The National Council of Churches (NCC) has released a not bad statement on Egypt’s recent removal of the Muslim Brotherhood regime by the military, expressing particular concern about attacks by Islamists on Egyptian churches. Of course, it does not specifically mention that the attacks are by Islamists. It does cite the “extremist tendencies of the previous government,” i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. And it urges the new government to move towards “reining in those continuing extremist tendencies.” Here’s most of the text:
We call upon the Egyptian government and all parties to the current crisis to work to put an end to the violence and to guarantee the safety of all innocent Egyptian citizens. We call on the international community to seek appropriate ways to work urgently and incessantly to promote an end to the violent conflict. And while we understand the many demands upon the United States government with respect to its complicated relationship with Egypt, we nevertheless call upon our government to take whatever measures are necessary, including the appropriate scrutiny of aid to the Egyptian government, until this situation is remedied.
We pray for the Christians in Egypt, whose lives have been threatened and even cut short, and whose churches and property have been attacked and burned. Christians believe in the Prince of Peace, and our churches are a testament to our faith in him. In Egypt, these churches have stood as a testament to this faith since the first century, and in peaceful coexistence with the Muslim and other communities of that country. We would expect that the new government, which has challenged extremist tendencies of the previous government, to more quickly demonstrate its moderation and tolerance toward their Christian neighbors by reining in those continuing extremist tendencies.
We pray for the souls of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Egypt who have died trying to foster peace in the midst of chaos, and for the building up of those who continue to do so despite the deteriorating conditions there.
And we extend our hopes and prayers for a return to a legitimate political process that will result in the guarantee of the rights and responsibilities of all of Egypt’s citizens.
IRD has often critiqued the NCC for almost never criticizing repressive Marxist or Islamist regimes and movements over the decades, instead only condemning the U.S. and its allies. This statement seems relatively more responsible, emphasizing the plight of Christians under siege, and urging rights for all citizens. It seems carefully to avoid urging a U.S. cut-off of aid to the Egyptian military, instead commending “appropriate scrutiny.”
Our founding document, written by Richard Neuhaus, urges democracy and human rights for all. Yet for most people and most times in human history, the ideal is far from reached. In Egypt at this time, a transitional military regime may be the only viable alternative to an Islamist rule that was consolidating absolute power. Egypt’s Christians supported the military move, which is the pretext for many of the mob attacks on churches.
Some have compared the Egyptian military’s action to what the German military should have done in the 1930’s against the Nazis, who were initially elected democratically and then erected a police terror state. Since Nazism embodied such an absolute evil, comparisons to it should usually be avoided. The better resemblance may be to Chile in 1973, when Salvador Allende’s democratically regime was arming its supporters, repressing the media, hosting an exuberant Fidel Castro, and aligning with the Soviet bloc. With a green light from the legislature and supreme court, Chile’s military seized control. The ensuing military regime tormented its opponents, especially in the earlier years. But it also left most of civil society intact, unlike Marxist rule’s totalitarian overreach. And it eventually surrendered to democratic elections after a long 18 years that were politically repressive but also economically prosperous thanks to free market policies.
Allende’s overthrow had psychological and political impact beyond Chile, disrupting the narrative of inevitable Marxist progression. Similarly, the military’s overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has fractured the Islamist narrative of inevitable triumph. History never has the straight line that ideologues often claim. The modern Islamist narrative began with the overthrow of the Shah of Iran by an Islamist revolution led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Iran’s Islamist regime has murdered hundreds of thousands and now seeks nuclear weapons.
Last week, the leftist National Security Archives, which specializes in exposing and exaggerating archived U.S. documents that supposedly reveal vast misdeeds, spotlighted some old reports about the U.S. role in preserving the Shah in power during the 1953 counter coup. There was no real new information, but it gained some predictable media attention. The Left always emphasizes this U.S. backed coup as further proof of U.S. international perfidy and as supposed validation of official Iran’s zealous anti-Americanism. It also assumes anaconda-like control by the U.S., ignoring other important forces. Even without the CIA subsidized demonstrations, much of Iran rallied around the Shah in 1953, including Khomeini and most clerics, because they feared the Soviet-supported Tudeh Party. Iran under the Shah prospered and, even at his megalomaniac worst, had more freedoms than under the subsequent Islamist theocratic dictatorship. America’s greater misdeed towards Iran was pressuring the Shah prematurely to quit power in 1978, preventing any secular or democratic alternative to the rivers of blood that flowed under the Islamist clerics.
Likelier Egypt’s military, and its millions of non-Islamist supporters, had Iran at least partly in mind when overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood. The Shah, and his father, are both buried in Egypt, where President Anwar Sadat gave refuge to the fleeing Shah, partially as a rebuke to the Islamist opposition, some of whose adherents murdered Sadat not long afterwards.
Religious Left groups like the National Council of Churches condemned the overthrow of Chile’s Allende and the Shah’s rule, while ignoring abuses by Allende’s regime and the diabolic Ayatollah Khomeini. The NCC’s response to Egypt so far seems more restrained and responsible.