Posted on January 07, 2011 in Viewpoint with James Zogby

Michael Meunier, Founder and Chairman of the U.S. Copts Association, discussed the recent attack on a church in Egypt which occurred on New Year's Eve resulting in the death of 21 people. The attack targeted Coptic Christians at prayer, causing unrest in the country and bringing tensions between Egyptian Christians and Muslims back to forefront of national and international focus. Ahead of today’s Orthodox Christmas celebrations, security in and around Egypt’s Coptic neighborhoods was increased. "In Egypt in particular…I think there is a higher level of security so far", said Mr. Meunier. He did, however, beg the question why there higher levels of security were not in place prior to the attacks. "Nothing was done" to prevent attacks on identified church and other targets, he said, despite receiving what he called "credible" threats from Al Qaeda in Iraq to do so weeks before New Year’s Eve.

False accusations against the Coptic Church which stirred up animosity in the Muslim community, coupled with the apathy of the Egyptian government to investigate the validity of such claims were "weapons that inflamed the fanatics", according to Mr. Meunier. Despite the attacks, Mr. Meunuir believes that Egyptians have rallied behind a common cause and have isolated the terrorist groups responsible for the attacks. "The important part now is [that] the Egyptian government listens to the will of the people…that they take a measured action to remedy the situation”, he said.


Laura Muphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, discussed a wide-range of civil rights issues. Ms. Murphy mainly discussed the issues surrounding the Supreme Court case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project in which a number of American organizations were found guilty of "providing material support or resources" to foreign terrorist organizations. Ms. Murphy called the court ruling “very troublesome” and explained that the implications of this law -- in many circumstances – negatively effects 1st amendment rights. “Beliefs that are different from the government and free of government censorship is embodied in the first amendment”, said Murphy. Ms. Murphy’s comments address a fundamental element of the law which stipulates that any support of a terrorist organization including any beliefs the U.S. government deems consistent with any designated terrorist group, are viewed as proving material support for a terrorist group. In this case, Murphy said “the [legal] burden then is shifted to the people who are giving to what they believe is a legitimate charity and have every reason to believe it's a legitimate charity.”


Shane D'Aprile, campaign reporter for The Hill newspaper, discussed the strategy of Speaker Boehner’s newly elected majority in the House of the 112th Congress and its consequential implications for President Obama’s agenda. D'Aprile discussed the potential similarities between the relationship of Gingrich and Clinton compared to Boehner and Obama. “I think that depends on the sort of cooperation that we end up seeing between the White House and Republican leaders.” D'Aprile stressed that Clinton’s centrist approach to the Republican Congress resulted in his re-election of 1996, however, D'Aprile was prudent in explaining that it “remains to be seen how well President Obama is going to work with the Republican majority in the House.” D'Aprile provided analysis of the divisions within the newly elected Republican majority as well as the pressure from its base in the form of the Tea party in the shaping of its political agenda, which includes spending, deficit reduction, and the budget. However, according to D'Aprile, the goal of repealing health care will conflict with the aspirations of newly elected Tea Party backed representatives and the political realism of Speaker Boehner. “Speaker Boehner knows that once this health care repeal gets passed and it is certainly expected to pass the House it’s going nowhere in the Senate.” D'Aprile believes Boehner and other republican leaders are rather keen on welcoming the political fight over the funding of the new health care law. D'Aprile projected that once the president presents his budget, the funding of health care will generate a “fascinating debate” between Boehner and the White House.