The murder of 21 Christians in a New Year’s Day bomb attack in Alexandria will accelerate the ongoing exodus of the Coptic community from Egypt. Its members know that they are second-class citizens. After some three-dozen attacks over the past three decades, resulting in three hundred Christian deaths, they know that the government is both unable and unwilling to protect them. They know that the usual expressions of regret by Muslim clerics and politicians are pure hypocrisy and taqiyya.
They have not forgotten that Egypt is yet to convict a single murderer in an earlier massacre that also killed 21 Copts: the January 1, 2000, outrage in the village of Al-Kosheh, 300 miles south of Cairo. A year later the court convicted just two of 96 Muslim defendants on lesser charges of “accidental homicide.” From the outset, the government of Egypt had sought to avoid the political minefield of punishing Muslims for the murder of Christians. That verdict paved the way for the bloodshed in Alexandria.
The Copts are disappearing and the West predictably doesn’t care. The facts were stated with grim clarity by Egyptian author Hani Shukrallah in Al Ahram on January 1: two centuries after the birth of the modern Egyptian nation state, “the previously unheard of seems no longer beyond imagining: a Christian-free Egypt”:
I accuse a government that seems to think that by outbidding the Islamists it will also outflank them. … I accuse the millions of supposedly moderate Muslims among us, those who’ve been growing more and more prejudiced and narrow minded with every passing year. I accuse those among us who would rise up in fury over a decision to halt construction of a Muslim Center near ground zero in New York, but applaud the Egyptian police when they halt the construction of a staircase in a Coptic church … [Y]ou dare accuse the whole world of using a double standard against us, and are, at the same time, wholly incapable of showing a minimum awareness of your own blatant double standard.
(Talking of “blatant double standard,” the most senior Muslim cleric in Egypt, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, has accused Pope Benedict XVI of interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs, after he called on world leaders to protect Middle East Christians.)
Shukrallah’s j’accuse should have included Western politicians and media commentators who continue to advocate Egypt’s “democratization” as a means of combating Islamic extremism, and who maintain that “engaging” the Muslim Brotherhood is the formula for stability. The U.S. diplomats in the field know all too well that this is, in fact, the formula for Mubaraq’s downfall and Egypt’s speedy transformation into an Islamic Republic, but it is still repeated in Washington’s think-tanks and editorial offices. “Democracy” may also resonate among a narrow segment of urban intelligentsia in Cairo and Alexandria. The problem is that in Egypt the real opposition to Mubaraq’s autocracy comes not from such would-be reformers but from people who accuse him of betraying the True Faith. It is as if fervent Maoists, rather than pro-Western democrats, provided the opposition to the Soviet bloc regimes in the 1980s.
The predominant response in today’s Egypt to the social and moral crisis of the society is the demand for “Islamic solutions.” It can hardly be otherwise for as long as the United States remains deeply involved in the affairs of the greater Middle East. The resulting mistrust of America is deep and near-universal. As Ahmed Kamal Aboulmagd, Egypt’s leading pro-Western intellectual, declared in the early days of the Iraq war, never have America’s Arab friends felt so estranged from the United States: “We feel that even a minimum of American even-handedness is missing.” Abdel-Monem Said, director of Egypt’s Al-Ahram Center for Political Strategic Studies, has said that the stated reasons for the Iraq war had terminally compromized American credibility. “Democracy is all about legalities, rule of law and legitimacy… There is an issue of double standards.”
The regime of Hosni Mubaraq may well be unsustainable in the long term, regardless of whether he is succeeded by his son or not; but a “democratic” alternative resulting in an end-game reminiscent of Tehran in 1979 cannot be contemplated with equanimity. The quest for a “moderate” variety of the Muslim Brotherhood is as absurd as the claim that it already is moderate and democratic. It is an organization based on a simple credo: Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Today the Brotherhood has branches in every traditionally Muslim country and all over the world, including the United States. They all share the same long-term goal: the establishment of a world-wide Islamic state. They all believe that the Koran justifies violence to overthrow un-Islamic governments and see America as a sworn enemy.
If those Washingtonian analysts who continue advocating Egypt’s “democratization” are neither fools nor innocents, one is led to wonder whether they want to create new hotbeds of Islamic radicalism in order to further some other regional objective. The fact that they are giving Mohammedans the rope for free does not mean that in the end they will not be strangled by it. Long before that happens, however, the Copts will have disappeared from the land that once used to be theirs.