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Crackdown in Egypt; Rage Directed at Coptic Christians; U.S. Response Is Hypocritical

By Michael Terheyden
August 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Egyptian military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood was tragic. However, I believe ousting Morsi and cracking down on the Brotherhood is necessary. I also believe that President Obama's response was hypocritical. Taken together, these events constitute a warning for Americans.

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - The Egyptian military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood was tragic. However, I believe ousting Morsi and cracking down on the Brotherhood is necessary in order to stop the Islamization of Egypt and the persecution of Coptic Christians. I also believe that President Obama's response was hypocritical. Taken together, these events constitute a warning for Americans.

My beliefs are my own. They do not reflect the Catholic Church or Catholic Online. They are not conservative or liberal, right or left. Nor do they represent my political affiliation. My beliefs are based on my analysis of what I have seen and heard. I leave it for you to decide if my analysis holds weight. 

It began when the Egyptian military removed Morsi, a former leader of the Brotherhood, from office on July 3, 2013. This action was taken in response to the Tamarod protest. The Tamarod protest included millions of Christians and Muslims who believed that the Brotherhood was using the democratic process as a pretense to establish an oppressive Islamic theocracy.

As a result, Morsi supporters set up two permanent camps on opposite ends of Cairo, one small and one large. After negotiations failed to end the protest, the interim government warned that it would forcibly break up the camps if the protesters did not leave. On Wednesday, August 14 the police used tear gas to disperse the protesters and began bulldozing their barricades and makeshift city. The smaller camp was not a problem, but it reportedly took 12 hours for government forces to secure the larger, main camp.

Fighting broke out throughout Cairo and in other cities in response to the police action. Government buildings and Christian churches were attacked. The Brotherhood's response appeared to be calculated, and government sources said that some protesters were armed and fired upon them. Over 600 persons have been killed and over 4000 have been injured. And the number keeps climbing as the violence drags on.

This is a horrible tragedy. Human life is too valuable for such waste, even when that life is malevolent. It is a fair question for us to ask if this chain of events represent a coup by the Egyptian military. I do not think so, but only time will tell. However, I believe that the Brotherhood are malevolent despite their smiles, western suits and promises. They are a group of violent Islamists and terrorists. They are liars, thieves and murderers.

My belief about the Brotherhood is based on their violent history, their inflammatory rhetoric, and their actions. The Brotherhood has been a radical organization since its inception. It was founded by Hasan al-Banna in 1928 as a religious, political, and social Islamist movement. He wanted to see the Muslim world cleansed of all infidels and unbelievers. Al-Banna believed that the Koran and the sword were inseparable.

Al-Banna's vision did not change throughout the years. During the Second World War, the Brotherhood sided with the Nazis. They are anti-Israel and anti-West. They have supported terrorist activities in Palestine and continue close associations with terrorist groups. The Brotherhood were implicated in a failed plot to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's leader in 1965, and in the successful assassination of Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, in 1980.

After the ouster of Morsi on July 3 and the crackdown on August 14, the Brotherhood and their supporters initiated a series of brutal revenge attacks against Egypt's Christian minority. They torched the churches, homes and businesses of Christians. Coptic Christians are taking the brunt of the Islamist's rage, as the Copts, whose heritage can be traced back to the Pharaohs of Egypt, represent the largest minority in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

One of the first revenge attacks that I am familiar with occurred in the town of al-Dabayia in southern Egypt. The attack lasted for a whole day. When it was over, four Christian men were dead. Then on July 6, Mina Abboud Sharubim, a Coptic priest was shot and killed in northern Sinai. A couple days later, the decapitated body of a Christian merchant, Magdy Lamei Habib, was found in Sheikh Zuweid near the Israeli border.

A representative of The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Ishaq Ibrahim, said they had documented approximately 39 attacks against churches, monasteries, schools and shops throughout the country. I have included some of them below:

The churches of Abraham and the Virgin Mary in Menya were set on fire and their doors were smashed. Mar Gergiss church in Sohag was firebombed. Islamists threw Molotov cocktails at the Bon Pasteur Catholic Church and Monastery in Suez and set them ablaze. The Prince Tadros church in the Fayoum province was also torched.

On August 3 in the town of Eastern Bani Ahmed, several Christian homes and cars were looted and set on fire, and at least 18 people were injured. The following morning, on Sunday, Islamists barricaded the entrance to the Coptic church, so the Copts could not attend Mass.

There have been so many threats and random acts of violence against the Christian community in Egypt since the ouster of Morsi that some churches have temporarily closed down. Scheduled functions have also been delayed or cancelled altogether. The Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, recently cancelled some public appearances at Saint Mark's Cathedral in Cairo because he was concerned that his presence might endanger the people.

President Obama took a few minutes out of his vacation at Martha's Vinyard to comment on the situation in Egypt. He said, "We deplore violence against civilians. We support the universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom, or that might makes right." He also acknowledged the attacks against the religious minority in Egypt and their rights and the necessity of transparency in government and democratic elections.

President Obama's comments sound good, but they also appear hypocritical. Obama speaks about the rights of the religious minority in Egypt, but under his leadership, discrimination against Christians has begun in the United States. He speaks about democratic elections in Egypt, but his Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have undermined the election process to the point that I am no longer confident in the election process in the U.S. 

Furthermore, President Obama speaks out against martial law and government violence against civilians, but his administration appears to be establishing a militarized police force in the United States. In a speech given at a rally during the 2008 presidential primary then Senator Obama made the following remarks: "We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We have got to have a civilian national security force that is just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded." What is Obama talking about?

One thing is certain, the relationship between law enforcement and private citizens has changed in recent years, and it has changed exponentially since Obama took office. The government has begun gathering massive amounts of innocuous personal information on the American people. The most widely reported effort, first disclosed by Edward Snowden, centers around the National Security Administration (NSA).

But the most ominous effort may involve the Special Operations Division at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. It involves 24 other agencies, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, IRS, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to Reuters, "A secretive [DEA] unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans."

It was my experience growing up that the policeman was our friend, but today it seems as if the police are being taught to view the public as hostiles, and to act aggressively toward the persons they have sworn to protect. An article by Bart Hinkle in the Times Dispatch tries to make sense of this phenomenon.

Hinkle offers two reasons: "One is the militarization of domestic law enforcement. In recent years, police departments have widely adopted military tactics, military equipment . . . and, sometimes, the mindset of military conquerors rather than domestic peacekeepers." The second reason offered is "the increasing degree to which civilians are subject to criminal prosecution for noncriminal acts." An article in the Wall Street Journal also attempts to explain this phenomenon, but it focuses on the history of SWAT teams. Both articles are worth reading.

In an article published in Business Week, which I highly recommend, we read about a disturbing amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. Former presidential candidate Ron Paul referred to the amendment as a "...bold and dangerous attempt to establish martial law in America." Amnisty International said it "could spell indefinite detention without a hearing, keep Guantanamo open, and hinder fair trials."

As if the above examples are not bizarre enough, NBC News reported on a confidential Justice Department memo that recently surfaced. The memo was about establishing a three-part test to legalize the use of drones in the targeted killing of American citizens.

When I watch the violence in Egypt, I cannot help but reflect on President Obama's remarks and their hypocrisy. President Obama speaks about high democratic ideals. But it all seems a lie in light of the changes occurring in the U.S. under his leadership. As I said previously, my beliefs are my own. You may see things differently. But as American Christians I am confident that we are united in at least two things.

First, we see the dignity and value of all persons, and we mourn the suffering and tragic loss of human life among our Christen brethren in Egypt and among the Brotherhood and all Morsi supporters. We pray that freedom and democracy will prevail for all Egyptians. I think it can, because they did not achieve it under Morsi. The second thing that I am confident unites us is a question: Could the violence that is happening in Egypt happen in the United States? 

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Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.

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