Good governance is often cited—and correctly so—as key to stemming the growth of extremist sentiment and decreasing membership in extremist groups.
We know that governments embracing and enforcing the rule of law, human rights and democratic institutions fosters the strength of these values versus the apocalyptic blather of the Islamic State. We know that a society committed to equality and neighbor protecting neighbor can more successfully counter ISIS’ extermination campaigns against religious minorities.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has repeatedly vowed to protect Coptic Christians from terrorism, a promise that has worn thinner with mounting attacks. In December, ISIS claimed responsibility for the first suicide bombing at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Cairo, killing 29 people on a Sunday morning. Early this year, seven Copts were killed in a three-week stretch of chilling attacks in Sinai’s El-Arish, sending more than 400 Christians fleeing and seeking refuge along the Suez Canal.
Declaring it “obligatory” to target the country’s Christians, ISIS issued public threats and Sinai Christians reported pressure to pay a tax to the terror group or convert to Islam. Then, on Palm Sunday, suicide bombers claimed by ISIS struck during Mass at the gate of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, killing 17, and at the altar of St. George’s Church in Tanta, killing 27.
Many Copts have been willing to give el-Sisi a chance, especially because of the understandable fear of another Muslim Brotherhood leader like Mohamed Morsi along with appreciation that the current Egyptian president has dropped in on midnight Christmas Mass. But security rhetoric has little foundation if systemic problems aren’t rectified.