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Saturday, 6 July 2013

Confrontation on the Nile

Egypt seems to be very rapidly descending into an open war between the forces of ultra-conservative Islam and those who want a modern, more open society. The rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood and their increasingly inane accusations - one claim is that the interim President is actually a Jew - has drawn battle lines in the sand. As more than one commentator has noted, they simply fail to grasp the fact that democracy is far more than just holding elections. That is what the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to understand. To them, winning the election meant they could ignore all other voices and impose their agenda without restraint.

What is disturbing is the fact their leaders are now urging open warfare against Christians, the army and all those who oppose them. In Northern Sinai the army has declared a 'terrorist war' with insurgents armed by Libya and supported from Gaza's Hamas, and now the rest of the country seems to be being sucked in as well.

It is worrying that Morsi's supporters are already trumpeting that it is the Christians (about 10% of the Egyptian population) who are behind the ousting of their man in the palace. It is only a matter of time before they commit some atrocity in the name of Islam against the Coptic Christian community. Following the events of yesterday, it will be sooner rather than later as well. I was surprised to see that Al Jazeera, which I have long regarded as one of the saner news reporters in this troubled region, reporting the claim by one of the Muslim Brotherhood's spokesmen, that the interim President was a Jew on the basis that he had joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church, sought baptism from the Coptic Pope (which was apparently refused) and that this all made him a "Jew". As an example of the twisted and convoluted "logic" of these folk it would be hard to beat.

If western government's are wise, they will stay out of this conflict and allow the Egyptians to work it out for themselves. It will be difficult to do so, because of the impact a civil war will inevitably have on the Suez Canal and shipping, on the neighbouring states and the likelihood of a massive "insurgency" from Al Qaeda and all the other fundamentalist terrorist organisation operating in the Middle East. I suspect that this is going to be far more than just a struggle for political control, this is a struggle initiated by a significant section of the population of Egypt - representing large slices of similar people in all the other Muslim nations - for control of their lives and their freedom of choice. This is a war against the rule of the narrow interpretation of the Quran as the arbiter of every aspect of their lives - in much the same way the "Glorious Revolution" in Britain was a rebellion against the Theist domination of Parliament by the Puritans and Presbyters of Cromwell's twisted Christianity.

I suspect the Egyptian rebellion against the rule of the religious fundamentalists and their Mullahs is just the tip of a very large iceberg. I hope and pray the forces of moderation and inclusion can succeed, but I suspect there will be a lot of blood spilled before there is a settlement. In the meantime we can do little more than watch and pray for those caught between the factions.

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