The growing cancer I witnessed during my recent visit.
The pot finally came to a boil when on New Year’s Eve a suicide bomber ripped through parishioners at an Alexandria church, killing dozens of Coptic Christians. That same church was the site of another attack several years prior, when a jihadist entered and began stabbing church-goers while yelling "Allahu Akbar." This is the fear that Christians in Egypt feel day to day. I personally visited this church prior to the attack, and met with many who told me the stories of how persecuted the Egyptian Coptics feel in their native land. Their IDs have a number two in the corner, while Muslims carry an ID with the number one. It is nearly impossible to get a permit to build a new church, while mosques are constantly being constructed. Human rights violations and police brutality are rampant, and a climate of corruption has reached every level of government.
The corruption in Egypt has grown for many years, and for many reasons. For example, the average monthly pay of a police officer is less than the average cost to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Cairo. Considering the fertility rate of the average Egyptian woman is greater than three, most officers have a family to take care of as well. This leads to a climate where bribes become a normal part of life. While there, I got used to police officers coming up to me and telling me I did something wrong, such as take a picture of something I wasn’t supposed to, and asking me to pay a nominal fine of about $10 -- directly to them of course.
Indeed, there has been a great need for the Egyptian government to address the issue of human rights, the protection of the Christian minority, and the culture of corruption. The problem is, however, that the upheaval we are seeing in Egypt today is not about an outrage over the unfairness with which Christians and non-Muslims are treated. And while current protests may be about corruption and human rights, the tragedy is that the likely alternatives to the current regime are far worse than what has been in power.
There is a sinister undertone throughout Egypt. It is spreading throughout the country “like a cancer,” as it was described to me by Egyptian human rights activist Dr. Naguib Gabriel during my recent visit with him in Cairo. It is the cancer known as the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization which uses terror and intimidation in its ongoing jihad to take over the government of Egypt. This effort to conquer Egypt is just one piece of the pie in the global jihad by our enemies to establish an Islamic caliphate over the entire world, from Egypt to France, London to Dearborn Michigan, to small-town rural America. This fear has only intensified in recent days as the Muslim Brotherhood has developed a much more visible presence in the ongoing protests and has thrown its support behind informal opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei.
When Islamic terrorists attacked the church in Alexandria, the Christians, who make up 10% of the country, began protesting. They demanded more protection from Mubarak’s regime. Anti-Mubarak factions seized the opportunity, and the Brotherhood salivated at the prospect of filling in the void if Mubarak should fall. The Brotherhood openly calls for an Islamic theocracy in Egypt, led by Sharia (Islamic) law. If they seize power, the country would become the Sunni version of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Egypt under the Brotherhood would be a Taliban-style government on the border of Israel, and with control over the Suez Canal.
When we hear calls for free elections and democracy in Egypt, a theocracy under Sharia law would very likely result if such elections were to occur. Many politicians in the West fail to realize that democracy only works if the citizens of those nations have reached the level of respect for individual rights and democratic principles to handle it. Unfortunately, many in Middle East have certainly not reached that level of thought, and the cunning and sinister Muslim Brotherhood will use every tactic necessary to exploit the process in order to seize control, just like the Ayatollah and his followers did in Iran after the fall of the Shah in 1979.
The political nature of Islamic ideology makes it fundamentally incompatible with a true democratic form of government. The unfortunate reality is that only relatively stable forms of government which have been proven to work in the Islamic world are secular “Kemal Ataturk style” dictatorships that force secularism on their people, and keep the extremists in check.
Voter intimidation by the extremists in an Egyptian election is common and easy. A member of the Brotherhood is easy to spot. They oftentimes have a beard, and generally have a bruise on their foreheads from hitting their head on the floor during prayer. Sometimes they even heat up a metal spoon in the fire and place it on their foreheads to accentuate the bruise. Sounds crazy to us in the West, but you see it on one out of every five men walking down the street in Cairo. The members of the Muslim Brotherhood can easily identify each other this way, which makes it easy to intimidate others at the polls when voting occurs. A Coptic priest shared with me how this practice has directly affected him: his church once organized buses to bring Christians to vote in a local election, only to have Brotherhood thugs armed with knives stop the Christians and turn them away.
There is little the Egyptian police will do about this. It is easy to become a cop, and the police force is filled with Brotherhood sympathizers.
The biggest hurdle standing in the way of the Muslim Brotherhood taking power is Hosni Mubarak and his followers. While the police may not always be loyal to him, the national military is, as well as those in his intelligence agency. So the only way the Brotherhood could come to power would be through the guise of democratic reforms. Mubarak’s crackdown over the years on the Brotherhood, through imprisoning their leaders and fighting to diminish their power wherever possible, has been an ongoing battle in the nation for decades. Even his vice president pick, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, was a message to the Brotherhood. It was Sueliman who put many of the Brotherhood’s leaders behind bars over the years.
The civil unrest in Egypt shows no signs of diminishing. Mubarak has just authorized now-Vice President Suleiman to speak with the opposition (which includes the Brotherhood), and a volatile struggle for power is under way. If Mubarak’s regime goes entirely, there will be little to stand in the way of an Islamist Republic of Egypt, and one hopes the policy-makers in Washington deeply understand this.