Attacking the “Enemies of Islam.” By Andrew C. McCarthy. National Review Online, August 21, 2013.
In Egypt, the Brotherhood is savaging
Christians because . . . it works.
Increased Attacks on Christians in Egypt. NJBR, August 20, 2013.
is a reason why it is often said that there are no good choices for the United
States in Egypt.
weekend column, I argued that there are only two realistic alternatives at the
moment. The first is the self-defeating option popular with the Obama
administration and the GOP’s erratic McCain wing: Call for a new round of
popular elections. Ironically, proponents call this a “return to democracy,” although
it would assure the return to power of anti-democratic Islamic supremacists who
regard America, Israel, and Western Europe as enemies they are pledged to
“conquer” — to borrow the word unabashedly used by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi,
the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief sharia jurist.
score, it is crucial to grasp that, in Egypt, Islamic supremacists are not
limited to the Brotherhood, not by a long shot. Let’s imagine the Brotherhood
were banned, or Egyptians so soured on the Brothers that, if given the chance,
they would decline to reelect Mohamed Morsi or some other Ikhwan majordomo.
There would still be several other Islamic-supremacist factions in Egypt. The
ones referred to as “Salafists” are even more zealous than the Brothers to
impose totalitarian sharia.
that it is a very powerful organization with widespread, entrenched Egyptian
roots, the Brotherhood enjoys reliable support from no more (and probably less)
than a third of the country. Islamic supremacists do not win election
landslides in Egypt because of the Brotherhood; the Brothers win elections
because they are the best-organized Islamic supremacists in a substantially
Islamic-supremacist country. Egypt is what it is not because of the Brotherhood
but because of its sharia culture, ingrained after more than a millennium’s
dominance by Islamic scholars and imams.
elections, Islamic supremacists would still win control of parliament. After
all, they won by an almost four-to-one landslide only two years ago. In a presidential
election, moreover, an Islamic supremacist would be elected. Recall that just
last year, the transitional military government resorted to disqualifying
presidential candidates on bogus grounds to try to prevent that from happening
. . . but they still ended up with Morsi. The Brotherhood is now unpopular
enough that Morsi would not be
reelected . . . probably. But some Islamic supremacist, whether from the
Brotherhood or another Islamist faction, almost certainly would. The Brothers,
furthermore, would do reasonably well in parliamentary elections, even if they
failed to reach the 50 percent haul of the vote that they garnered just two
ill-conceived “democracy” option would be a catastrophe, setting in motion a
reprise of what got Egypt to the brink of failed-state status. That leaves
support of the military as the only plausible alternative. Military control is
the only chance for a long-term positive outcome — defeat of the Muslim
Brotherhood; a technocratic government that brings a measure of stability and
confronts Egypt’s profound economic crisis; the drafting of a consensus
constitution that guarantees minority rights and equality of opportunity; time
for democratic institutions and secular parties to take root; and an eventual
return to popular elections guided by that framework. As I contended in the
weekend column, though, we should not be overconfident about this scenario.
Just because it is the only sensible option does not mean it has a good chance
of success. This is Egypt we’re talking about.
argued several times, for instance here and in Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, the Egyptian
military is not dependable. It is our best friend out of a bad lot. Amid the
dystopia, it is a comparatively stabilizing influence. But let’s not kid
tens of billions of dollars in aid over the past 30 years, the United States
has purchased friendship at the highest echelons of Egypt’s armed forces. But
that is just the highest echelons. Broadly speaking, Egypt’s military, in which
a term of service by all able-bodied men is compulsory, is a reflection of
Egyptian society. As we saw in polls taken while Mubarak was still in power,
and as we’ve now seen in election after election after election, Egyptian
society is substantially Islamic supremacist. The armed forces are thus rife
with Brotherhood and Salafist operatives and sympathizers. Indeed, it is worth
remembering that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was chosen by Morsi to lead the
armed forces because he is known to be a sharia-adherent Muslim who seemed in
sync with much of the Brotherhood’s ideology — if not, as it turned out, with
the Brothers themselves.
Corner, Nina Shea has written movingly about the ongoing pogrom against Egypt’s
Christians. And in a powerful post, David French argues that America’s lavish
aid for Egypt’s military ought to be contingent not only on defeat of the
Muslim Brotherhood but also on the military’s protection of besieged religious
minorities, particularly the Copts. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I would
make all American policy in the Middle East contingent on the protection of
minorities and the repeal of sharia’s other oppressive provisions — that would
be more meaningful democracy promotion than the charade we’ve been pushing for
the past decade.
it realistic in Egypt? To answer that question, I’d suggest remembering two
first is that we should not idealize what life was like for Christians in Egypt
before the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. Mubarak was, on balance, an
American ally, but he made his own accommodations with Islamic supremacists —
abiding their prominence in academe, their promotion of anti-Semitism in the
media, and their more than occasional harassment of the Copts. The stubborn
fact is that attacks on Egypt’s Christians long predate the Brotherhood’s
now-aborted rise to political power. In fact, as Ray Ibrahim has recounted and
I describe in Spring Fever, Egyptian
troops participated in the massacre of Christian demonstrators in Maspero in
2011 — many months before Morsi’s mid-2012 election.
second is to be mindful of how the Brotherhood won all the elections after
Mubarak’s fall — from the first, a referendum on constitutional amendments,
through the elections for parliament and the presidency, up to and including
the last, a referendum on the sharia constitution. In each instance, in venues
from thousands of mosques to Sheikh Qaradawi’s popular Al Jazeera television
show, Islamic leaders portrayed every contest as a struggle between Islam and
the perceived “enemies of Islam” — Christians and secularist Muslims who are
supposedly the cat’s paw of the hated Americans and Zionists. Egyptians —
millions of them poor, illiterate, resentful, and more than content to see elections
in those terms — voted for Islamic supremacists every time, usually by
you think the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies are torching Christian churches
throughout the country? To be sure, doing so is consistent with their
supremacist ideology. But the main reason is tactical. In the Egyptian mind,
attacking Christians converts the controversy over Morsi’s removal from a
matter of the Brotherhood’s governmental incompetence and malevolence to
another pitched battle between Islam and the “enemies of Islam.”
millions of Egyptians do not see things this way. But if those Egyptians were a
majority, Islamic supremacists would never have won control of the government
in the first place. In Egypt, the Brotherhood is savaging Christians because .
. . it works. General Sisi is not doing enough to protect besieged Christian
communities because, even if he is privately inclined to do so, he knows that
many of his rank-and-file soldiers are not.
Like in Egypt, Israel’s army takes on powers it shouldn’t have.
By Zvi Bar’el. Haaretz, August 21, 2013.
these pale, however, by comparison to the tender inviting bids for providing
classes on the subject of Israeli-Jewish identity. The deadline for submission
of bids, by the way, is September 9. It's doubtful, however, that there is an
institution that can put together a detailed plan and submit it within three
weeks about such an identity, but who am I to even suggest that the bidding
process might have been rigged?
Israeli-Jewish identity is a commodity available for purchase from the lowest
bidder. What 12 years of school didn’t do will be accomplished in a course.
Imparting Israeli-Jewish identity is not a new IDF perk. It has existed for
years, but it repeatedly raises the issue of why the army is involved in
shaping Israeli society. Just as the issue of who “bears the burden” in Israeli
society is viewed only in military terms — meaning who serves in the army — and
just as some rights and social welfare benefits accorded to citizens are
conditioned on military service, so the army is accorded the authority to grant
recognition to citizens’ Israeliness and even obscure the identity of
cultural and societal power that the army possesses prompts an immediate
comparison with what is happening now in Egypt. The Egyptian army has revered
status and by law it cannot be found at fault. Its budget is not a matter of
public knowledge and is not subject to oversight. It manages its own
independent financial system the size of which no one knows. And all of a
sudden, and not for the first time, the Egyptian army has taken control, and in
the name of “the people and democracy” is fighting a religious movement that
was democratically elected. Egyptian liberals are kneeling before Egypt
military leader Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, viewing him as the guardian of liberty
and liberal values even when he kills hundreds of civilians.
what the Egyptian army is doing, in brutal fashion, is not just a show of force
to demonstrators meant to restore stability. It decides what the correct values
are and what is out-of-bounds. It defines the boundaries of tolerable democracy
and dictates when that democracy needs to protect itself and against whom. It
is also overseeing the process of drafting a new constitution that will shape
Egypt’s future values and reinvent the “will of the people.” There can be no
better definition of dictatorship than the forceful takeover of public
cannot help but wonder if there is a substantive difference between a military
takeover of awareness the shaping of identity on one hand, and voluntary
devotion to an army and a willingness to give it authority over these fundamental
issues. In both cases, that in Egypt and that in Israel, an organization that
is not democratic is taking or receiving powers unto itself that it is not
supposed to have. In contrast with the Egyptian army, the Israeli army does not
fire at its civilian population. It simply molds them into “shaped citizens.”
What China Fears. By Max Boot. Commentary, August 20, 2013.
Leaked “Document #9” Spotlights Xi’s Anti-Democratic Drive. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, August 21, 2013.
China Takes Aim at Western Ideas. By Chris Buckley. New York Times, August 19, 2013.