Talk about a missed opportunity.
Bob Roberts, a prominent Evangelical megachurch pastor from Texas known for his efforts to promote peace with Muslims, had a chance to speak with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Sept. 24, 2012. At this meeting, Roberts came face-to-face with the man who can do more than anyone else in the world to protect the safety and well being of more than eight million Coptic Christians who are under siege in their homeland.
You have to be living under a rock not to know that Coptic Christians have been driven from their homes in the Sinai and Alexandria and murdered in Cairo. A word out of Morsi’s mouth, and all this comes to an end. Egypt’s military starts arresting the thugs responsible for the violence and pretty soon people get the message: “Leave the Copts alone.”
So how did Roberts, who blogged about his meeting here, respond to his opportunity to speak with Morsi at a meeting organized by John Esposito, a well-known and oft-criticized proponent of Christian-Muslim dialogue?
Did Roberts show the courage of Nathan and put Morsi on the spot and tell him that the whole world is watching what is happening to the Copts in Egypt?
Did Roberts tell Morsi that history would judge his presidency on how well he protects the rights and lives of Copts during his time as president?
Did Roberts call on Morsi to rein in Salafist clerics who are calling for Copts living outside of Egypt to be murdered in retaliation for the production of the movie Innocence of Muslims by a Coptic Christian in California?
Did Roberts advocate for Coptic Christians the way people advocated for blacks living under apartheid rule in South Africa?
No, he didn’t.
When Roberts got his chance to speak he joked with Morsi about his own conservative roots, telling him “To us a Salafist would be a liberal!” Morsi loved this. “He died laughing and started pointing to someone saying something in Arabic,” Roberts reported.
Roberts’ joke is not funny. It’s obscene. There is simply no comparison between Evangelical Protestants in the U.S. and people who have cut off the ear of a Christian in an attempt to get him to convert, set fire to a church in Cairo, and evicted Christians from their homes throughout Egypt.
Why would Roberts make such a joke to Morsi, a man who has released a number of jihadists from jail since assuming office? How could he? A responsible leader would warn Morsi about the Salafists, not joke about them.
Later, Roberts gave Morsi a pen and a copy of his most recent book. He also promised to come visit and see for himself what Egypt was like.
Roberts did ask Morsi what he was doing to protect the religious freedom of Coptic Christians in Egypt, but made it perfectly clear that he was more interested in making friends with Morsi than he was in speaking prophetically about what is happening to Christians in Egypt. “I told him my focus isn’t on Christians in Egypt but connecting people of different faiths for the common good of the city,” Roberts wrote.
Judging from his account of his meeting with Morsi, it appears Roberts tried to glad-hand the Egyptian Islamist as if he were the LBJ of the Arab Spring — just another good ol’ boy from Texas.
And Morsi responded, taking full advantage of Roberts’ fawning attitude, telling him and the rest of the religious leaders in attendance that Egypt is a civil state, (not an Islamic one) and that his government is committed to democracy, civil rights, and the rule of law. He added that things really aren’t so bad for Christians in Egypt and that there was a difference between what was being reported and what was really happening in the country.
This is simply ridiculous.
To be fair, Morsi does not want people who practice their new faith in private to be executed, but if they start to share their faith publicly, well, that’s a danger to society that causes “the law and the shariah to intervene.”
Morsi is pretty circumspect, but if you follow the logic, it’s clear that, in his opinion, Muslim converts to Christianity who share their faith with their countrymen in Egypt risk being put to death. Under these conditions, it should come as no surprise that the Coptic Christians have been charged with blasphemy and that Morsi himself has called on the United States to do essentially the same thing to the Coptic Christian who made the movie Innocence of Muslims.
Morsi’s mendacity is lost on Roberts, who, before his meeting with Morsi, “unequivocally” denounced Innocence of Muslims. And in his denunciation, he tried to show good faith on the part of Muslim leaders by quoting Yusuf Qaradawi’s condemnation of the violence against the American embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11.
There’s just one problem. Qaradawi is a vicious anti-Semite who has called for a second Holocaust to be perpetrated against the Jews by Muslim leaders. He supports female genital mutilation, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and wants apostates from Islam killed. He’s supported attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq and has endorsed suicide bombings against Israel.
Because of ideas like this, Egypt is well on its way to becoming a totalitarian state with Morsi as its head and with Coptic Christians serving as the collective scapegoat for the frustrations of its Muslim majority.
Most people would regard this as a time for prophetic condemnation and warning.
Not Roberts. He tells us to watch and wait, stating, “Only time will tell what the future holds and what type of leader President Morsi will be.”
Morsi has made it clear through word and deed what type of leader he will be. Roberts just isn’t paying attention.