The problem with Egypt is not the Brotherhood, it is the culture. Secular democrats are a distinct minority and there is no prospect that that will change any time soon. As I argued in a National Review column today, it is a mistake for us to idealize what life for Christians was like in Egypt before the Muslim Brotherhood came to power:
Mubarak was, on balance, an American ally, but he made his own accommodations with Islamic supremacists — abiding their prominence in academe, their promotion of anti-Semitism in the media, and their more than occasional harassment of the Copts. The stubborn fact is that attacks on Egypt’s Christians long predate the Brotherhood’s now-aborted rise to political power.
It is worth reprising Spring Fever’s description of what was going on in Egypt in the weeks after Mubarak’s fall but long before Morsi’s mid-2012 election:
With Mubarak out of the way and control of the revolution up for grabs, the Western media began assuring increasingly alarmed readers and viewers that there was little chance Egypt would go the way of Iran because the uprising lacked a Khomeini-like charismatic cleric to seize the moment. But then the Brotherhood began shunting aside non-Islamist opposition leaders, including Google executive Wael Ghonim, whom Western media had posited as emblematic of the uprising’s modernist, progressive character. After all, well over a million Muslims were not jamming the square to hear a good corporate citizen of the Left; they were there to hear Sheikh Qaradawi, sharia personified.
Just a week after Mubarak’s expulsion, on Juma — i.e., Friday, the Islamic Sabbath, when the uprising tended to heat up as Muslims poured out of their mosques with the voices of fiery imams still ringing in their ears — Sheikh Qaradawi was cheered like a rock star in Tahrir Square. Tellingly, security for his appearance in the former backyard of his archenemy, Mubarak, was provided by the Egyptian military … even as the Brothers were preventing non-Islamist speakers from taking the podium. The Brothers and the generals, it seemed, could reach accommodations. In his sermon, Qaradawi celebrated the revolution as Allah’s victory and heralded it as a divine omen for “our brothers in Palestine” — meaning Hamas. Just as Allah had provided “victory in Egypt,” so too would there soon be a “conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem.
Soon, murderous attacks against Coptic Christians intensified. On New Year’s ever, a church in Alexandria was bombed, killing 23. In March, angry mobs attacked a Cairo church. In April, rioters in Qena demanded the ouster of the regime-appointed governor because he is a Christian and thus, under sharia, unfit to govern in a Muslim land. In May, screaming, “With our blood and soul, we will defend you, Islam!” jihadists stormed the Virgin Mary Church in northwest Cairo, torched it, burned to the ground the nearby homes of two Copt families, attacked a residential complex, killed a dozen people, and wounded over 200 more. In October, thousands of Muslims attacked and destroyed the St. George Coptic church in Edfu. The pastor had been insufficiently attentive to their complaints that the renovation of the house of worship, carried out only after government approval, left it with a “cross [that] irritates Muslims and their children.” And then there was that dome that made it look like, well, a church.
Flabbergasted that the world seemed indifferent to their plight, thousands of Copts went to Maspero, a Cairo media center, to draw attention. The demonstration turned into a shocking massacre when some soldiers opened fire on the protesters and others rammed cars into them. Dozens of Christians were killed and 300 wounded — though the media focused on the three soldiers who lost their lives in the melee started by the military. Video circulated of a soldier boasting that he had shot a Christian in the chest, after which the crowd around him shouted, “Allahu Akbar!”
We can only hope that enough international pressure can be brought to bear that the Egyptian armed forces will be moved to stop the ongoing brutalization of Christians. We can only hope that the military takeover will eventually lead to a more inclusive Egyptian society that turns away from sharia repression and toward the protection of the fundamental rights of minorities and women. But we should not kid ourselves: Egypt is a long, long way from there. The Brotherhood is savaging Christians because, in Egypt, it is a very effective strategy to portray oneself as the defender of Islam fighting “enemies of Islam.”
To understand what is happening in Egypt and throughout the Middle East, you would do far better to read Ray Ibrahim’s Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians than to catch the Western media’s spring fever.