Politics & Policy

An Ill Season

The Arab spring unleashes Islamists on Egyptian Christians.

Screaming “With our blood and soul, we will defend you, Islam,” jihadists stormed the Virgin Mary Church in northwest Cairo last weekend. They torched the Coptic Christian house of worship, burned the nearby homes of two Copt families to the ground, attacked a residential complex, killed a dozen people, and wounded more than 200: just another day in this spontaneous democratic uprising by Muslim hearts yearning for freedom.

In the delusional vocabulary of the “Arab Spring,” this particular episode is known as a sectarian “clash.” That was the Washington Post’s take. Its headline reads “12 dead in Egypt as Christians and Muslims clash” — in the same way, one supposes, that a mugger’s fist can be said to “clash” with his victim’s face. The story goes on, in nauseating “cycle of violence” style, to describe “clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians” that “left” 12 dead, dozens more wounded, “and a church charred” — as if it were not crystal clear who were the clashers and who were the clashees, as if the church were somehow combusted into a flaming heap without some readily identifiable actors having done the charring.

#ad#The thugs in question were Egyptian Muslims. Were they representative of all Egyptian Muslims? No, but it would be more accurate to portray them as such than to suggest, as the Pollyanna narrative holds, that Egypt (and Tunisia, and Yemen, and Syria, and Lebanon, and Algeria, and …) is teeming with legions of Gamal al-Madisons.

This is the Egypt where the toppling of the pro-American, pro-peace Mubarak regime was celebrated by the rape of CBS correspondent Lara Logan amid the familiar chants of “Allahu Akbar!” The same Egypt where, just a few weeks ago, Islamist factions wiped out the proponents of democracy by a whopping 78–22 margin in a referendum on the formation of a new government. The result ensures a Muslim Brotherhood hammerlock on the new parliament, and perhaps even the presidency — a Brotherhood leader having announced this week that he will run against the popular but weak Amr Mousa.

The provocation that stirred Muslims this time, as if there had to be one, involved a rumor that Copts are preventing a Christian woman from converting to Islam — and who wouldn’t grab the blowtorch over that? The rumor is probably not true, but what difference does that make? A Christian woman about whom a similar claim was made a couple of years ago ultimately denied that she had ever attempted to become a Muslim. That didn’t stop enraged Muslims — rage being the default condition — from killing 51 people in a similar arson attack on a Syriac Catholic church in post-Saddam, “Made in the U.S.A.” Baghdad.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the Copts have been dealing with a rash of “clashes” ever since the early breakout of spring. The Wall Street Journal provides the rundown: a church in Alexandria bombed on New Year’s Eve, killing 23; a Cairo church attacked by angry mobs in March; and last month, rioters in Qena demanding the ouster of the regime-appointed governor because he is a Christian and, under sharia standards, thus unfit to govern in a Muslim land.

Straining to preserve the storyline of a vibrant democracy movement that unites Egyptians across sectarian lines, the Post dispatch was quick to add that the “unrest” in Cairo broke out amid “demonstrations attended by Copts and Muslims to show unity and demand better protection from the government.” Of course, these demonstrations got steamrolled. Why? Because the “Arab Spring” is not the Arab Spring. It is the Islamist ascendancy. Like good democracy fetishists, though, the media is seeing the Egypt it wants to see. To the contrary, in the real Egypt, Islamist ideology is the mainstream, coursing from the beating heart of Al-Azhar University through every part of the country. Without the much-derided Mubarak around to clamp down on it, Islamists have Copts and secularists paralyzed by their habitual “unrest” and “clashes.”

#page#The most ruefully amusing part of the coverage is the water the media dutifully carries for the Obama administration’s campaign to airbrush the Muslim Brotherhood — setting the stage to present the Brothers’ catastrophic accession as a success in the march toward the end of history. In the Post story, the words “Muslim Brotherhood” are nowhere to be found. The “clash,” you are to understand, is the handiwork of the “Salafists.” These, according to the Post, are “a faction of ultraconservative Muslims [who] have become increasingly visible in recent months.” Really? And why would that be? The Post suggests it could be that the “Salafists” are “seeking to boost their standing ahead of elections, scheduled for this fall, by fomenting religious tension.”

#ad#Gee, they sound just like the Muslim Brotherhood. But no, couldn’t be. The Journal is even more adamant on that point. Not content to ignore the Brothers’ hands in all this, its news story is an explicit argument that the Brotherhood and the “Salafis” are two very different camps. The Salafis are depicted as the hardliners, emerging from the shadows since “spring” began, and now “implicated in a series of attacks against Christians.” The Brotherhood, by contrast, is the “more moderate” faction — a “discrete political and religious institution” that “condemned the violence.” Sure, they share “a few common political goals, such as the desire to see Sharia law incorporated into the Egyptian legal system,” but you must understand that “the Salafists’ fundamentalist outlook is distinct from the Brotherhood’s merely conservative ideology.” Got that? In fact, “strict Salafis consider more moderate Islamists, such as the Brotherhood, as ‘innovators’ whose practice of the faith includes new or foreign concepts that were introduced into the religion long after the Prophet’s death.”

Hooey. The Muslim Brothers are Salafists. As I detail in The Grand Jihad, the Brotherhood rigorously hews to the Salafist ideology of its founder, Hassan al-Banna. It is a retro-reformist movement that seeks to return to the Islam of Mohammed and the first generations of Muslims — the Salafiyyah (a term derived from al-Salaf al-Salih, the Righteous Companions: Mohammed and the first “rightly guided” caliphs). This is the Islam the Brotherhood seeks to impose on the world, through implementation of Islam’s legal and political system, sharia. The goal of the Salafists is “shared” with the Brotherhood precisely because the Brotherhood and the Salafists are one, as their just-announced electoral pact suggests. What is that goal? Contrary to the Journal’s claim, sharia already is incorporated in the Egyptian legal system: The goal is to make sharia the only law of Egypt, just as it is the only law of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is the goal of the Brotherhood in all of the scores of countries in which it operates: gradually implement sharia, enclave by enclave, country by country, until a global caliphate is established.

The Brothers have been playing this game for decades: stoking violence but distancing themselves when the violence breaks out; condemning “terrorism” but glorifying “resistance”; feigning a commitment to regular politics but forming Hamas; decrying Osama bin Laden’s attacks on civilians but — when speaking to Arabic audiences — praising bin Laden as a heroic mujahid, a warrior in Allah’s jihad against the oppressors. Yet, when the Obama administration hears the Brothers’ motto — “Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” — it thinks: “largely secular”!

This spring, we’re having a clash with reality.

 

 Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

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