The War on Copts in Egypt: Its Origins
There is a war on Copts in Egypt. It is unmistakable and state military and religious institutions are guilty in sponsoring and launching the war. It was no coincidence that the chief of Al-Azhar (a former puppet of Mubarak and his ruling party) was on an official visit to Saudi Arabia during the week of killing the Copts in the streets of Cairo.
The official statement about the visit by Al-Azhar chief and his meeting with Wahhabi clerics of the House of Saud was blatantly sectarian and spoke about protecting Sunnis, as if the majority of the world’s Muslims are under attack in the region from Muslim sects and non-Muslims. The meeting in Saudi Arabia is an example of the fanatical religious movement that leads and sponsors the industries of religious and sectarian hate in the region. But it is not only the Egyptian government which squarely bears the responsibility for the savage attacks on Copts on the streets, and for sponsoring the blatant sectarian agitation that filled Egyptian state airwaves.
The US and Saudi Arabia are also responsible. It is fair to say that the US was party to the Saudi-directed campaign of global religious fanaticism – in two stages. The first phase was during the Cold War when Saudi Arabia, in partnership with the US, unleashed international religious forces to undermine the cause of communism and leftism in general. The movement that produced Bin Laden and his terrorist organization was mid-wived by Saudi Arabia and the US during the war in Afghanistan. The goal was to defeat communism at any price, even if the regimes that followed were much worse than what prevailed under communism, especially if one cares about women’s rights. It can be argued for instance that the Soviet-supported regime in Kabul was far more reformist and enlightened than the reactionary regime that the US installed in Kabul in 2001.
The second wave of global fanaticism was unleashed by Saudi Arabia after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and with the full support of Israel and the US. The US wanted to divert the attention of Arabs from Israel and its crimes and demonized Iran, promoting it as the only danger to Arabs (only Muslims because non-Muslims don’t figure in US calculations and certainly not in the calculations of the Wahhabi clerics). Israel was not to be seen as the enemy, or so wanted the American government, and Saudi Arabia was more than happy to oblige.
But to facilitate the rise of the second wave of fanaticism, characterized by an intense sectarian anti-Shi`ite campaign (which comes naturally to Wahhabi rulers and clerics) came at a price: it required the services of the specialists in sectarian agitation and mobilization; and these are the sectarian fanatics who are now unleashed throughout the region.
Sadat was the leader who unleashed the religious fanatics in Egypt: they were needed for the war on Nasserists and leftists. The US was more than pleased with the performance during the Cold War, until they wound up killing Sadat. Unlike Nasser who truly avoided any sectarian talk in Egypt and who vehemently fought any sectarian or even religious political movements, Sadat was blatantly sectarian and publicly insulted the Copts Pope.
The new military regime in Egypt seems to be playing the game of Sadat: with encouragement from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the regime seems to be unleashing fanatical fundamentalists and Salafites: these are the beneficiaries of Arab oil largesse. These are the army of the war on Copts throughout the country, and they were visible in the attacks (not clashes) in Egypt last week. The US is now reviewing its policy towards Muslim fundamentalists and seems to be concluding that just as they were useful clients during the Cold War, they may be useful in the new era of Arab uprisings. The raising of the portrait of Bin Laden in Tripoli by a movement supported by the US and Western governments is a manifestation of the other side of US endorsement of Saudi sectarian policies in the region.
The Copts and all Egyptians have the right to be angry and to insist on accountability. The Military Council is a continuation of the Sadat-Mubarak regime in different uniform.