“More ominous are the prospects for the Arab world’s Christians, who have been undergoing not a springtime of toleration but an increasingly frightful winter of suffering and persecution,” Jeff Jacoby writes for the Boston Globe.
By Jeff Jacoby
12/7/2011 Egypt (Boston Globe) – In the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won 36.6 percent of the vote and the even harder-line Salafist party, Al-Nour, won 24.4 percent. The Egyptian Bloc — a coalition of liberal, social-democratic, and secular parties — drew only 13.4 percent. So now we know what the “Spirit of Tahrir Square’’ looks like when it’s put to a vote: In the world’s largest Arab nation, the forces of sharia and jihad are winning in a landslide.
The credo of the Muslim Brotherhood is explicitly illiberal and theocratic: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.’’ Abdel Moneim el-Shahat, a Salafist sheik and Nour Party candidate, demands a society in which “sharia is obligatory’’ — an Egypt, as he explained in a public debate, with “citizenship restricted by Islamic sharia, freedom restricted by Islamic sharia, equality restricted by Islamic sharia.’’
Sad to say, these are the fundamentalist blooms of the Arab Spring. The Islamist ascendancy — in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt this year, as in Gaza and (non-Arab) Turkey previously — bodes ill for the region’s moderate and tolerant Muslims. Whistling past the graveyard, the editor of The Daily Star in Beirut exhorts the world to “Celebrate the Democratic Arab Moment,’’ and declares that the commitment of Arab societies to democratic openness and pluralism “now seems firmly affirmed.’’ Indeed, he says, it “was never in doubt, except perhaps in the minds of lingering colonialists and racists.’’ The anti-Islamist liberals getting wiped out in Egypt’s elections might beg to differ.
Even more ominous are the prospects for the Arab world’s Christians, who have been undergoing not a springtime of toleration but an increasingly frightful winter of suffering and persecution. Since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s Coptic minority has been repeatedly victimized — churches have been destroyed, homes have been vandalized, and jihadist mobs have rampaged through Christian neighborhoods. In October, Egyptian troops in Cairo’s Maspero district slaughtered Christians as they protested the burning of churches in Upper Egypt. Even before the Maspero pogrom, Christians by the tens of thousands had been fleeing post-Mubarak Egypt. You don’t have to be a “lingering colonialist and racist’’ to fear there may be even worse to come.
Egypt isn’t the only Arab country whose Christian communities are being decimated by Islamist brutality.
Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, The Wall Street Journal noted on Monday, “at least 54 Iraqi churches have been bombed and at least 905 Christians killed in various acts of violence.’’ The archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Kirkuk and Sulimaniya calls the emigration a “hemorrhage,’’ warning that “Iraq could be emptied of Christians.’’ In Syria, Catholic and Orthodox communities are terrified of what awaits them if the current regime is overthrown.