
Egyptian Copts from the Roman injustices and the Christians since then 
have been living with Muslims and have been cooperating to protect 
    Mashour, however, now claims that he never said the Brothers expect 
protection money from Copts. In a letter to the Weekly, reprinted in Al 
Shaab on 11 April, Mashour explains that "only those who fight wars 
against Islam or Muslims should pay gizia." Mashour further explained that 
there "are no [wars] present in Egypt."
    Journalists of the Shaab further explained to the Middle East Times 
that the issue was confused when Dawoud's interview was translated from 
Arabic to English.
    Dawoud, however, claims he sent original copies of the tape to the 
leftist Tagammu party newspaper Al Ahali and to the weekly government 
tabloid Rose Al Youssef, both of which covered the controversy.
    Dawoud said he asked Mashour if gizia was in fact part of Islamic 
Sharia, which serves as the basis for the Brotherhood's platform and the 
Egyptian judicial system, to which he responded, "of course."
    Al Ahali opened the gizia issue when it published in March that 40 
Christians were killed for refusing to pay gizia in the small town of 
Nezlit Gris outside Minya, which is known to local residents as Nezlit 
    This article would have appeared in the 19 April 1997 issue of The 
Middle East Times.
    This article would have appeared in the 24 August 1997 issue of The 
Middle East Times.
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