OTTAWA - The federal government has some advice for two Canadians who fear for their lives after being wrongly linked to an anti-Muslim film that has sparked violent protests around the globe: button up.

That response has infuriated Nader Fawzy, one of two Canadian Coptic Christians against whom Egypt has issued arrest warrants for alleged involvement in the production, distribution or promotion of the film, Innocence of Muslims.

Fawzy says he believes the arrest warrants are aimed at silencing activists who've criticized the persecution of Copts in Egypt.

And now, he said, the Canadian government is compounding the injustice by suggesting they keep quiet.

"Why I should be quiet?" Fawzy demanded in an interview, noting that freedom of speech is guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Is the Canadian government, because they are scared from those people, they are going to change the way how you live in Canada? I'm so sorry, I'm Canadian citizen and when I came to Canada, I came to live in free country."

Egypt's prosecutor general has issued arrest warrants for a number of Coptic Christians, primarily living in the United States, for alleged involvement with the controversial film.

Fawzy and fellow Canadian Jacques Attalla were among those named in the warrants, accused of offending Islam, insulting the Prophet Muhammad, inciting sectarian strife and jeopardizing Egypt's peace and independence.

Both men deny having anything to do with the amateurish movie. But they fear that being named in the warrants has made them targets for Muslim extremists, who've been encouraged by senior clerics to kill all those connected to the film.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's office had little to say Friday about the plight of the two Canadians.

"I'm not sure it does anyone any good to discuss these issues publicly," Baird spokesman Rick Roth said in an email.

"We'll certainly be working on this issue privately with the Egyptians."

The RCMP, which is mandated to investigate threats to national security, also had little comment, beyond suggesting that local police are responsible for investigating any potential threats to individual Canadians.

Attalla could not be reached for comment Friday.

But Fawzy, who has not been contacted by anyone in the federal government so far, said the response from Baird's office is "completely wrong."

"Those extreme Muslims or whoever, I don't care, they are not going to ruin my life. And if the Canadian government supports them by telling me keep quiet, it's the same message what they want. They put my name on the (arrest) list to let me keep quiet," he said.

Fawzy said he can't let death threats by extremists intimidate him into silence about the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt or about the arrest warrant against him.

"I have to say it and say it loud. If they start with (silencing) me today, they will continue with everyone in western world. Maybe you tomorrow, maybe after tomorrow someone else."

Fawzy is scheduled to attend a news conference Saturday with his Toronto MP, Liberal Jim Karygiannis. Karygiannis accused the government Friday of "letting Canadians down" and doing nothing to protect Fawzy and Attalla.

"Why does Baird want to muzzle Canadians who fear for their lives?"

The plight of Fawzy and Attalla should have been tailor-made for Baird, who is in the process of creating an office of religious freedom within the Foreign Affairs Department.

In a speech in Washington in May, Baird heralded the fledgling office and said his government "will stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular, convenient or expedient."

The minister specifically made reference to the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Baird also quoted from former Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker, telling the audience: "I am Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong ...."

The government continues to deliberate over exactly how the new office of religious freedom will operate, and told the Washington audience announcements would be coming "in due course."

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  • Muhammad Cartoons

    The September 2005 publication by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad unleashed a wave of violent protests by Muslims, who believe any image of their religion's founder is forbidden. Dozens of people were killed in weeks of protests that included violent attacks against Danish missions in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Lebanon. At least six people were killed in a June 2008 suicide bombing at the Danish embassy in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility, citing anger over the cartoons. The Danish government described the Muslim backlash as the country's worst international crisis since World War II.<br> <em>Caption: Pakistani Muslim men march during a demonstration in Karachi on May 18, 2008, to protest against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him). (RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Satanic Verses

    British author Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel, "Satanic Verses," inspired in part by the life of Muhammad, won kudos from critics in Britain but prompted outrage among many Muslims, who considered it slanderous. Deadly riots against the book erupted in Islamabad, Pakistan and Mumbai, India, and the book was banned in South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and several other countries. Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious edict in 1989 calling for Rushdie's death, leading the writer to live in hiding for a decade. Although Rushdie was never physically harmed, his Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991 and his Italian translator was injured in a stabbing that same year. <br> <em>Caption: In this Saturday, March 17, 2012, handout photo, Indian-born author Salman Rushdie speaks at a conference in New Delhi, India. The controversial author of "The Satanic Verses" was forced to skip a literature fest in Jaipur owing to protests from a section of Muslims due to the alleged blasphemous content in his 1988 novel. (AP Photo/India Today Conclave)</em>

  • Van Gogh Assassination

    Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, an outspoken critic of Islam whose film "Submission" criticized the treatment of Muslim women, was shot dead in November 2004 as he bicycled in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam. A 26-year-old Dutch citizen of Moroccan origin, Mohammed Bouyeri, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Van Gogh's assassination set off a wave of more than 170 small reprisal attacks against mosques and churches over the following weeks, according to a report by the Anne Frank Foundation and the University of Leiden.<br> <em>Caption: Portrait of controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (47) is seen in this undated file photo. Theo van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death on November 2, 2004, in Amsterdam. (Photo by BrunoPresse/Getty Images)</em>

  • 'Burn A Quran Day'

    A 2010 call by Florida preacher Terry Jones to burn Qurans on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 alarmed the U.S. military, which feared the move would endanger the lives of American troops fighting Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although Jones called off the burning, thousands of Afghans encouraged by the Taliban set fire to tires in the streets of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and other cities and chanted "Death to America." Police in a province near Kabul fired shots in the air to disperse a crowd trying to storm the governor's residence. Jones' congregation went ahead with a Quran burning in March 2011, triggering protests across Afghanistan after video of the ceremony was posted on the Internet. In the most violent protest, hundreds of protesters stormed a U.N. compound in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, killing seven foreigners, including four Nepalese guards. <br><em>Caption: Pastor Terry Jones is escorted by Port Authority police officers as he leaves Laguardia airport, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)</em>

  • More Quran Burning

    In February, U.S. soldiers at Bagram prison in Afghanistan burned 315 copies of the Qurans and other religious materials that had been taken from Bagram's facility library for disposal. Word of the burning, which the U.S. said was unintentional, triggered scores of anti-American protests across the country which left more than 30 Afghans and six U.S. soldiers dead. They included two U.S. troops who were shot by an Afghan soldier and two U.S. military advisers who were gunned down at their desks at the Afghan Interior Ministry. Six U.S. Army soldiers received unspecified administrative punishment for the burning, the Pentagon announced last month. <br><em>Caption: Afghan youth throw stones toward US soldiers standing at the gate of Bagram airbase during a protest against Koran desecration on February 21, 2012, at Bagram, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Kabul. (SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)</em>


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  • Malaysia

    Malaysian Muslims shout a slogan as they march to the U.S. Embassy during a protest in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. A small peaceful demonstration was held Friday outside the U.S. Embassy in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

  • Indonesia

    Indonesian Muslims shout slogans as they hold a banner reads "Innocence of Muslims is the result of secular democracy" during a protest against the anti-Islam film that has sparked anger among followers, outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

  • Indonesia

    Indonesian Muslims shout slogans as they hold a banner which reads "Prophet Muhammad is symbol of Islam" during a protest against an anti-Islam film that has sparked anger among followers, outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

  • Indonesia

    Indonesian Muslims shout slogans as they hold a banner which reads "Prophet Muhammad is symbol of Islam" during a protest against an anti-Islam film that has sparked anger among followers, outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

  • Egypt

    Egyptian protesters run from the site of clashes with security forces, unseen, near the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa)

  • Egypt

    Egyptian protesters clash with security forces, not shown, near the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • Egypt

    Sinai Bedouin protest as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad in the central Sinai oasis of Wadi Feran, Egypt, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammed Sabry)

  • Egypt

    Egyptian protesters clash with security forces, unseen, near the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • Libya

    Libyan followers of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades burn the U.S. flag during a protest in front of the Tibesti Hotel, in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Around 150 members of Ansar al-Shariah Brigades chanted " Obama, Obama, we are all Osama." (AP Photo / Mohammad Hannon)

  • Jordan

    Jordanian riot police stand guard during a protest outside the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad.(AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

  • Jordan

    An Islamist Jordanian protester burn the U.S. flag near the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad.(AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

  • Jordan

    Islamist Jordanian protesters chant anti-U.S. slogans near the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad.(AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

  • Libya

    President Mohammed el-Megarif right, stands for a moment of silence during his visits to the U.S. Consulate to express sympathy for the death of the American ambassador, Chris Stevens and his colleagues in the deadly attack on the Consulate last Tuesday September 11, in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

  • Libya

    Libyan military guards check one of the U.S. Consulate's burnt out buildings during a visit by Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif, not shown, to the U.S. Consulate to express sympathy for the death of the American ambassador, Chris Stevens and his colleagues in the deadly attack on the Consulate last Tuesday, September 11, in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

  • Libya

    President Mohammed el-Megarif, front row second left, lays a wreath, during his visits to the U.S. Consulate to express sympathy for the death of the American ambassador, Chris Stevens and his colleagues in the deadly attack on the Consulate last Tuesday September 11, in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

  • Los Angeles

    Photographers' tripods are set up in front of the suburban Los Angeles home believed to be that of filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • Los Angeles

    A religious figure, shoes and a newspaper lie at the steps of the suburban Los Angeles home believed to be that of filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)