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Don’t Forget the Copts in Egypt’s Chaos

The White House announced Monday [1] that they will not cut aid to Egypt. Press Secretary Jay Carney went so far as to question whether Morsi’s removal truly constitutes a coup, since “tens of millions” of Egyptians did not consider it so.

“This is a complex and difficult issue with significant consequences,” Carney said. Our objective, according to Carney, is “to assist the Egyptian people in their transition to democracy.”

But Nadia Ghaly, an Egyptian journalist, said every time the United States “interferes in a country’s fate,” things go wrong. The West’s intervention, in her mind, would only serve to undermine Egypt’s political awakening. “We need hundreds of years before we are able to understand and practice democracy,” she said in an email interview, adding that the country should “feed the mouths they are responsible for before anything else.”

The Coptic Pope Tawadros II has complained that Morsi wanted to Islamize the government and ignored [2] the plight of Egyptian Copts, who face escalating persecution [3] since the coup.

Some Copts hope Morsi’s overthrow will lead to real democracy: Magdi Khalil, a Coptic activist in Northern Virginia, told the Washington Post [4] that “this is an historical chance to bring democracy and take action against the Islamist phenomenon everywhere.”

But in the coup’s violent aftermath, Coptic Christian Mina Abdulamek expressed fear for her Coptic relatives. “All my friends and family are in Cairo,” she said. We are telling my sisters to stay home. They don’t wear headscarves, so it is easy to tell a Christian girl from a Muslim one.”

Daniel Larison wrote [5] that this coup will not prevent religious violence: “The coup isn’t likely to weaken political Islam in Egypt or elsewhere over the long term, but will push Islamists out of the political process and encourage fanaticism to flourish unchecked.”

Fanaticism may in fact be flourishing already: in Naga Hassan village, west of Luxor, Morsi supporters have burned [6] 23 Coptic Christian homes since July 5. Police are trying to protect Copts from angry Morsi supporters.


Walter Russell Mead argued [7] that Egypt’s “controlling reality” is that no one knows how to build the country Egyptians want. In the midst of this leadership deficit, “Egypt must be governed even if it can’t be governed well. The next stage of Egypt’s revolution will be about the construction of a government without hope.”

No one can celebrate Egypt’s failed democratic process. But perhaps, as Richard Cohen put it [8], “Egypt’s problems are so daunting that the lack of democracy is not the top priority. First things first. Before Egypt needs a democratic government, it just needs a government.”

As Ghaly said, mouths must be fed before democracy can flourish.

Follow @gracyhoward [9]

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Comments Disabled To "Don’t Forget the Copts in Egypt’s Chaos"

#1 Comment By The Dean On July 10, 2013 @ 9:26 am

Democracy flourishes in an environment of compromize, an educated citizenry, a robust economy, and a nation-state that seeks internal unity and inclusion. Does Egypt have this? I don’t know. I hope an Egyptian comments on this article.

#2 Comment By Mark Ryan On July 10, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

The truth is that Egypt’s Christians would prefer a military government not unlike that of Mubarak’s. Although Sadat kept the Coptic pope under house arrest for several years and Mubarak prevented any new churches from being built in Egypt, the Christians view these actions as benign compared to what they fear the most, and Islamic government.

But those fears were probably groundless as Morsi understood that the eyes of the Christian west were on him. Moreover, Egypt is not Iraq where the Christian community there was exposed to hatreds that the civil war there unleashed. Under Saddam the Christians were a protected minority and even held posts in the Iraqi government.

#3 Comment By Robert Long On July 10, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

I’ve heard similar things from Copts I’ve talked to, Ryan. One told me, sensibly, “You can negotiate with a dictator. You cannot negotiate with a mob.”

Interesting article, Gracy. I’ll be curious to hear more about the Copts going forward.

#4 Comment By Jim Englert On July 11, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

“. . .mouths must be fed before democracy can flourish.” Would not Marx be nodding in the affirmative? Common ground, perhaps.

#5 Comment By Greek Tragedy On July 14, 2013 @ 1:28 am

The Copts refused to cooperate with Morsi. Two Coptic billionaire brothers plotted and funded the protest that emerged. They had support of the deep state, the military as well as the US and Israel. They had decided from day one that the MB government, parliament and constitution must be derailed. The Copts , unfortunately , have made a hole in the bowl form which they drank. They may not have a bright future in Egypt unless they compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood, understand their loyalty is to Egypt and not foreign powers and stop conspiring to undermine legitimate elected governments.

#6 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On September 2, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

There is a confusion here between Democracy and Western civil society and its norms.

Democracy is in fact the problem in this case. The Muslim brotherhood won the election and on the basis of “Democracy” ruled in the interests of the majority who elected them. This is the problem with mere Democracy. By itself, it has no inherent limits. Without the rule of law, the notion of a secular polity governed by a constitution with clearly defined rights and responsibilities, Democracy in the third world = mob rule.

Beyond that, I’m not sure that Democracy is compatible with Islam, given that any statute enacted by a democratically elected legislature is as nothing against Sharia. If you are a devout Muslim, how can the opinions of your fellow citizens be allowed to stand when they flout the word of Allah?