In a recent post, I cited evidence suggesting that the new Egyptian government is degenerating into a military dictatorship at least as bad as the Mubarak regime that was overthrown earlier this year. Jeff Jacoby compiles some additional relevant points:
[T]he “spirit of Tahrir Square’’ has ushered in neither liberal democracy nor a rebirth of tolerance for Egypt’s ancient but beleaguered Christian minority.
One of the country’s leading liberal reformers, Ayman Nour, said Monday that with the latest bloodshed, the military has lost whatever goodwill it accrued last spring. The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces almost surely doesn’t care. In the eight months since Mubarak’s ouster, the military has tried and convicted some 12,000 Egyptian civilians in military tribunals, often after using torture to extract confessions. The country’s hated emergency laws, which allow suspects to be detained without charge, not only remain in force, but have been expanded to cover offenses as vague as “spreading rumors’’ or “blocking traffic.’’ And just as Mubarak did, the generals insist that government repression is all that stands between Egypt and social chaos.
As for Egypt’s Coptic Christians, their plight has gone from bad to worse. Post-Mubarak Egypt has seen “an explosion of violence against the Coptic Christian community,’’ the international news channel France 24 was reporting as far back as May. “Anger has flared up into deadly riots, and houses, shops, and churches have been set ablaze.’’
With Islamist hardliners growing increasingly influential, hate crimes against Christians routinely go unpunished. Copts, who represent a tenth of Egypt’s population, are subjected to appalling humiliations.
As Jacoby notes, the violence against the Coptic minority appears to enjoy substantial public support. That reality reinforces my longstanding concern that prospects for liberal democracy in Egypt are undercut by the intolerant nature of majority opinion in that country, as well as the superior ruthlessness and organization of antiliberal forces.