JERUSALEM – The Middle East Newsline reports that the Egyptian Army has come under the steady domination of Islamists. Egyptian sources said Islamists have risen to mid- and high-level ranks in the army and navy. They said many of these officers pressure their soldiers to demonstrate a devotion and observance to the Muslim religion regardless of their faith.“There is an acceptance in most of the military that fundamentalist Islam is legitimate and becoming the dominating trend,” a source familiar with the Egyptian military said.

The sources said the Islamist trend in the military began in the Egyptian Navy during the 1990s. They said the Islamic influence spread to the army and included pressure on non-Muslims to convert.

The Islamist officers were said to have reached senior levels of the army. They sources said the officers have pressed for greater access to mosques, additional time for prayer and ritual as well as decreasing tolerance for secular and non-Muslim soldiers.

The main victims of the Islamization of military have been Coptic Christians, said to comprise about eight percent of Egypt’s population.

Coptic soldiers have reported Islamist harassment, beatings and pressure to convert.

In August 2009, a Coptic soldier was said to have shot himself amid pressure from Islamist officers in his unit. The body of Mubarak Zakaria, 22, was found badly bruised in what the sources said reflected severe beating and torture.

“My son sustained multiple gunshot wounds, and what the prosecutor told me is illogical,” Zakaria’s father, Masoud, said.

The sources said the Islamist pressure on Coptic soldiers to convert has become widespread. In most cases, they said, the Copts have refused to report the pressure in fear of reprisals.

The Egyptian Air Force has been deemed the last military service not dominated by fundamentalist Islam. But the sources said they expected the air force would be soon a target by creeping Islamization.

The sources said the regime of President Hosni Mubarak has ignored complaints of Islamization in the military. In many cases, they said, Islamist officers were also avoiding their counterparts in Western militaries.

In 2006, another Coptic soldier, identified as Hani Seroufim, was found dead after he refused orders by his commanding officer to convert to Islam.

The sources said the army claimed that Seroufim had drowned, but his body contained evidence of torture.

“They finally have realized that the crimes against them are not individual incidents but rather crimes against humanity planned by the Egyptian state itself,” Coptic writer Magdi Khalil said.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com.

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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