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Egypt Needs a Political Solution, for the Copts and the Brotherhood

Andrew Doran’s article [1] in National Review last week rightly notes the brutality undergone by the Copts in the aftermath of Egypt’s coup. He even compares the brutality with Nazi persecution of the Jews:

 The Muslim Brotherhood’s systematic and coordinated attacks against Christians in Egypt are reminiscent of Kristallnacht in Germany in 1938, when Nazi paramilitaries systematically vandalized Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues and murdered scores of Jews in a disturbing foreshadowing of the fate of European Jews over the next few years. It is no accident that many Jews, including Barry Rubin and Jeffrey Goldberg, have been quick to raise the alarums over the persecution of Christians: They recognize the dangerous signs. “They have hatred in their hearts,” says Thabet of the Brotherhood, echoing observations commonly made of the National Socialists in 20th-century Germany.

But the Copt’s persecutors are not a well-organized military force, with a charismatic and powerful leader. Rather, they are a hurt and angry mob, with a rapidly dwindling leadership. Their acts of aggression against Coptic Christians seem less a calculated ruthless policy than the raged revenge of a hurt and angry people. Of course, this is not to excuse those horrendous actions. However, it does change the way in which we seek a solution to the problem.

In Egypt, the mob and the military are not unified; rather, their very friction has helped instigate and foster this persecution, more or less. More military crackdown only seems to result in more Coptic persecution. Thus, a foreign military strengthening Egypt’s military arm is not likely to fix the problem. The Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership has been weakened significantly in recent weeks; this, as Eric Trager argued [2] in The New Republic, makes the group even harder to control and direct in a peaceable manner. And this does make sense: without leadership with whom to reason, the group will become more and more unreasonable:

… By disorganizing Egypt’s most cohesive Islamist group, the generals have turned hundreds of thousands of deeply ideological Muslim Brothers into free radicals, who will no longer listen to their typically cautious leaders. Many younger Muslim Brothers, in particular, lean towards Salafism, and their upbringing in the Brotherhood—whose motto concludes with the phrase “death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations”—has made them willing to die for Islamism, and possibly willing to fight for it as well.

In addition, one cannot exempt the military from blame in Coptic persecution: John Storm, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said [3] in a statement Thursday that “For weeks, everyone could see these attacks coming, with Muslim Brotherhood members accusing Coptic Christians of a role in [Morsi’s] ouster, but the authorities did little or nothing to prevent them.”

The military does not bring answers to Egypt’s current conflict, then – at least not long-term answers. Some form of representative government must be found to provide succor for the country’s minorities and appeasement to its religious majority. This is not to suggest that Western-style democracy will solve all the country’s problems – to the contrary, as Dan pointed out [4] here, the country must build liberty on its own terms, although this “may involve a degree of ‘bitter compromise’ and ‘balancing illiberal political forces’ that we Americans cannot begin to appreciate.”

It is important to strive to understand Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its members – not to demonize them without attempting to understand why are they so angry. Roger Scruton explained some of their thinking in a BBC article: “The Brotherhood aims for a populist government and won an election that it took to authorize the remaking of Egypt as an Islamic Republic. The posters waved by Morsi’s supporters did not advocate democracy or human rights. They said: ‘All of us are with the Sharia.’ The army replied by saying no, only some of us are.”

The army is right in recognizing that Sharia will not provide answers for the Egyptian people. Shariah does not lend itself well to a modern representative government – as Scruton noted, “When God makes the laws, the laws become as mysterious as God is. When we make the laws, and make them for our purposes, we can be certain what they mean.” But the question then remains for Egyptians, “Who are we, really?” Its Islamist citizens must recognize that the answer may require “bitter compromise” on their part.

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#1 Comment By Neildsmith On August 28, 2013 @ 8:37 am

“When God makes the laws, the laws become as mysterious as God is. When we make the laws, and make them for our purposes, we can be certain what they mean.”

Surely that makes sense to everyone. But then there is this from people like Rod Dreher on this site:

“It won’t be the first time in history a believer has had to choose between serving the state and serving God. I pray that the choice is never put to me, but if I am ever forced to make that choice, I will always and everywhere choose God, without apology. I am a Christian first, and an American second.”

The tension between these two concepts are what is bedeviling Egyptian society today. It also poses a threat to every secular society around the world. If the MB, the Copts, and Americans like Mr. Dreher all propose to abide by civil laws only when it suits them, then I suppose it is reasonable for civil authorities treat them like criminals.

#2 Comment By William Dalton On August 28, 2013 @ 11:24 am

As a Protestant I believe in the perspicuity of Scripture – the ability of every man to read God’s written Word and understand it for himself. God may be mysterious. God’s Law is not.

The greatest difficulty is to distinguish between those portions of the Law which are ceremonial and those which are moral. The former are those statutes of Moses given him in order that the children of Israel would set themselves apart from other nations in preparation for and as a witness to the coming of the Messiah. Included in these are all the laws respecting ritual uncleanness, in food, in dress and appearance, and even in strictures concerning the Sabbath. Once the Christ, the Messiah, had come to Earth to perform the function of the Sacrifice God had stayed Abraham’s hand from making of his only son, these statutes have been fulfilled in their purpose and no longer need be observed. Indeed, to do so is an affront to the Lord and His Sacrifice. Strictly observant Jews and Muslims (for Muhammad drew most of the law prescribed in the Koran from the customs of his place and time which had been established under the Scriptures) have difficulty with this precisely because they fail to see in Jesus the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of these commands.

The latter, the moral, law, which is sometimes called the Natural Law, because the Bible teaches its precepts are inherent in God’s Creation and instilled from birth in the heart and mind of every human being, remains obligatory for the human race and is necessary for both the purposes of reestablishing a right relationship between God and Man and for the right ordering of human relationships. It is chiefly composed in what is known at The Ten Commandments.

The purpose of every legislative enactment which sets forth standards and prohibitions of human conduct in a state or community should be to interpret and apply the eternal Law of God in that particular place and time, for that particular people. Human nature, being broken, has difficulty understanding and discerning the Law’s requirements. But it is not out of reach. Hence both the necessity and the sufficiency of having wise and devout leaders both to interpret (legislate) and enforce the Law upon the general population. And the greatest failing of humanity is not the misunderstanding or misapplication of the Law. It is rejection of God, the despisal of God’s law, and the overarching desire that we may be like God, and write our laws according to our own wills.

This was the common understanding of
Americans as to the nature and purpose of the law at our nation’s founding, and provided the foundation upon which the U.S. Constitution was drafted, with its division of powers, legislative, executive and judicial, and its delegation of powers, from the states to the national government, as well as the Bill of Rights, and its dedication to preserving human liberty – that, apart from the Law, God has decreed that human conscience should be free from the strictures of other men, and no statute is truly law which, without warrant in the Scriptures, would compel men to violate their own conscience.

A United States whose lawmakers gave fidelity to these principles, and any other nation which chose to be so ordered as well, would have no difficulty confronting the challenge posed by the advocates of Shariah law.

#3 Comment By JB On August 28, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

“Wise leaders” to “enforce the Law [of God]” on the people, William? If enforce means use force or the threat of force — what is commonly understood as political “government” — then you are as intolerant and frightening as an Islamist.

#4 Comment By JB On August 28, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

Just because you feel 100% certain that you have correctly discerned and applied God’s Law, doesn’t mean that God’s Law is clear to all people of reasonable intelligence and good faith. On the contrary, good, well-meaning, intelligent, thoughtful people have difficulty discerning God’s Law, and disagree over what God’s Law seems to be, all the time.

#5 Comment By lynn1212 On August 28, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

Rod Dreher on this site:

“It won’t be the first time in history a believer has had to choose between serving the state and serving God. I pray that the choice is never put to me, but if I am ever forced to make that choice, I will always and everywhere choose God, without apology. I am a Christian first, and an American second.”

He also wrote that the NYPD should be spying on mosques because some Muslims see themselves as Muslims first and Americans second. Should we see some gander with sauce at his View from the Table?

#6 Comment By Neildsmith On August 29, 2013 @ 6:41 pm

Yes, lynn1212, we should.

#7 Comment By Mohamed On August 29, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

The author is right on the situation of copts in Egypt. Minorities are easy scapegoats for bullies in power and will be used as fodder to drain despair and anger.

If the intention of the anti-morsi alliance was to get rid of MB, then they have achieved a temporary victory. But if the intention was a free and open society where minorities feel empowered, I doubt it. Heck of job guys, congratulations on your short sightedness.