Following two years of bloody winter holidays, and following also resounding Islamic success in elections, the Muslim Brotherhood coordinated with security forces – and probably Orthodox Church leadership – to stand watch outside church buildings throughout Egypt.
I was able to visit one installation in Helwan, to the south of Cairo. After moving from church to church in the district of Maadi, finding no Brothers present, I happened upon a Christian taxi driver who told me they were at his church, to which he subsequently brought me. It would have been difficult to find on my own.
I wrote about this story for Lapido Media, a British website focusing on telling religious aspects of the news which might be overlooked by other outlets. That the Brotherhood would come and spend Christmas with Copts is a fairly big deal, but many Western news agencies missed it. Not only is the event newsworthy, but so is its undercurrent. Please click here to read the story.
The basic question is this: Is the Brotherhood coming to Christmas celebrations because they love Copts as fellow citizens and Egyptian brothers? If so, this is wonderful.
Or, does their effort to ‘defend’ Christians issue from a place of Islamic superiority which offers protection to religious minorities in exchange for their acceptance of an Islamic system of government? If so, this is concerning.
Read the story for several wonderful quotes which insist upon the former. Yet upon pushing them for their eventual goal – after reestablishing security, economy, and demonstrating the virtues of Islamic government – they deftly skirted the issue. They insisted it was not proper to speak about Christians under dhimmi protection ‘now’.
I don’t necessarily doubt their sincerity. I believe that most Brothers, being Egyptians, have a love of their fellow Copts. It is a laudable feature of Islam that it urges Muslims to defend the rights of (at least Abrahamic) religious minorities.
Every religion has a natural chauvinism with which it imbues believers concerning their own faith. One of the prominent interpretations of Islam insists it has the right to rule – and rule justly – but to accord non-Muslims a special place in subservience to an Islamic order. Even if the Muslim Brotherhood does not have a ‘strategy’ to turn Copts into dhimmis, this aspect of their faith may be bubbling to the surface, no matter their simultaneous sincere expressions of love and equality.
Being a dhimmi may not even be a horrible thing, but neither is it liberal democracy. Currently the Muslim Brotherhood straddles the fence, insisting both on a civil state with equality of citizenship and an Islamic reference to guide legislation. Can they pull it off? Time will tell.
Yet despite the desires of many Muslim Brothers to postpone this question, it is essential it be answered now. Otherwise, the system may take root and produce effects from sources far more deeply rooted than assertions of national unity. These assertions are true, they are even sharia. Yet historically, sharia also often included dhimnitude.
Muslim Brotherhood overtures at Christmas hint in both directions. As one Brother states in the article, he wants Christians to know what is in their heart. This is good, but Copts also deserve to know what is in their vision.