Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do Egyptian Copts face the very model a lose-lose proposition?

Yahoo! News carried this AP report yesterday, "Egypt's Christians face backlash for Morsi ouster."

The article, by Hamza Hendawi, opens with a chilling account of a mob murdering a Christian businessman and his nephew. Reading the article, it appears that the Muslim Brotherhood is blaming Christians for supporting the Army's ouster of President Morsi -- and apparently many Christians were active in anti-Morsi demonstrations. On the other hand, prior to his ouster, some Morsi allies "increasingly spoke of Christians as enemies of Islam and warned them to remember they are a minority" (most accounts suggest that about 10% of the Egyptian population is Christian, though others put the number closer to 20%).

So... the dilemma: Christians would be singled out for persecution under a Muslim Brotherhood regime -- and will be singled out for punishment by Islamists because the Morsi regime has been overthrown. Isn't that the very textbook definition of a lose-lose proposition? A 'choice' between the Devi and deep blue sea?

Of course, the regime wasn't overthrown by Christians -- even if many applauded the ouster, publicly or privately. If Morsi enjoyed the support of a majority of his actual Muslim brothers and sisters (as opposed to the "Muslim Brotherhood" movement) he'd still be in office, however upset the Christians might be.

The good news here is that many Egyptian Muslims aren't wild about the puritan strain of one-size-fits-all Islam being pushed by the Salafists and other Islamists. Without the support of many faithful, observant, believing Muslims, the Army would not have been able to push Morsi out.

As Americans, we are hard-wired to automatically support democracy -- even when the democratically elected leaders turn out to be hostile to American interests. Morsi was elected. Therefore, the simple logic goes, we should be inclined to support him.

But though Morsi was elected by a bare majority, 51.73%, he proceeded to cater to the radically intolerant whims of a minority of his supporters, laying the foundations for his ouster. I think I can get past the simple logic here without too much difficulty.

Christians have co-existed with Arabic majorities in any number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East for centuries. One by one, though, their ancient communities have been destroyed by Muslim intolerance and Western indifference. Iraq is a recent example. Syria seems to be going down that road as well. Is Egypt next?

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