The revolutions in the Arab world may further weaken Christianity’s presence in the region
Islamic groups in Egypt are conforming to the pattern elsewhere in the Arab world as religious-based groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Gama’a al-Islamiya form political parties and seek government posts. But, like elsewhere in the Middle East, Christian minorities will undoubtedly be left out.
By Gerald Butt
4/16/2011 Egypt (The Guardian) – The Arab world is turning over a new page at last. Not since Britain and France created nation states in the Middle East at the end of the first world war has the region experienced such an upheaval. It is still early to say what will be drawn on that blank page in terms of the shape and character of political systems. But as numerous groups jostle to form parties to contest elections, there are signs that the Middle East’s tiny and dwindling Christian community will not be among the beneficiaries. Egypt is a key country to watch as it sweeps away the legacy of the Hosni Mubarak era, characterised by suppression of any group that challenged the dominance of the ruling party. With the president gone, the shackles are off. Among those exploiting this freedom are Egypt’s fundamentalist Islamic groups – the Muslim Brotherhood, Gama’a al-Islamiya and others. All stress, as they form political parties, that they support the idea of a civil, rather than an Islamic, state.
In the past, Gama’a al-Islamiya carried out acts of terrorism – including killing 58 foreign tourists at Luxor in 1997 – as part of its campaign to establish Islamic rule in Egypt. So how come the change of heart? “We want a civil state ruling with justice,” said one of its leaders, Naji Ibrahim. “We are not afraid of this freedom because we are holding the strong message of Islam, which has an inherent strength that is stronger than any other idea.”
So, a civil state to begin with, but ultimately the implication is that Islam would be triumphant. With the Muslim Brotherhood, too, the most organised group, the professed desire to see secular rule continue in Egypt runs counter to its charter. This envisages an Islamic state throughout the Middle East, while at home the Brotherhood aims to “convey the mission of Islam to the people as a whole”. There is no mention of Islam’s duty to protect ahl al-Kitab (people of the book, Christians and Jews).