A political master stroke, although I don’t think this is aimed at pressuring Obama into not cutting U.S. aid. Sisi doesn’t care about that; the Saudis will pick up the slack if we yank our measly $2 billion. This is, I think, designed not only to solidify Christian support for the military in Egypt (which was already solid) but to signal to western Christians who are reading news stories about massacres that the military’s the protector of pluralism against Islamism. And that PR will help if/when Egypt needs a loan from the IMF, which might otherwise be inclined not to do business with an outfit that’s shooting protesters in the street.
This is the moral dilemma of post-post-revolutionary Egypt. How brutal and illiberal will the world let the army be in the name of crippling the brutal, illiberal Muslim Brotherhood?
“The Egyptian defense minister ordered the engineering department of the armed forces to swiftly repair all the affected churches, in recognition of the historical and national role played by our Coptic brothers,” read a statement that aired on Egyptian television.
Bishop Mousa thanked Sisi for his efforts to repair the damaged churches.
“We thank Col. Gen. Sisi for commissioning the brave Egyptian armed forces to rebuild the places of worship damaged during the recent events,” Bishop Mousa said on Twitter…
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an Egyptian NGO, says at least 25 churches were torched this week, and attackers also targeted Christian schools, shops and homes across all 27 provinces.
Expect more of this from Egyptian diplomats on western TV and in news conferences with western leaders. Lots of talk about defending minority rights, especially the rights of women and Copts, and probably a few invocations of the Kristallnacht analogies being used by some American commentators to describe the burning of Coptic churches this past week. (As I say, this’ll be in western forums. Back home, given endemic anti-semitism in the region, denunciation via Nazi comparisons is … more complicated.) The Brotherhood will help the PR effort too with loathsome displays like this. Ultimately Sisi will frame the issue this way: Do you want him to go easy and risk the MB gathering strength and weapons to the point where they can launch a sustained insurgency like the jihadis have in Syria, or do you want him to bring down the hammer on Islamism before Iraq and Jordan blow up too? How many westerners are going to go to bat for church-burners when the question’s framed that way?
Like InstaGlenn said on Sunday night, as gruesome as the past two weeks have been, the west is now seeing one of its big post-9/11 wishes come true. The hope was that Muslim populations would turn on the fundies in their midst and that’s what’s happening now in Egypt in spades. The Muslim Brotherhood, not Israel, is the new archenemy. Exit question: Are there more fundamentalists or non-fundamentalists?