In Jersey City, we are watching a morality tale of murder, rumor and the power of age-old fear. This tale needs to end. The story began on a cold Friday two months ago, when police discovered the bodies of four members of an Egyptian Coptic family. Almost immediately, a rumor floated that the murderers were Islamic terrorists. That rumor should have died last week with the arrest of two guys who hardly fit the al-Qaida profile: Edward McDonald and Hamilton Sanchez. Police say it wasn’t religious fanaticism that drove them. It was robbery.
But what does Jersey City’s Egyptian community say now about the rumors and finger-pointing? How about an apology? The murders of Hossam Armanious; his wife, Amal Garas, and the couple’s daughters, 15-year-old Sylvia and 8-year-old Monica touched off ripples of pain, not just in Jersey City’s tight-knit Egyptian community, but worldwide. That’s not the problem. The problem is what happened next. Fueled by centuries-old fears of Muslim persecution in Egypt, Coptic leaders in America did little to stop another painful story that turned out to be pure fiction – namely, that the killers were Muslim fanatics.
Hours after the bodies were discovered on Jan. 14, some Coptic activists took to the streets, claiming the killings were the work of Muslim terrorists. One leader described the stabbings as “executions.” That was only the beginning”¦