No faction in Egypt had more to lose from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist rule than the 8 million or so Christian Coptic community, the Mideast’s largest non-Muslim minority. They would have no voice in that nation’s debate on the meaning of a new political order based on sharia rather than citizenship, which would determine their rights. Hoping for a secular government, the recently elected Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II stood with the coalition in support of the military’s removal of the Brotherhood-backed Morsi.
But now, in the ensuing rioting and protests, Egypt’s various Christian communities are experiencing continuing attacks by jihadists, Salafis, (who joined them in the anti-Morsi coalition), and angry Morsi-supporters, alike. This week, Christianity Today reports the details of the mounting violence since July 3 against Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical churches, Christian clergy, and villages. Some Islamist websites are openly calling for uprisings against anyone who opposes the state’s forcible implementation of sharia, according to a July 5 Washington Post report.
Egypt analyst and my fellow Hudson colleague Samuel Tadros observes, moreover, that the new draft constitution appears to give even greater prominence to sharia by invoking its principles in the very first article of the draft, in an apparent move to appease Salafis. Tadros says: “By putting it there, the military has basically sent the message that the Salafis are more important than everyone else. It makes it harder to remove in the next phase.”
Without American and Western diplomatic support, the Copts’ fate is looking increasingly grim.
— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.