Maged Riad,The Pope's spokesman sides with the government against his own people?
By Magdi Khalil
On 14 November 2005 , just two days before the Coptic conference (held in Washington), I was contacted by Al-Ahram's "The major official newspaper in Egypt" correspondent in Washington, Mr. Khaled Daoud, and gave him an interview about the conference. The conference was held on the 16 November, and I was surprised to read a news story, bearing the name of Khaled Daoud, entitled "The expatriate churches condemn the Coptic conference held in Washington". When I asked Mr. Daoud, he told me that he had not written that news story, knew nothing about its source, and that the actual piece he had written, and which included the interview I gave him, had not been published.
That same day I was a guest on al-Jazeera's program Ma Waraa el Khabar (Behind the News) that was discussing the Washington conference, and I mentioned that Al-Ahram newspaper has published a news story that was allegedly released by the church, but in fact no one had conferred with the church, and that the story bore the name of a correspondent who, in fact, did not write the story. I think that the government, wishing to avoid a scandal, opted to issue an authentic statement this time, and contacted Maged Riad for that purpose.
On November 18, 2005, Mr. Riad issued a statement entitled "a Declaration of Solidarity", where he rejected and condemned any attempt to involve outside parties or states in Egypt's affairs, stating that the resolution of Coptic problems should come from within the country, adding "we reject the dubious practices of a group that has certain objectives and that does not take into consideration the best interests of the people of Egypt. We call on those groups to stop the damage they are doing to the country".
It goes without saying that Riad's statement also expressed "deep appreciation to the leadership of President Hosni Mubarak". It seems that Khaled Daoud was instructed to disparage the conference, so he implanted a series of lies in an article that was published in Al-Ahram on the 26th of November 2005. He attacked the conference, and described me as the prince (Amir) of the extremist group in Washington, falsely claiming that the Copts have asked Washington to eliminate US aid to Egypt, and that a few conference members attempted to assault him.
I will now turn to Mr. Riad, who introduced himself in the statement mentioned above, and during his visit to Cairo, as a spokesperson of Pope Shenouda, giving the false impression that he had the Pope's approval and blessing for the above quoted statement and visit to Egypt. But, in fact, the Pope does not interfere in the political actions of expatriate Copts, preferring to keep a neutral position, and only ministering to the spiritual and religious needs of his congregation. It is possible that in choosing Maged Riad as a spokesperson, the Pope was honoring the memory of his father – the late Fayez Riad, and his grandfather – the late Reverend Ibrahim Luka; but there are radical differences between the grandson and his father or grandfather
Mr. Riad was a guest on an Egyptian TV show, talking to Abdel Latif Al-Menyawi, where he openly accused the Washington conference's participants of treason. In an interview with the weekly magazine Rose El-Youssef, he said that he prevented two senators from attending the conference. In another interview with Al-Ahram, he asserted that there is no Coptic persecution in Egypt, just exaggerated accounts, that these are typical problems that many people around the world experience, and he prefers to deal with them within Egypt.
In each of those interviews, he emphasized the services he has provided in America for the Egyptian government such as creating a branch for the National Bank, assisting Al-Ahram newspaper, and other issues that were handled by his office in New York on behalf of the Egyptian government.
Maged Riad's discourse is clearly in harmony with the misleading discourse of the Egyptian government as regards Coptic issues
If His Holiness Pope Shenouda gave you, Mr. Riad, the authorization to speak for him as a legal advisor in matters concerning the congregations in the United States, did he also authorize you to discuss the political facets of the Coptic cause?
Did he authorize you to speak for him within Egypt?
Did he authorize you to speak for the benefit of the Egyptian government as regards the situation of the Coptic community, or in other words, did he tell you to reiterate the lies of the Egyptian government as regards the Coptic situation?
Did he ask you to turn down those who are trying to support the Coptic people, telling them that the Egyptian government is taking positive measures, and that their support is not needed?
Did the Pope ask you to accuse the Copts who have attended the conference of treason, and issue a statement during the conference accusing the participants of damaging the country's reputation and provoking outsiders against Egypt? What is the real nature and boundaries of your role?
Do you side with the Copts, or with the government that persecutes them?
On which side are you: with or against your people? Do you deserve the trust granted by His Holiness?
Did you consider that your actions are causing grief to the souls of your father and grandfather, as you appear to defend the case of the oppressors who have victimized your people? And, speaking of treason, who is actually betraying the people's trust, the one who speaks on their defense, or the one who speaks on defense of the government?