The Obama administration has repeatedly said it supports giving the Muslim Brotherhood, the Middle East’s oldest Islamic extremist movement, a seat at the table in a post-Mubarak Egyptian government.
Whether Egypt is soon ruled by this terrorist group, or whether it simply descends into anarchy, it looks increasingly likely that Egypt is fast approaching a tipping point of violence against its Christians.
Roughly 10 percent of Egyptians are Coptic Christians. The Copts thrived in Egypt and throughout the Middle East for centuries before Islam existed, but they have been living as second-class citizens for much of the recent past.
During President Hosni Mubarak’s decades in power, converts to Christianity were sometimes arrested, though the government often refused to prosecute crimes against Copts. Sharia law is even enshrined in the Egyptian constitution.
In recent months, Egypt has seen a rise in violence against its Copts. A Christmas Day shooting left six Coptic Christians dead. And 21 people were killed in a bomb attack outside a Coptic church on New Year’s Day.
These events prompted Pope Benedict XVI to publicly urge the Egyptian government and other leaders in the region to protect religious minorities. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Pope’s remarks were “an unacceptable interference” in the country’s internal affairs. The government then withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican.
As bad as Copts have had it in Egypt, conditions are likely to deteriorate soon, especially if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over. “The overthrow of the Mubarak regime will not by any sense of the imagination lead to the advent of Jeffersonian democracy,” former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton recently told the Daily Caller news website. “The greater likelihood is a radical, tightly knit organization like the Muslim Brotherhood will take advantage of the chaos and seize power. … It is really legitimate for the Copts to be worried that instability will follow Mubarak’s fall and his replacement with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Copts are ambivalent about Mubarak’s ouster. “He’s the best of the worst,” Sameh Joseph, a church worker at a Coptic church in Alexandria, told a Los Angeles Times reporter. “Whoever comes after him might want to destroy us.”
A Washington Post piece highlighted the tension felt by many Coptic Christians. “The current situation for the Copts stinks, but Mubarak is the best of the worst for us,” said the Rev. Paul Girguis of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax County, Virginia. “If Muslim extremists take over, the focus will be extreme persecution against Copts. Some people even predict genocide.”
Predictions of genocide might seem like an exaggeration. But it’s a plausible scenario, especially if things go as they have in the fragile democracy that is Iraq…