Even as he renews his outreach to Muslims, President Obama should seek to stem the growing tide of violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt by condemning last weekend’s attacks that left a dozen people dead and scores injured.
The attacks, about which Obama has been silent, also resulted in the burning of Coptic Orthodox churches and the destruction of Christian homes and businesses.
The president needs to say more to stem religious violence that creates opportunities for Islamic extremists who want to seize power in Egypt, our most important Arab ally.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Monday “strongly” condemned the violence, saying, “We stand behind the Coptic Christian community and their right to practice their faith in safety and security, free of persecution.”
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Obama is preparing to try to reengage Muslims with a speech, possibly next week, that will make the case that Muslims should “reject Islamic militancy in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and embrace a new era of relations with the U.S.”
Whether Obama views condemning Muslim violence against Christians as inopportune during the lead up to a renewed outreach to Muslims is unclear. But it’s worth noting that after Obama seemed inexplicably slow off the mark supporting the masses of Iranian protestors two years ago, there was widespread belief that he was concerned about compromising his outreach to the Iranian government.
Obama, though a Christian, seems to view his background, which includes a Muslim grandfather and several years living as a child in Muslim Indonesia, as giving him a special conduit into the Muslim world. But I doubt this type of personal outreach by one man changes the way people view the United States. And it shouldn’t interfere with other aspects of U.S. policy.
Obama commendably condemned a New Year’s Eve church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt that killed 21. But he has said little – actually nothing that I could find – about the religious killings and tensions since then, which included the deaths of 12 people Jan. 30 during a raid of Christian homes in Upper Egypt.
Obama also should speak about about the growing violence against Christians in Iraq, a country where we have some real sway. Four were killed and 171 injured in attacks over the weekend, prompting a reaction from Pope Benedict XVI.