Religious Freedom in Egypt? Ask the Sphinx
If you follow the annual reports of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), you will read a sad catalog of persecution and discrimination against Christians, Jews, and members of other religions around the world.
It goes almost without saying that persecution in nightmare places like North Korea is horrendous. Although the media too often treats North Korea like a clown show-especially when highlighting the visits of unthinking Americans like Dennis Rodman-the brutal realities are no joke. In North Korea, it is estimated, that between 100,000 and 200,000 Christians are imprisoned by a regime that still lauds the Communist mass-murderer Josef Stalin. In North Korea, you can be shot in the head for owning a Bible.
But North Korea is at least recognized as a rogue state, an enemy of human rights, and a threat to world peace. The USCIRF report for 2012 has documented troubling developments in Egypt. There was much excitement in the Western media over the toppling first of the dictator in Tunisia, followed by the Feb. 2011 ouster of longtime Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. Journalists hailed these events as a new "Arab Spring."
Where did that expression come from? Ironically, many journalists harkened back to the "Prague Spring" of 1968. In that year, liberalizing Czech party leaders sought to give their people "Communism, but with a human face."
They managed instead to get their country overrun by Soviet tanks. In the Kremlin, Czech party leader Anton Dubcek was chained to a wall. When he messed in his pants, a drunken Soviet party boss Leonid Brezhnev came in to jeer at him. Communism maintained with brute force its inhuman face.
Is the Arab Spring destined to follow the same bloody path? Indications so far are not good. That is why the latest move by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) makes so much sense. Sen. Rubio wants to condition U.S. aid to Egypt on measurable indicators of government action there to protect religious freedom.
Sen. Rubio is offering an amendment to the 2013 spending bill that would cut U.S. aid to Egypt now ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The amendment demands concrete demonstration that the MB will respect religious freedom and property rights of its own people.
The Rubio Amendment, if adopted, would send a strong message to Mohamed Morsi, the MB's front man in Cairo, that the United States taxpayers will no longer underwrite persecution of Coptic Christians, Evangelicals, Jews, and other minorities in the Arab world's largest country.
Sen. Rubio told the Washington Times:
"Our foreign aid is not charity. Our foreign aid is used to advance our foreign policy interests. We have a right to be concerned."
We have a lot of educating to do, and not only in Cairo. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice intervened with Afghan ruler Hamid Karzai in 2006 in an effort to prevent the U.S.-backed government in Kabul from killing Christian convert Abdul Rahman, she announced success when Karzai let the threatened man "escape" to Italy in the dead of night. Ms. Rice said Afghanistan is a young democracy and we look forward to the day when all Afghans enjoy the full range of religious and civil rights.
With all due respect, that's the wrong answer, Madam Secretary. For a man to have to flee for his life is not a success. And to call any country that forces him to flee a young democracy is an error. Afghanistan was not a democracy then. It is not a democracy now. It is unlikely that Afghanistan will resemble anything like a democracy when U.S. forces leave in 2014.
When the U.S. demands respect for human rights, including religious freedom, we are not making any unreasonable demands. Egypt is not moving ahead toward greater democracy if 84% of Egyptians still believe-as they have told the Pew poll-that anyone who leaves Islam should be killed.
It will not matter if 99% of Egyptians, or Afghans or Iraqis, vote if by their votes they install a murderous regime. Does anyone think that the Nazi regime was legitimate because Germans voted to affirm Hitler's assumption of dictatorial powers in 1934? You cannot vote on who gets shot. You cannot use the voting machines of democracy to kill democracy.
We should shed no tears for Hosni Mubarak. His iron-fisted rule of thirty-one years was a purchased peace. He agreed not to make war on Israel, but his regime circulated throughout the Arabic-speaking world a multi-part TV drama series based on the long-discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
That libelous attack on the Jews was first concocted by the Okhrana, the Tsar's infamous secret police. And Mubarak used it the same way the tsars used it: Keep the wolves at bay by throwing the Jews off the sled.
Still, as bad as Mubarak was, Morsi is on course to be worse. That's why the Rubio Amendment should be adopted. It's why religious freedom should be at the heart of American foreign and domestic policy.
Egypt and the other countries in the Mideast will never be stable, much less democratic, if they murder their neighbors who worship differently. U.S. tax dollars should not buy the Egypt's MB and its military the armored personnel carriers they use to run over Christians.
Editor's Note: Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison co-authored this column and are senior Fellows at the Family Research Council in Washington. D.C.