Egyptian anti-government protesters chant slogans as they stand atop an Egyptian army tank during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Mohammed Abed / AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the rounds on the Sunday shows and the administration’s line has taken shape. “What we’re saying is that any efforts by this government to respond to the needs of their people, to take steps that will result in a peaceful and orderly transition to a democratic regime is what is in the best interest of everyone, including the current government,” said Secretary Clinton.
This morning, American leaders began pointing to a scheduled September presidential election. Based on the current state of affairs, the Egyptian people are not interested in waiting to see change in September nor do they trust an election. Under the Mubarak reign, there has never been a free and fair election.
The United States can save face by calling on Mubarak to announce that he will not seek reelection in September. If we continue to be portrayed as supporting the Mubarak regime, I fear that we are providing fodder to extremists who have continued an attempt to co-opt the protest movement. Ultimately, our government may be setting the stage for the worst-case scenario in Egypt – the rise of an Islamist government in Egypt.
Protesters in Egypt are not burning our flag or Israel’s; they are burning images of the dictator Mubarak. If we fail to stand in solidarity with what has been primarily a secular uprising, America’s lack of support for change will be touted by Islamic hardliners.
The ACLJ works very closely with Coptic Christians in Egypt and America. Our European affiliate has engaged the United Nations and Council of Europe on behalf of Coptic concerns. This is not Pakistan. In Egypt, at a minimum, 10% of the population is Christian. When we discuss Copts in Egypt, we must remember that this is a substantial religious minority.
Based on every conversation I have had with Copts in the last few days, Egyptian Christians have joined the protests, defying the instructions coming from the Pope of the Coptic Church.
Following the terrorist attack on a Coptic Church in Alexandria on New Years, Copts protested. The protests were aimed at Mubarak and the Egyptian government, not Muslims. Remember that Muslims protected Coptic Christians during their Christmas service on January 7.
It is the Mubarak government that until 2005 required any new church construction in Egypt to have presidential authorization. Egyptian authorities relied on an 1856 Ottoman law. Mubarak’s “revolutionary” reform was transferring authorizing power to Egypt’s governors in 2005.
Christians and Muslims are uniting in Egypt. Reports of chants like “Muslims, Christians, we are all Egyptians” have been heard all around the world. Certainly, these Christians understand the risk of what a Muslim Brotherhood-led government replacing Mubarak would mean for them. It is a risk that, by all accounts, they are willing to take.
After all the talk from President Obama about a new relationship with the Muslim world, we appear to fear a predominately secular Muslim uprising. Will we stand with a dictator or stand with the people of Egypt?
This is a Luke 18 moment, the persistent protest of a people seeking justice.