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What Kind of Revolution?

ICC Note:

“In Egypt, the fall of Hosni Mubarak has encouraged religious intolerance and persecution, especially against the Coptic Christian community,” The American Spectator reports.

By Doug Bandow

7/13/2011 Egypt (American Spectator) – Ugly reality has dashed the high hopes of the “Arab Spring.” Although the dream of democratic reform lives on, only Tunisia appears on course. In Egypt, the fall of Hosni Mubarak has encouraged religious intolerance and persecution, especially against the Coptic Christian community.

Once a great civilization, Egypt long ago turned into an impoverished backwater. Only a large population and strategic location today deliver geopolitical importance. Hosni Mubarak ruled for three decades, but under him the Egyptian people enjoyed neither prosperity nor liberty. In fact, Mubarak was exhibit A for America’s foreign policy conundrum: stability or democracy? He held the Muslim Brotherhood in check, maintained a cold peace with Israel, and kept the Suez Canal open. For that he was richly rewarded with tens of billions in “foreign aid,” which he used to build an authoritarian kleptocracy — one that treated the needs of most Egyptians as an afterthought. Washington occasionally pushed for reform, but never too hard, lest stability be sacrificed.

 Mubarak counted among his victims the Coptic Christians, who make up around ten percent of the population. They predate Islam, but today are a disadvantaged and increasingly threatened minority.  Rather like Saddam Hussein and the Assad family, Mubarak seemingly cared little for religion. However, he left more room for Islamic extremists to act and compete for political support by victimizing religious minorities.

While the “government does not actively persecute or repress Christians, a prejudicial legal framework has created a permissive environment that allows Egyptian officials and private individuals to discriminate against Christians freely and with impunity,” noted Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The U.S. State Department called the status of religious liberty in Egypt “poor.” State added that Christians and Baha’is faced “personal and collective discrimination, especially in government employment and their ability to build, renovate, and repair places of worship.”

Moreover, the regime “sometimes arrested, detained, and harassed” those “whose beliefs and/or practices it deemed to deviate from mainstream Islamic beliefs and whose activities it alleged to jeopardize communal harmony.” Government-controlled media and government-funded mosques encourage violence.  The authorities do little to stop the kidnapping of young Coptic girls, who then are forced to marry Muslims.

Converts are at particular risk. Despite some recent progress, the government traditionally refused to provide new identity documents to converts as well as Baha’is. Worse, noted William Inboden of the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, “Egyptian converts from Islam to Christianity, though very few in number, suffered particularly heinous treatment — including imprisonment and sadistic torture.”

Equally disturbing, noted the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians remained high.” But the Mubarak government rarely punished the attackers. Indeed, International Christian Concern noted that it was common for the government to arrest “Coptic victims alongside the perpetrators of the violence.”

Even when the Copts did not end up behind bars, they did not receive justice. State explained that the Mubarak government sponsored “informal reconciliation sessions” which “generally prevented the criminal prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against Copts, precluded their recourse to the judicial system for restitution, and contributed to a climate of impunity that encouraged further assaults.”

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