The Disaster at an Egyptian Church Is a Symptom of Systemic Persecution—and a Country in Decline

Although Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been subject to numerous violent attacks by Islamist groups in recent years, it remains unclear whether the recent fire at a church outside Cairo was the result of arson or merely an accident. Samuel Tadros argues, however, that the conflagration—which left 41 dead, including eighteen children—was in either case a consequence of discriminatory legislation, and of Egypt’s disfunction more broadly.

Since 1938, the Egyptian regime had controlled the building of churches in the country through a set of laws and regulations that after a long process required the personal approval of Egypt’s ruler not just for every new church building but even for renovations, building bathrooms, or even repainting of old churches. During Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, Copts were lucky if they received ten new permits per year for both new churches and renovations.

Faced with this grim reality, Copts resorted to the only way possible for them to have places of worship; they built churches illegally. . . . The buildings never had any safety measures and would never get any zoning approval from any regulatory authority, but they were the only option Copts had.

The reality is that the fire and deaths is the perfect illustration not just of the Coptic tragedy but of Egypt’s as a whole. One could start with the fact that firefighters arrived . . . an hour and a half late, despite their station being close by, and blame their slow response for the deaths, but in truth firefighters in Egypt have very little equipment or training to deal with such events.

The . . . collapse of Egypt’s fortunes since 1952 has been mirrored among its Copts. The country that once led the Middle East in modernization is today dependent on foreign handouts for its survival. The Cairo of literary giants and glamorous movies that were read and watched by every Arabic speaker in the Middle East hardly produces anything of cultural significance today. It is a country from which over a million Copts have migrated pursuing economic opportunities and religious freedom in the West. Or perhaps it is the reverse. A country that has been kicking out its minorities—from the Jews, Italians, and Greeks in the 1950s to the Copts today—is simply bound to decline and to meet repeated tragedy.

Read more at Providence

More about: Egypt, Middle East Christianity, North African Jewry


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus