Arming Jihadis: Syrian Christians in the Crosshairs
To understand why this is a bad idea, a short history lesson is in order. Syria, like its neighbors Lebanon and Iraq, was created by French and British diplomats from the remains of the Ottoman Empire. The borders were more influenced by how much diplomats had to drink than by demographic and religious facts on the ground.
Thus, countries like Syria and Lebanon became condominiums of sorts, containing many different religious and ethnic groups who had little in common and even less desire to share a nation.
Syria, for instance, is 74 percent Sunni, and 13 percent Shia – most of whom are Alawites, an esoteric sect whom most Sunnis don’t regard as real Muslims. That leaves 10 percent Christian, and 3 percent Druze, a group even more esoteric than the Alawites.
Then there’s ethnicity. Ten percent of Syrians are non-Arabs: Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians and Turks.
Since independence, Syria has been held together by a series of proverbial “strongmen,” nearly all of whom were the products of its military and who were secular in their orientation. The most important of these “strongmen” was Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president, Bashar al-Assad.
It was Assad who elevated the minority Alawites to their outsized position of influence. Not coincidentally, it was Assad who declared war on Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Given Syria’s history, it was almost inevitable that any large-scale uprising against al-Assad would eventually take the form of sectarian conflict, just as occurred in Lebanon and Iraq. The 13 percent cannot rule the 74 percent indefinitely without creating some resentment, especially when many of the 74 percent regard their rulers as heretics.
Equally inevitable was that Christians, as a relatively small and unarmed minority, would be targeted.
Given these facts, American intervention should be, if nothing else, guided by the maxim “First, do no harm.” Arming the side that massacres Christians doesn’t meet that standard.
Pretending that we can somehow keep Islamist ideology from playing an outsized role in the Syrian opposition is culpable fantasy. Since 1979, Islamism has been just about the only alternative to the rule of strongmen in the Middle East. Even when non-Islamists have taken power, such as in Tunisia and even Iraq, sectarian concerns have dominated the debate.
This debate leaves little, if any, room for the region’s Christians. Why anyone expects Syria to be different is beyond my comprehension.
Fortunately, there is still time to tell our leaders that we want no part in Syria’s sectarian conflict. We can urge them to be generous with humanitarian assistance but to refrain from making matters worse. Let’s pray that they get the message this time.
Please come to BreakPoint.org for more on this critically important topic.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children’s books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Anti-Government Protests Sweep Egypt
Activists criticize U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson, Obama for supporting Muslim Brotherhood
Anti-government demonstrators in Egypt expressed anger and contempt for the Obama administration as they took to the streets on Sunday to demand the removal of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi.
Millions of anti-Morsi activists were expected to gather today in historic Tahrir Square, the site of the same demonstrations that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak.
Violence is expected throughout the day as pro-democracy demonstrators clash with Muslim Brotherhood allies.
Seven people, including an American, have been killed so far in the clashes and hundreds more have been wounded, according to VOA.
The demonstrators maintain Morsi has become a power-hungry autocrat who is intent on making the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt’s permanent ruling party.
They also blame the Obama administration and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson for propping up Morsi and facilitating the Muslim Brotherhood’s power grab.
“We are very critical of the Obama administration because they have been supporting the Brotherhood like no one has ever supported them,” Shadi Al Ghazali Harb, a 24-year-old member of Egypt’s Revolutionary Youth Coalition, told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday afternoon during a telephone interview from Cairo.
The White House is “the main supporter of the Brotherhood,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the American support this president would have fallen months ago.”
Al Ghazali Harb specifically dubbed Patterson “the first enemy of the revolution,” claiming “she is hated even more than Morsi.”
Activists hung pictures of Patterson with a red “X” drawn across her face at Egypt’s Defense Ministry during smaller protests Friday afternoon.
“She’s done a lot to harm our relations with the United States,” Al Ghazali Harb said.
Pro-democracy activists such as Al Ghazali Harb said the June 30 demonstrations have even attracted the support of those who originally voted for Morsi in Egypt’s elections.
“We’re treating the Brotherhood as an occupation,” he said, noting that nearly 20 million Egyptians have signed onto an anti-Morsi petition. “Our whole country is at stake.”
“If you’re here in Egypt and sense the public opinion more are against the Brotherhood than has ever been,” he said, explaining that the current demonstrations are stronger than the ones that brought down Mubarak.
“ We’ve crossed the point of no return,” Al Ghazali Harb said. “This regime cannot stay in power.”
Western experts said the Obama administration’s efforts to normalize relations with Morsi’s government and provide it billion of dollars in military aid have irritated the pro-democracy activists.
“The administration believed that it could influence the Brotherhood to act democratically through friendly ‘engagement,’ and this meant not criticizing the Brotherhood too publicly or harshly when it began acting autocratically, including when Brotherhood cadres violently attacked opposition protesters in December,” Eric Trager, an Egypt expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Free Beacon.
“The opposition thus concluded that the administration was totally supportive of the Brotherhood’s behavior — which it wasn’t,” Trager said. “Ultimately, the administration failed to manage perceptions.”
Mohamad Fouad, a former Egyptian parliamentary candidate and political commentator, predicted that the Obama administration would stand by the Muslim Brotherhood during the protests.
“The direction that the administration will take will be the same direction” as in the past, Fouad told the Free Beacon. “They have no option but to support the legitimacy of the people who came in” through the elections.
“It’s a watch-and-wait situation with the administration,” Fouad said, predicting that team Obama will only comment if mass violence breaks out.
The policy is “sit and wait and hope things don’t turn ugly,” he said.
Isolated incidents of violence erupted at some of the protests leading up to June 30.
Even more bloodshed is expected today.
Leading religious leaders and clerics warned on Friday that a “civil war” is brewing, according to Reuters.
One protestor was shot to death while marching on Friday, while a Muslim Brotherhood official suffered the same fate during a separate incident, according to Reuters.
“This knack for violence is really starting to fill the space,” Fouad warned on Friday afternoon. “For this [effort] to gain momentum there must be something major and this usually results in bloodshed.”
“My strongest worry,” Fouad said, “is that toppling a president by virtue of bloodshed … is very messy, and putting an alternative in his place is something else. This next step is what no one is looking at.”
Fouad predicted that if Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood survives these protests they will likely “survive anything.”
The Muslim Brotherhood continues to defend itself as the legitimately elected representative of the Egyptian people even as it comes under fire from protesters and activists.
“We in the Muslim Brotherhood made an oath to the people that we wouldn’t fall into another military dictatorship,” Brotherhood media spokesman Gehad El-Haddad told the Free Beacon. “We can’t let that happen again.”
El-Haddad blamed the demonstrators and those still loyal to Mubarak for stoking violence on the streets.
“The anti-Morsi camp are providing a political endorsement to the violence,” he said. “Some have resorted to violence because they didn’t do well at the ballot box.”
The only legitimate way for Morsi to leave the presidency is for him to step down or be voted out by the Egyptian parliament, el-Haddad said.
“Both of these [steps] are from the democratic process but the anti-Morsi camp wants to bring down the regime by force,” he said.
El-Haddad also urged the international community and the Untied States to support Morsi.
“What happens in one country effects everyone around it,” he said, referring to the ongoing civil strife in Syria and other Middle Eastern nations.
“Regardless of the players in [any democracy] we have to uphold it in every nation around the earth,” he said. “We have to set the record straight that democracy is the only solution.”