Arab Spring, Winter for Christians?


In a recent piece, I suggested that the fall of a number of Middle Eastern dictators — most notably Hosni Mubarak of Egypt — actively pushed by the Obama administration, and collectively dubbed “the Arab Spring,” has shown a remarkably ugly side.

One of the ugly features I noted was the removal, in the case of Egypt, of a regime that had been actively fighting the practice of female genital mutilation (the removal of most or all of the clitoris from adolescent girls). Some of our readers were offended by my piece, either thinking, somehow, that I advocated going to war with Egypt, or else shocked that I would dare to criticize the practice at all.

Of course, I was merely commenting on a dubious Obama foreign policy initiative — replacing a disreputable US ally by an unknown force, and hoping for the best.

Well, the situation has developed a more ominous aspect. The Arab Spring is turning out to be not only a winter for women, but also a winter for Christians. Several recent stories bring this to light.

Let’s begin by reviewing the results of the first round of elections for Egypt’s parliament. In a turn eerily reminiscent of what happened in Iran decades ago — when Jimmy Carter, a president as feckless as Obama, withdrew support from the Shah so that “democratic forces” could take over — the resulting elections were victories for hardcore Islamist parties. Once the Islamists consolidated their power, they created a state far more repressive and authoritarian than the Shah could ever have imagined. The consequence was the mass murder of political dissidents, people deemed “deviant,” and worshipers of religions other than Islam (Baha’is, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians). It also created a state quite supportive of terrorism abroad.

Once the Islamists consolidated their power, they created a state far more repressive and authoritarian than the Shah could ever have imagined.

In the recent Egyptian elections, Islamists won two-thirds of the seats. And by “Islamist” I am not exaggerating. The Muslim Brotherhood, an extreme organization, from which sprang Al Qaeda, won about 39% of the seats. But the even more extreme Salafists won an astounding 29%. Together, the two liberal parties (the Wafd Party and the Egyptian Bloc) won a pathetic 17% total of the vote.

So much for the idea that waves of freedom and modernization are sweeping over the largest Arab country.

This should have come as no surprise, since earlier elections in Tunisia and Morocco saw Islamist parties win by large majorities. The results for Christians are ominous. The largest group of Christians in the Arab world — the Coptic Orthodox Church — resides in Egypt, where it constitutes 10% of the population. Mubarak, dictatorial bastard that he was, provided protection for them. He is now gone, and the Copts are at the mercy of the Islamists. Mercy, indeed!

Already reports have come in of the killing of Copts, such as the slaughter of 25 or more during a protest they staged in downtown Cairo recently.

The Copts are now deeply demoralized. If they do as the Muslim Brotherhood does — load supporters on buses and drive them to the polls to vote en masse (Chicago-style voting — maybe that’s why Obama supports the Brotherhood!) — they risk civil war. But if they do nothing, the Islamists will target them and slowly turn up the heat. As an American-based Coptic Christian put it, “They [the Copts] are a cowed population in terms of politics. They are afraid and marginalized.”

This is such a familiar pattern. The Islamists kill off or expel the Jews (if any are left by the time the Islamists take over); then they target other religious minorities (Bahai’s, Zoroastrians, pagans, or whatever). The pressure then mounts on Christians.

This is no less than religious ethnic cleansing.

The Egyptian government has recently taken the necessary first step in setting up the apparatus to carry out religious cleansing. It has raided 17 nongovernmental agencies, including three American agencies that are supposed to monitor the “progress” of “democracy” in Egypt — specifically, Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute. One witness to the raid on the Future House for Legal Studies said that a policeman taking part in it held up an Arabic-Hebrew dictionary he found and said it proved the organization was engaged in sabotage against Egypt.

One predictable result of the Egyptian war against minorities is happening already: an exodus of Copts to America. One story reports that thousands of Copts have come to America since Obama’s chosen “democracy” swept Egypt. The emigrants report growing levels of overt persecution and violence. One recent émigré, Kirola Andraws, fled to America on a tourist visa and applied for asylum. He was an engineer, but now works as a cook and a deliveryman in Queens. His story, unfortunately, is likely to prove typical.

The report also notes that already this year a number of Coptic churches have been burned down. Islamist-spawned mobs have rampaged against Coptic homes, stores, and church schools. Think of it as the Muslim Brotherhood’s take on Kristallnacht. Yet the US Commission on International Religious Freedom was recently rebuffed by the Obama administration’s State Department when it asked State to put Egypt on its list of countries that violate religious freedom.

This is only the beginning. Right now, the Muslim Brotherhood only controls the legislature, and it is still held in check by the military. But a very recent article reports that the Brotherhood is planning to run some of its chosen “leaders” for the presidency — something it had earlier promised to do. Should the Islamists take over the executive branch, the military’s influence will rapidly wane, and Egypt will likely go the way of Iran.

The report observes that the military and the Muslim Brotherhood have been in a struggle for 60 years, with the military coming out on top, until now. The military controls about a third of the manufacturing industry in Egypt, for example, so is not likely to surrender power easily. The Egyptian liberals, now seen to be a small minority, seem to be rethinking whether the military is at this point the main threat to them.

Think of it as the Muslim Brotherhood’s take on Kristallnacht.

Whether the military will back down and let the Brotherhood take control is unclear. If the military reacts by dismissing the legislature, Egypt could be in for a protracted and internecine civil war. In either case, however, Christians can expect to be demonized and targeted by the Islamists.

Christians are also being targeted by Islamists in other countries besides Egypt. Nigeria — to cite one such place — recently experienced a wave of terror attacks against Christians, with at least 39 killed. Most of them died when Muslim radicals blew up St. Theresa Catholic Church last Christmas. Shortly thereafter a Protestant church was bombed as well.

Christians in Iraq and Syria have been fleeing, as violence directed at them increases. Since the US toppled Saddam in 2003, 54 Christian churches have been bombed in Iraq, and over 8,900 Christians have been murdered. The number of Christians remaining has of course dwindled, down to 500,000 from 800,000 to perhaps 1.4 million in 2003. With American troops now gone, one suspects that this trend will dramatically increase. In an interesting twist, Christians are fleeing other areas of Iraq and moving to the Kurdish-controlled region, because the Kurds have offered them protection. Yet there are Islamists even among the generally pro-Western Kurds, and Christians have faced some attacks in their territory.

There is in the end the law of unintended consequences, in foreign policy no less than in domestic policy. Progressive liberals — and even conservatives — should start paying attention to it. It is all well and good to desire an “outbreak of freedom,” but one ought to be careful about what one desires, as he might just get it. Many on the Left and the Right welcomed the “Arab Spring,” but it may not turn out to be an explosion of tolerant democracy, as it first seemed to them.

Lest any reader mistake this story for some kind of call to arms, let me make my view explicit: I do not advocate going to war against anyone. But should the Muslim Brotherhood complete its takeover of Egypt and continue its vicious religious persecution of the Copts, our high level of foreign aid to Egypt — $1.3 billion in military aid alone — should certainly be stopped. And this should be made clear to the Egyptians in advance.

Share This



The so-called 'Arab Spring' (2011-2012) - More Islamization = more intolerance for the 'other.' Ethnic and religious gaps widen.

The Intolerant Arab Spring,[1] has been dubbed the Christian Winter.[2][3][4] The Arab Spring is turning out to be not only a winter for women, but also a winter for Christians.[5]

As scholar wrote, in an article titled 'Minorities and the Arab Spring: The great divide,' that "the two main tenets of these constitutions - Arab unity as a goal and Islam as state religion, did not leave much hope to non-Arab and non-Muslim minorities."[6] Even a pro-Arabist liberal writer wrote that the "Arab Spring has washed the region's appalling racism out of the news." Focusing on widespread racism in the Arab world, including blacks, Asian "maids" who are in fact slaves.[7]

Venomous Anti-Semitism, only grew with Islamists taking hold in the "Arab Spring." For example, a Muslim Brotherhood rally called to 'kill all Jews;'[8] there was a shocking massive rally under a banner "one nation under a new Hololcaust" in on a sports field in Cairo;[9] a Yemenite Jewish leader was stabbed to death.[10]

Rights group decried: "Minorities at risk following Arab Spring." Such as blacks, Christians in Syrian and in Egypt, al-Akhdam indigenous protesting against racism in Yemen, and the gaps between Sunni and Shia, Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs.[11]



^ "Intolerant Arab Spring," Newsweek, Oct 16, 2011.
^ "'Arab Spring,' Christian Winter," IBD Editorials, May 20, 2011.
^ "Copts fear Arab Spring is a Christian winter." Sydney Morning Herald, Oct 12, 2011.
^ "Egypt: Arab Spring....Christian Winter?" France 24, Oct. 14, 2011.
^ "Arab Spring, Winter for Christians?" Liberty Unbound, April 5, 2012.
^ Zvi Mazel: "Minorities and the Arab Spring: The great divide." JPost, December 24, 2011.
^ The Independent, May 7, 2012.
^ "Muslim Brotherhood Calls For Day To 'Kill Jews,' Israeli Reporter Says." JTA, November 28, 2011.
^ 'Antisemitic Banner Raised at Egyptian Soccer Game: "One Nation for New Holocaust."' The Internet, April 6, 2011. Uploaded by MEMRITV Jan 6, 2012. - One Nation Under a New Holocaust.
^ "Jewish leader's murder sparks fear in Yemenite community." Ynetnews, May 23, 2012.,7340,L-4233047,00.html
^ "Minorities at risk following Arab Spring - rights group." Reuters AlertNet, May 24, 2012.

Rodney Choate

Can anyone tell me of an organized religion that champions INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS? (all individual rights)

I don't think you can.


I wouldn't exactly say that the Obama adminstration "actively pushed ..[the fall of Middle Eastern dictators].

It's more accurate to say they saw the writting on the wall, and tried to "manage" it the way any US administration over the last 80 years would. Get on the side of the winner. Say they were behind the winner the whole time, and welcome them as our new allies in the fight against evil empires who do not tow the US foreign policy line.


A tempest in a teapot.

Mr. Jason greatly exaggerates the entire situation.

Conflating Iran's Islamic "Republic" to Egypt 30 years later is quite a leap of faith (so to speak). There are so many differences that there have been many books written about such differences.

There is a great deal of violence in Egypt. And there has been for many years, even under Mubarak. A lot of it has nothing to do with religion. And, for that matter, there is far less violence in Egypt than there is in the US. Everyone knows there are certain areas of the US that you do not show your face. Very violent areas.

I wonder if the author has ever been to Egypt? Has ever been to the Middle East? His naivete of the political circumstances of the ME suggests he has little contact with Egyptians, or Iranians, or Iraqis, etc. Mr. Jason's observations are very simplistic. Absolutely no mention of the military leaders that are still in power, and are now "vetting" presidential candidates. Etc.,etc.,etc.

In Europe, there is quite the anti muslim immigration movement. Witness the current French elections. Crediting fringe idiots with much more influence than they deserve is harmful. And calling everyone extremists is very harmful.

As a side note, any threat to US security comes from it's brave and noble allies, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Yet, the author writes no articles about the dangerous Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The KSA is much more oppressive to Christians, and other groups. More so than the IRI. Much more so than Iraq......Yet absolutely no mention....I wonder why?


It's hard luck on non-Muslim religious minorities that patriotism, in Muslim-majority countries, often includes and subsumes being Muslim. Our government's inept interference in their affairs doesn't help any, and merely leaves Christians and other non-Muslims identified in the popular mind as a fifth column.

Something similar was once the case in Europe. For centuries, even very patriotic British non-Protestants were denied many privileges; non-Catholics had and may still have a hard time in places like Ireland and Poland.

Patriotism, as John Derbyshire has commented in a post-9/11 column, is very different in those countries from what it is here.

Jim Williams

Disastrous failures stretch back for decades, and yet the statists still insist that the U.S. government has the power and the competence to intervene successfully in the affairs of other nations.

This meddling is both immoral and doomed to failure. Yet the statists stubbornly keep at it. Why?

Russell Hasan

Dear Mr. Jason,
Although I am religiously an atheist, I do consider it my obligation to reply on behalf of Muslims to your essay. While I respect what you said in the final paragraph about not advocating war and merely calling for an end to foreign aid to Egypt (something which I agree with, and not just Egypt but also Israel and Africa), I am deeply troubled by this essay. I don't think it appropriate for the USA to engage in foreign military interventions, but the Arab Spring was largely an autonomous movement of oppressed peoples revolting against dictators and winning their freedom. The Egyptians don't have the right to mutilate girls or murder Copts, but they do have every right to vote to elect their own leaders. I feel that a strong undercurrent in your essay is anti-Muslim pro-Christian intolerance, as if Muslims are somehow not fit to control their own governments yet somehow Christian Americans are. Such sentiment might resonate with American conservative Christians, but is more out of place among libertarians, including Christian libertarians. I think that democracy is generally a good thing, especially from a libertarian pro-freedom point of view. And I dare to say that there are probably a million Christian social conservatives in America would would murder Muslims (and Jews, and Catholics) and castrate gays if they could get away with it, yet I wonder whether you would write a similar essay if that actually happened. I say this with all due respect as I have read many of your other articles which I have enjoyed, and I am sure this flaw of subtle bigotry was not deliberate or intentional on your part.

Gary Jason

Dear Mr. Hasan:

First, let me repay your compliment by saying that I enjoy your contributions to this journal.

Second, just for the record, I am religiously agnostic. As a man of no faith, I have no animus towards Muslims generally, nor to Christians, Jews, Mormons, or anyone else. Moreover, while I am not religious, I respect religions--they can and usually do paly a crucial role in instilling moral virtue in the young. That is no doubt why religion is a cultural universal--present in every culture ever known.

Third, I certainly welcome Egyptians (and everyone else) exercising democracy. But clearly democracy to be worthy of respect must involve respect for people's rights, especially minority rights. Absent that, you only have the tyranny of the majority.

Specifically, as the so-called democracy in Iran has shown, extremists can hijack a revolution and use religion as an ideological basis for the repression and killing of out-group people. Ask any Bahai about that.

Finally, I seriously doubt that there are a million Christians of any stripe--including social conservatives--who are inclined to murder Muslims or castrate gays. No Mosques here have been bombed, by Christians (or anyone else)--even after several attacks on American sites by extremist Muslims (both domestic as well as foreign)--nor have any gays been castrated by Christians (or anyone else). But, Mr. Hasan, Coptic churches HAVE been bombed in Egypt.

If there ever IS a day when American Mosques are bombed by Christians (or anyone else), I would most assuredly condemn the attacks in these pages and anywhere else I could.

Finally, I am not advocating cutting off aid to Egypt unless the Brotherhood takes over and institutes more religious cleansing. That seems to me unfortunately to be quite a distinct possiblity.

Russell Hasan

Well, your reply has really eliminated all of the concerns that I had with your essay--although in my defense I think the details of your position are clearer in your reply to my comment than they were in the original essay. This is minor, but I also think you probably underestimate the number of Americans who hate Muslims and gays.

Gary Jason

Let me clarify further by addressing your point on the prevalence of hatred.

Antipathy, or dislike, comes in degrees. Any person of one religion is apt to not like any other religion--after all, to be in one faith is perforce to disavow all other faiths. That is especially true in a rare country like America, which since its founding has forbidden the establishment of a state religion, so allows people to freely convert from one religion to another, and has allowed people of every religion on earth to immigrate here. There is accordingly a constant competition among religions here, and some people get concerned about it.

This is especially true with religions that actively seek to gain converts...I suspect a big part of the reason that many evangelical Christians dislike Mormonism--and hence Mormons--is that evangelical Christians seek converts, and so do Mormons. When you sell Pepsi, and the other guy sells Coke, why, a certain amount of tension is to be expected. Jews and Catholics generally have less of a problem with Mormons, because they don't actively seek converts, though they DO often resent facing Mormon missionaries at their doors (as they do facing evangelical Christians, such as Jehovah's Witnesses).

Against this backdrop, how do I view where Muslims fit in to this picture? Well, they are growing in numbers in America, through higher birth rates and immigration. In this regard, they are precisely in the same boat as Catholics. (Sidebar: this is why many Protestants worry about legalizing illegal immigrants: the vast majority of illegal immigrants are Latino, and if they were legalized tomorrow, this country would shift instantly from being a Protestant nation--which it has historically been--to being majority Catholic). In a country that assimilated Catholics, every variety of Protestant, Deists, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and so on, while people of one religion generally reject all other religions, really, we have accepted them, and are accepting Muslims as well. Historically, we Americans have understood the difference between accepting a religion and converting to it.

However, there is a difference. America has not in recent times been subject to attacks by groups of people acting in the name of any other particular faith, as they have been by groups of extremist Muslims (called by common usage "Islamists"). No groups of Jews have shot down innocent people, screaming "Moses is Great!" Nor have groups of Christians blown up temples, screaming "Christ is Great!" Nor have Mormons, nor have Budddhists, nor have Deists, nor have Hindus, nor have atheists. So, yes, because of repeated attacks by Islamists on American soil, there is some specific distrust by some Americans of Muslims generally, despite repeated assurances by both Bush and Obama that in fighting Islamist terrorists, we do not want to target Muslims generally, or equate them with terrorists.

But, Mr. Hasan, please give credit where credit is due. In America, while some people are nervous about Muslims generally because of the vile actions of a few extremist ones, nobody has attacked Muslim mosques or called for banning immigration by Muslims. There is a difference between wrongly suspecting a group because of the actions of some atypical members of it, and hating them in the sense of wishing to expell or kill them.

In short, I think you are over-estimating the degree of animosity. Misplaced suspicion, however regretable, is far from murderous hatred.

© Copyright 2020 Liberty Foundation. All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed in Liberty are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Liberty Foundation.

All letters to the editor are assumed to be for publication unless otherwise indicated.