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By National Post – Canada

Egyptian ex-patriates cite evidence that critics of the Sisi government in Canada are already under watch. ‘We are surely being followed and monitored’

Egyptian-Canadians are incensed over an Egyptian cabinet minister’s promise to “slice up” critics of her country, saying what might have been meant as a joke struck them as a serious threat from a repressive regime.

Those of both Coptic-Christian and Muslim backgrounds — who rarely see eye to eye otherwise — condemned Wednesday the comments made by Immigration Minister Nabila Makram on a visit to Mississauga, Ont.

They cite Cairo’s record of arbitrary detentions, violence against political opponents and other human-rights abuses since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power six years ago.

Some have complained to police, and the Peel Regional force in Mississauga says it is investigating the matter.

“No one in his or her right mind should take this — although it might be said in a joking manner — as a joke,” said Ehab Lotayef of the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy. “It really represents the mindset of the current Egyptian government and is totally unacceptable by a minister in a country that respects itself.”

Lotayef urged Global Affairs Canada to make its displeasure known for what he said was at least a diplomatic affront.

Makram was near the end of a short speech to an Egyptian heritage dinner Sunday when she said in Arabic that anyone who criticized Egypt would be “sliced up,” accompanying the remark with a slashing motion across her throat.

She said it with a smile, after talking about Egyptians’ passion for their country, and earned laughter and applause from the audience.

But Egyptian ex-patriates cite evidence that critics of the Sisi government in Canada are already under watch, and note that a visiting Egyptian-Canadian businessman has been imprisoned in Cairo without charge for months.

Canadian-based “dissidents” have been mentioned in government-aligned Egyptian media in negative terms, said Lotayef.

“We are surely being followed and monitored,” he said.

It really represents the mindset of the current Egyptian government

Egypt’s ambassador to Canada routinely makes the trip from Ottawa to attend major events at Mississauga’s main Coptic-Christian church, said Maher Rizkalla, president of Canadian Coptic Association.

The Egyptian government is always involved and keeps an eye on the churches in Canada,” he said. “I would be concerned to visit Egypt. I know they’re watching us, and they know who is active and inactive outside the country.”

Sisi’s government has been widely criticized for its abuses, with Human Rights Watch writing that “his security forces have escalated a campaign of intimidation, violence, and arrests against political opponents, civil society activists and many others who have simply voiced mild criticism of the government.”

Makram is on a Canadian tour organized in part by the Egyptian embassy.

“Our country is very grand and deserves that all of us work for it and fight for it, because we just have one county – Egypt,” she told the dinner audience. “This country is always inside us, inside our hearts. We cannot accept any word about it. Anyone who says a (bad) word about our country – what will happen to him? Will be sliced up.”

Not everyone interpreted the remarks in a completely negative fashion.

One audience member, who asked not to be named for fear of landing in the midst of a political fight, said the slicing-up expression is a common and usually genial one in Egyptian Arabic, not meant literally.

“Parents say that to their kids all the time,” the person said. “Usually … people say it as an endearing gesture.”

Still, the audience member said the comment was definitely inappropriate in the circumstances.

The Egyptian embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.

In response to a complaint from Rizkalla, Peel Regional Police are investigating the matter, and liaising with the department’s “equity and inclusion bureau,” said Const. Lori Murphy, a spokeswoman.

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Egyptian minister’s laughing vow in Canada to ‘slice up’ anyone who criticizes her country alarms immigrant groups

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