That is the recent testimony before a Congressional committee of Cynthia Farahat, a Coptic Egyptian activist. She told US Congressmen about what life is like as a second-class citizen in Egypt: how Copts are persecuted, even killed, for their religion. It was like that under Mubarak, and it’s even worse now, in the post-revolutionary, pre-Islamist political order there. Why do I say pre-Islamist? Because:
Egypt’s liberals have been apoplectic over the early results from the recent elections here. Everybody expected the Islamists to do well and for the liberals to be at a disadvantage. But nobody — perhaps with the exception of the Salafis — expected the outcome to be as lopsided as it has been so far. Exceeding all predictions, Islamists seem to be winning about two-thirds of the vote. Even more surprising, the radical and inexperienced Salafists are winning about a quarter of all votes, while the more staid and conservative Muslim Brotherhood is polling at about 40 percent.
Some conservatives — including the priest on whose blog I found this video — are trying to blame the Obama Administration for the plight of Egyptian Christians. Nonsense. I wish it were that simple. As Farahat points out, the persecution of Christians by the Islamic majority happened under the rule of Hosni Mubarak, who was an American ally (and one of the biggest recipients of US foreign aid). Successive administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have backed Mubarak’s regime, and never found it convenient to press its client state to treat Christians better. Everyone who knew anything about Egypt knew that the old order was weak and corrupt, and bound to fall sooner or later — and that if true democracy came to Egypt, it would be Islamist, because that’s how most Egyptians think. The Obama Administration could not have stopped Tahrir Square if it had tried.
As Americans, if we are distressed by what we see unfolding in the wake of the Arab Spring, we ought to think, and think hard, about our received idea that liberal democracy is the destiny of mankind. Remember how startled the Bush Administration ideologues were to wake up and find that the voters of Gaza, in the first free and fair election there, had chosen Hamas to govern them? It’s in our cultural DNA to side with democrats against their authoritarian governments, and that prior commitment to liberal democratic principles often hides the unpleasant reality of what kind of massively illiberal results liberal democratic procedure will produce.
But we’d better get used to it in Egypt. Egypt’s future is Islamist. The only question is whether it’s going to be hard Islamist or soft Islamist. God save the Copts. The US should open its doors to Coptic emigrants fleeing present persecution, and the persecution that is to come. I would be as willing to support financially that emigration, just as I would have been willing to support the emigration of Soviet Jews. Then again, I also believe the US has a moral obligation to open its doors to Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic persecution there, given that Washington played a direct role in bringing that about.