Sacred Bait and Celebrating Jihadis

With at least 50 more deaths in clashes following proclamation of a “Day of Rage” by besieged Islamist opponents of the Egyptian military regime, it’s clear “stability” isn’t returning to that country imminently, and you have to wonder when the “state of emergency” is going to turn into a cancellation of planned elections and a general crackdown on rebellious political parties and factions.

Watching the downward spiral, I was struck by two insights expressed by Religion Dispatch‘s Haroon Moghul earlier this week about the strategic intentions of the Egyptian military and the predictable fallout. First, he talked about the attacks on Copts, which are likely to produce sympathy for the regime among Christians elsewhere:

[T]he military has not, as journalist @SarahCarr pointed out, tried to protect Christian churches, which historically get attacked in periods of crisis. The military surely knew there would be reprisals against Christians who’ve been perceived to be in support of the coup (which disempowered a class of people long brutalized by the army.) Either the military didn’t care what happened to Copts, which based on the Maspero massacre is quite probable, or (maybe “and”) they wanted Copts to be attacked. Which is to say, they used them as bait.

More generally, and this aspect of the situation really needs to be understood by anyone concerned about the broader implications for the Middle East and for U.S. security interests, the military is decisively undermining the credibility of non-jihadi Islamists:

Be sure to consider, too, in America’s reaction to the violence, that every Islamist movement across the world is paying close attention, shaken in their assumptions and sense of security, while jihadi movements likely feel themselves to be vindicated. Ayman al-Zawahiri had condemned the Brotherhood for deciding to take part in elections, and you can bet he, like so many other cynical actors, greets this bloodshed with glee, for it advances his vile and immoral ends.

Some on the Right in this country, of course, deny there is any such thing as a non-Jihadi Islamist (even as some deny there are any non-Jihadi Muslims). They may soon be celebrating the violence in tandem with al-Zawahiri.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.