Washington, D.C. (August 14, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood forced two commanding military generals from power on Sunday in a sudden maneuver that grants him full executive and legislative authority over the country. The move is viewed by some as a victory for Egypt’s transition to civilian rule. But for Egyptian Christians, who regarded the military’s grip on power as their remaining defense against the political rise of Islamists, the generals’ dismissal is a frightening reality that sets the stage for the Islamization of the country.
On August 12, President Morsi retired Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi from his position as Defense Minister and Sami Anan from the armed forces Chief of Staff, a move that grants the Muslim Brotherhood complete executive and legislative powers. Moreover, Morsi seized back control of the national budget and the right to issue laws by cancelling a constitutional referendum enacted in June that limited presidential powers.
Morsi’s sudden and bold consolidation of power appears to have outmaneuvered the military after months of grappling for control. The move also heightens fears among Egyptian Christians and secularists that the Brotherhood leader may have accumulated too much power. Reclaiming control of the constitution drafting process, the president can now use his authority to implement Islamic Sharia law as the main source of legislation, which Morsi endorsed during his presidential campaign in May.
“We are not only dealing with Morsi, but the entire Brotherhood of Muslims. Morsi takes his orders from the Brotherhood and they will write an Islamist constitution that will deny the rights of minorities and Christians,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told ICC. “They are trying to control the entire country. We are facing a very tough time, especially Christians and other minorities, including Shiites and Bahá'ís. We can only wait to see what happens.”
The future of Egypt remains uncertain. The president’s authority has yet to be defined and it appears that Morsi’s dismissal of the generals could not have been possible without the help of lower-ranking military officers, many of whom accuse Field Marshall Tantawi for failing to prevent the killing of 16 soldiers in the Sinai desert by militants earlier this month.
“Does [Mursi] have a right to do this? Who knows? There’s no constitution,” said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel. “There is no parliament at present. He is now the democratically elected dictator of Egypt. True, he picked another career officer but he has now put forward the principle: he decides who runs the army. The generals can still advise Mursi. He can choose to listen to them or not. But there is no more dual power in Egypt but only one leader. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which has run Egypt since February 2011 is gone. Only Mursi remains and Egypt is now at his mercy.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Though attacks against Christians and churches have escalated since Egypt’s uprising in early-2011, Christians were still hopeful that the military would maintain their hold on power and prevent Egypt’s transition into an Islamic state. However, the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have effectively consolidated full control of the government. The parliament, which was dissolved by the military in June and is made-up of 70 percent Islamists, will likely be reinstated. Moreover, the Constituent Assembly, which proposed a constitution based on the ‘principles’ of Sharia, will likely apply Islamic law as the main source of legislation. The rights of Christians will be disregarded and religious freedom will continue to decline. The worst fears of Egypt’s Christians have now been realized.”