Over the years, I've returned many times to Egypt, the land of my birth. That land has changed dramatically since my boyhood. In recent years, this formerly secular and religiously tolerant nation has become a hotbed of Islamic extremism. Though there has been political repression in Egypt throughout my lifetime, the one benefit of that repression is that Muslims, Jews, and Coptic Christians lived together in relative peace and security.
Today, however, the peace and security of Egypt have been shaken. Radical, fundamentalist Islam is grabbing for power in Egypt. The radicalization of Egypt was vividly illustrated for me during my most recent visit to the Mediterranean resort city of Alexandria. There, men and women still go to the beach as they did when I was a boy—but now they do so in full Islamic garb.
For decades, anti-Western, anti-Israel, anti-Christian militancy has been on the rise across the Muslim world. Radical Islam is being inculcated in young Arab minds through Wahhabi madrasas. We are seeing the fruit of radical Islamic education in Egypt in the growing persecution of religious minorities. The Wall Street Journal (May 18, 2010) reported on "waves of mob assaults" by Muslims against Coptic Christians in Egypt. In Marsa Matrouh, an estimated 3,000 Muslims rampaged against Christians, destroying Christian homes and shops. Some 400 Christians took refuge behind barricades in their church. The Christians called for police protection, but the police did not arrive until after the violence ended—and they refused to prosecute the Muslims.
The fall of the Mubarak government in February 2011 has given radical Islamists an opening to seize power and transform Egypt into an Iran-style theocratic state. In March 2011, Egypt held an historic referendum on constitutional amendments designed to move the nation from military rule to a permanent government. The amendments were designed to give political power to well-organized political movements—and the amendments were strongly supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. Opposition to the amendments came from the Christian Coptic community, secular political leaders, and the student organizers who had sparked the original uprising in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood won by a huge margin—77 percent!