Aug. 14, 2013The facade of the Prince Tadros Coptic church, which was torched by assailants in the central Egyptian city of Minya.AFP/Getty Images
What should Americans think about Egypt? We have been doling out aid to the Egyptian military since 1979. The cold peace between Sadat and Mubarak and the Israelis was a purchased peace. It cost us Americans dearly. But, as we have seen in this so-called Arab Spring, that purchased peace was always in danger of unraveling.
Hosni Mubarak stayed in power by paying lip service to his supposed friendship with America, and by stoking the flames of anti-Semitism at home. During his 30-year iron-fisted rule, there was hardly a train station in Egypt that did not hawk the Tsarist-era fabrication, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And Egyptian television producers gave the Arab-speaking world a TV series based on that defamatory work. In time, the fires set by that dramatization helped consume the Mubarak regime.
The rise of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood can be traced to the dictatorship of Mubarak and its fanning the flames of anti-Semitism. Mohamed Morsi was only the front man for the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB has many others who can take the place of this ousted figurehead. The sight of anti-Morsi demonstrators depicting the elected president of Egypt with a Star of David around his face cannot be comforting.
Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online has put his finger on what may be the majority sentiment among Americans about the Arab Spring. He writes of “The ‘To Hell with Them’ Doctrine.” Goldberg notes that Americans are weary of a region that has “Mideast Turmoil” seemingly painted on our television screens. Goldberg senses that Americans really don’t care which bad actors rise to the top over there.
Can anyone take satisfaction in the government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad? Two million Christians lived in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion. Now, estimates say there are only 600,000 left and many of them are desperate to leave. In Afghanistan, the last Christian church has closed down. Twelve years and one trillion dollars have gone to back up Hamid Karzai’s Kabul government. Can anyone say that Afghans are more free, more secure as a result?
In today’s post-Morsi Egypt, at least 60 churches have been torched.
Nuns are being marched down streets by Islamist mobs in scenes reminiscent of the French Revolution. Or worse, the Russian Revolution.
The Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, appeared on national television with Gen. al-Sisi when he announced the military had taken power from Mohamed Morsi. As a result, no doubt, Muslim Brotherhood supporters have gone on a rampage against not only the military and the police, but also against Christian targets. Homes and churches, convents and orphanages are all in danger of red paint and a torch in the night.
London’s Daily Mail reports a local bishop, Ibram, told his parishioners not to resist the mobs. “The looters were so diligent that they came back to one of the five churches they had already ransacked to see if they could get more.”
The Christian Copts are not recent arrivals to Egypt. This historic community has been in Egypt since St. Mark. They were there when Islam conquered the Nile River kingdoms. Today, they constitute around 10 percent of the population of this nation of 90 million. But for how much longer?
Our American position should be to defend the first freedom first. We should loudly stand for religious freedom. Our founders understood that without religious freedom, civil liberty is impossible. When U.S. senators say “democracy is in the eye of the beholder,” as Richard Blumenthal recently told FOX, we should respond that that mistaken view leads only to chaos. It leads to the scenes we see on our TV and computer screens daily.
Democracy needs a firm foundation in religious freedom. Jefferson and Madison understood this. Today’s state department does not. We need to press our own government to stand for religious freedom because it is the foundation of all other freedoms. This means that Christians and Muslims should be free in Egypt. And, if there are any Jews left there, they too should be free.
Anything less than this guarantees only a Mubarak lid on an ever-boiling cauldron. And such lids are expensive and can never substitute for real freedom. Democracy without guarantees of God-given religious freedom cannot survive. It is no better than a lynch mob. As we can clearly see.
Ken Blackwell was U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission. He is a Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council.