Catholic priest says Morsi's Egypt is dangerous for Christians

(Photo: Reuters / Asmaa Waguih)Coptic Christians hide behind columns during clashes between Muslims and Christians in the main cathedral in Cairo, April 7, 2013. Clashes broke out between Coptic Christians and Muslims in central Cairo on Sunday after the funeral of four Copts killed in sectarian violence outside the Egyptian capital on Friday night, witnesses said. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Father Douglas May is blunt and politically incorrect.

He swears, he smokes, and he has a habit of dismissing unacceptable ideas with a wave of his hand.

He has a strong distrust of U.S. media and the American government, and he describes himself as cynical and pessimistic when it comes to foreign and domestic policy in the Middle East.

But he also says the Middle East is an addiction he can't shake. Just like his addiction to cigarettes.

A Dominican Maryknoll missionary, May has spent the last 26 years in Egypt – most recently as the associate pastor of a church in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo.

Thursday night, in the cushiony sitting room of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers house in Washington, D.C., May shared with an intimate group of politically minded Christians what life in Egypt has been like in the two years since the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

"I was in favor of the revolution," he said, "but I have second thoughts now."

May is critical of President Mohammad Morsi who was elected last spring and is backed by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. May claims that under Morsi, life for Egyptian Christians has become untenable.

"If you offered a green card to the average Christian, they'd leave," he said.

He recounted tale after tale in which Christians have been at the mercy of Muslim vigilante mobs – a far cry from what he calls the glory days under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's popular president and the father of post-colonial Arab nationalism.

The situation for Christians today is even a far cry, he said, from life under Mubarak, which May claims, while not perfect, was overhyped by American media.

FOX News in particular, he said, often claimed Coptic Christians in Egypt were being persecuted.

"That's too strong of a word. Before, during and after Mubarak it was discrimination."

In Cairo, May explained, because sexual harassment on public transportation is so prevalent, the metro has designated two cars on every train to be just for women.

However, today, he said, secular and Christian women prefer to ride the mixed-sex cars because religious harassment from Muslim women in the all-female cars can be worse than being groped.

May said, additionally, infrastructure under Morsi has disintegrated - noting that petrol is nearly impossible to come by and, in the last several months, daily water and power shortages have literally become official policy.

"People are literally hoping and praying there will be a military coup," he said, adding that some Egyptians are even becoming nostalgic for the Mubarak days.

"All Egyptians want in general is a benevolent dictator, which is what Mubarak basically was."

In February 2011 he had told The National Catholic Review he feared young Egyptian Catholics might turn away from the church because it did not back protests that led to the resignation of Mubarak, saying, "I'm afraid that the church leadership has lost its credibility with the Christian youth over this."

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