SAT-7 CEO Commentary
Understanding the present situation in Egypt
- Written by Dr. Terence Ascott, CEO and Founder, SAT-7 International
UPDATED Nicosia, August 26, 2013
Many of us involved in Christian ministry in Egypt are appalled at the misunderstandings about the situation in Egypt being propagated by even normally balanced international media, and the way it has, in general, portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as the victims of injustice.
So, on behalf of myself, Ramez Atallah (General Secretary for The Bible Society of Egypt), Pastor Fayez Ishaq (part of the leadership team at Kasr El Dubarrah Evangelical Church), other ministry leaders in Egypt and the leadership of Middle East Concern, please allow me to paint a bigger picture of what has been going on the past year or so:
Yes, former President Morsi was elected “democratically” in June 2012, but only by the slimmest of majorities, and only 13 million people (out of a total population of 83 million) voted for Morsi at all. And yet he took this as a mandate to do as he wanted, with a winner-takes-all attitude. His new government was not inclusive and he quickly appointed former Muslim Brotherhood leaders (some with previous convictions for violence or incitement to violence) to serve as regional Governors or government Ministers. In November 2012, he illegally gave himself new sweeping powers to act without censure, and rushed through a new pro-Islamic constitution despite the protests and boycotts from liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians, and then he refused to call for new elections - as had previously been agreed to do after a new constitution had been adopted.
Hundreds of NGO's (especially those advocating civil liberties or human rights) were harassed and many, even Western employees arrested. The media also came under increasing pressure and the editors of state-owned newspapers were replaced. And, for the first time in Egyptian history, women reading the news on state TV were seen wearing conservative Islamic-style headscarves.
And, of course, the economy was very poorly managed by the new Ministers, whose only apparent qualification for office was the fact that they were Muslim Brotherhood loyalists. By the end of 2012 the country’s infrastructure had begun to fall apart, electricity and fuel supplies became unreliable, prices for basic commodities soared and Egypt struggled to get much needed new international financing.
By June 30, 2013, on the first anniversary of Morsi’s election to office, the Egyptian people had had enough! Perhaps as many as 32 million people came out to demonstrate against Morsi continuing in office – this included many who had voted for Morsi a year before and, even if this figure cannot be independently verified, it is clear that the number of people on the street was far more than the number of people who had ever voted for Morsi. But, unlike the President of any normal democracy, he refused to go, or even seek a renewed mandate through new elections - confirming to many that the Muslim Brotherhood were just using the new democracy in Egypt to establish a theocracy. Some Muslim politicians even talked openly about their attitude to democracy, saying, "It is like a bus - you take to where you want to go, and then get off."
In a situation like this, the last line of defence for democracy is the army. They alone have the power to re-start the democratic process and, by (very) popular demand and with due notice, the army did step in and remove the former President – to the absolute delight and relief of MOST Egyptians!
In the 6 weeks following Morsi's removal, the Muslim Brotherhood occupied a number of public spaces, to demonstrate for the reinstatement of the former President (currently being held by the army and facing charges related to abuse of power, including substantial material and intelligence support to Hamas). Unlike the peaceful occupation of Tahrir Square by demonstrators in January 2011, and again at the end of June 2013, these Muslim Brotherhood occupations were dominated by calls for violence against the army, the police, the liberals and, specifically, the Coptic Christians in Egypt – all resulting in the violence witnessed on August 14th, when police stations, hospitals, private and public property were destroyed. Many Christian churches (at least 80 so far), homes and businesses were also attacked, as well as a monastery, three religious societies, three key bookshops belonging to the Bible Society in Egypt, three Christian schools and an orphanage.
Scenes from this week's civil unrest: