January 10, 2012
“The hopes of Tahrir Square for 21st Century change have yielded to fanatics rushing their nation to the 12th Century,” says Center official
The Simon Wiesenthal Center today denounced a threat by a broad-based coalition of Egyptian groups, led by the Muslim Brotherhood parties to block Jews from an annual religious pilgrimage to the gravesite of a revered 19th century rabbi.
According to MENA, Egypt’s state-run news agency, a group led by members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Peace and Freedom Party and joined by Mohamed El-Baradei’s presidential campaign and the Nasserist Trend have vowed to form a human chain to prevent “Zionists” from traveling to the Egyptian town of Damanhur to visit the Tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hatzeira (pictured), a renowned religious figure from Morocco, who fell ill and died there in 1880.
This pilgrimage, known as 'Hilula', is an ages-old tradition of North African Jews. In the past, the Egyptian government had designated the rabbi’s tomb as an official antiquity site. However the protesting Egyptian groups, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, who will soon dominate the country’s legislature, denounced this pilgrimage as “unpopular and unacceptable legally and politically.”
“It is an ominous sign that as they ascend to power in the Egyptian Parliament, the Muslim Brotherhood’s first act is to curb the religious freedom of Jews,” charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center. “In their worldview, there is no respect for the traditions for Jews, dead or alive," adding, "We are deeply fearful for Egypt’s historic Coptic Christian community, which represents 10% of Egypt's population and whose churches and faithful have been targets of religious-fueled terrorism,” Cooper noted.
“To secure the Copts' future, the rest of the world, led by the United States, must link future aid to Cairo to how the ‘new’ Egypt treats its religious minorities,” Cooper concluded.
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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400.000 members. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the OAS and the Latin American Parliament.