By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Libety Monitoring
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- The present crisis in Egypt results from the convergence of several strategic trends: in particular, the arrival of 'democracy' after decades of Saudi-sponsored Islamic radicalization in a state that is hurtling towards collapse.
Egypt's population has exploded, doubling in one generation to more than 92 million; as such, the state is straining under weight of a massive youth-bulge. On top of this, Egypt has high unemployment (over 40 percent), high illiteracy (45 percent), high level of familial marriages (35 percent), as well as critical food and fuel shortages and looming bankruptcy.
As a desert nation with little arable land, Egypt must import most of its food. While bread is a staple of the Egyptian diet, 70 percent of wheat must be imported, as must fuel. And while the government has long subsidized the cost of bread and fuel, it can no longer afford to do so, for Egypt is running out of money.
Saudi money keeps Egypt afloat and the Saudis have long wanted their nemesis, the Muslim Brotherhood -- which advocates republicanism and rapprochement with Iran -- not just out of power, but crushed. In this, the interests of the Saudis, the Egyptian military and the Salafis converged. [Salafis prefer the Saudi model, where Muslim bureaucrats / administrators run the state and bear the burden of governance while funding Muslims to get on with business of advancing Islam.]
Furthermore, despite Egypt being the most populous Sunni Arab state and a major centre of Sunni Islamic learning, Egypt is not as strategically significant as most Egyptians would like to think. In reality, Egypt's strategic significance begins and ends with its ability to secure the Suez Canal and the Sinai-Israeli border. The military know this; it gives them confidence to act as a law unto themselves. Had Morsi appreciated this he would not have antagonized the military.
Though the military deposed Morsi, it does not want to govern Egypt. The military doesn't want the burden of governance; it doesn't want to take the blame when Egypt's systemic economic and demographic problems can't be solved quickly and painlessly to the peoples' satisfaction. A puppet will do nicely for that! What the military wants is to control power in pursuit of its own interests. And because the military is the most strategically important institution in Egypt, it can act as a law unto itself.
While Christians are understandably delighted to see the Muslim Brotherhood out of power and repressed, they need to understand that the military is acting with Christians or secularism or religious freedom in mind. The military's interim constitution appeases the Salafis by retaining all the Islamist elements that have caused Copts and other Egyptian Christians so much grief.
The truth is, the military cares nothing for Christians and with money coming from Saudi Arabia it need have no interest in protecting Christians, only in protecting itself and crushing the MB. What's more, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have promised to compensate Egypt for any losses they suffer on account of sanctions; as such, the military can crackdown as hard as it likes on whoever it likes.
Remember, this is the same military that drove tanks into Copts at Maspero in October 2011, killing 28, when the Copts led protests against the escalation in sectarian violence under the SCAF in the wake of the fall of Mubarak. This is the same military that fired live ammunition at Coptic monks and bulldozed the security walls of Coptic monasteries in the wake of the fall of Mubarak, removing their security so Arab raiders and jihadis could attack and plunder them. Remember, General al-Sisi is a Morsi-appointed, pro-Salafi Islamist, the same al-Sisi who gave approval to the practise of soldiers performing "virginity tests" on young women arrested in Tahrir Square.
The military w ill kill Christians in a flash if it believes it is in its interest to do so. It will also ignore or exploit persecution of Christians rather than prevent it, if it believes it is in its interests to do so.
The situation in Egypt is incredibly serious.