Surveying Foreign Christian Residents in Egypt on the Interpretation of Political Events

St. John's Church Maadi

In Egypt’s current political struggle both sides are using the media to highlight their interpretation of events. State media is accused of turning the nation against the democratically elected president and his backers in the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, anti-Islamists target Western media in particular of having a bias toward the Brotherhood, against the military, and neglect the popular role in Morsi’s overthrow.

This survey was designed to test one overlapping segment within this struggle to establish a media narrative: foreign Christian residents.

Two assumptions were made of this community. First, they would be sympathetic to local Coptic opinion, which is strongly anti-Islamist. Second, they would be consumers of Western media and generally trust their journalistic professionalism.

Thirty-three individuals were surveyed, including both leaders and laity of the Catholic and Protestant foreign communities of Egypt. They were asked fifteen questions concerning recent political events beginning with the election of Mohamed Morsi as president. Each question was provided various options, reflecting the opinions and conspiracies of both camps.

Participants were allowed to choose more than one answer, if multiple interpretations were possible. They were asked only to choose according to their leanings and perceptions, not according to an elusive certainty or proof. Not all participants answered each question. In the results which follow, this explains why some percentages are provided with the qualifier ‘among those responding’.

Here are the questions as they were posed to participants:

1.      Did Mohamed Morsi legitimately win the presidential election?
2.      Were Egypt’s political problems caused by:
The desire of the Muslim Brotherhood to dominate
The deliberate non-cooperation of opposition parties
Normal competition after a revolution
3.      Were Egypt’s economic problems caused by:
Morsi’s mismanagement
State sabotage of gas and supplies
Continuing deterioration since the revolution
4.      Did Western powers support Morsi because:
He was the legitimately elected president
They desired the Muslim Brotherhood to replace Mubarak
They desired Islamist rule to weaken Egypt
They desired to discredit Islamism by letting it rule temporarily
5.      Did Morsi and the Brotherhood desire:
To turn Egypt into an Islamic state
To recreate the Mubarak regime
To shepherd in a civil democracy
6.      Was the Rebellion (tamarrud) Campaign:
A grass-roots movement expressing popular rejection
Aided by the military/state/businessmen
A conspiracy to end the Morsi presidency early
7.      Should the military have:
Intervened to depose Morsi as actually happened
Waited longer to see how things would develop
Not intervened at all
8.      Was the military action a coup d’etat?
9.      Was the removal of Morsi:
Mostly positive for Egypt
Mostly negative for Egypt
Both positive and negative in different ways
Necessary for Egypt
10. Should the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest site:
Have been dispersed
Have been relocated to another area
Have been left to protest indefinitely
11. Why did so many people die:
Because of deliberate excess force used by the security services
Because of poor training in crowd control
Because of pro-Morsi armed resistance
12. Were the widespread attacks on Christians and their churches:
Orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood
A spontaneous reaction by pro-Morsi supporters
The action of criminals exploiting the situation
A conspiracy by the state to tarnish the Islamists
13. Should the Muslim Brotherhood:
Be labeled as a terrorist organization, banned, and prosecuted
Be invited into national reconciliation
Be allowed to participate in the new democratic roadmap
Be forbidden from politics but allowed a social role
14. Does the military desire:
To rule directly (perhaps through a retired general)
To have influence and guardianship from behind the scenes
To maintain its economic privileges
To secure a true and open democratic transition
To destroy the Muslim Brotherhood
To prevent Islamist rule in general
15. Will the coming months/years in Egypt witness:
The development of an emerging democracy
The return of an autocratic state
New economic prosperity
Continued economic deterioration
A reversal back to Islamist rule (democratic or otherwise)
Low-level, but violent Islamic insurgency
War (either civil or regional)

 

Each possibility was given a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ choice to indicate the perception of the participant.

Here are the key findings:

Did Mohamed Morsi legitimately win the presidential election?

  • 52% said yes, 48% said no, roughly mirroring his percentage of winning

Egypt’s political problems were caused by:

  • 97% of all surveyed believed it was due to the MB’s desire to dominate
  • 45% also blamed deliberate non-cooperation on the part of the opposition
  • 36% attributed it to normal competition after a revolution

Egypt’s economic problems were caused by:

  • 82% blamed Morsi’s mismanagement
  • 42% also blamed a state policy of sabotage
  • 82% believed the poor economy following the revolution played a role

Western powers supported Morsi because:

  • 73% believed it was because they recognized him as the legitimately elected leader
  • 24% believed they desired the MB to continue Mubarak’s policies, with 9% support for other conspiracy theories

The political desire of the Muslim Brotherhood was:

  • 100% to turn Egypt into an Islamic state
  • 0% to turn Egypt into a civil democracy

The Tamarud Campaign was:

  • 82% believed it to be a grass roots campaign
  • But 67% believed it also to be sponsored by the army, state, or businessmen
  • Even so, respondents divided evenly if it was a conspiracy to remove Morsi from power, though only 30% of everyone surveyed indicated this

On military intervention to depose Morsi:

  • 70% agree with their decision to do so, as opposed to waiting longer or doing nothing
  • But 47% call it a coup anyway, while 53% believe it does not deserve that label
  • 93% of those responding believe this action was mostly positive for Egypt
  • 75% find that it was also somewhat negative
  • 85% believed it was necessary

On dispersing the pro-Morsi sit-in:

  • 79% agreed with the decision to do so
  • 88% believe that many people died due to the MB’s decision to resist with arms
  • 45% also believed the security forces deliberately used excess force
  • 48% believed poor training on the part of the security forces contributed

On the subsequent attacks on churches:

  • 76% believe these were orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood
  • 58% believe it was a spontaneous action by Morsi supporters
  • 48% also thought criminal elements were involved
  • 9% believe it was at least also a state conspiracy to make Islamists look bad

The Muslim Brotherhood should be:

  • 42% believed it should be labeled a terrorist organization and banned
  • Only 27% opposed this designation
  • Responders were roughly divided between inviting them to national reconciliation and allowing them political participation in the new elections, with slightly more positive response

The military desires:

  • Of those responding, 59% did not believe the military wants to rule directly
  • But 73% believe they want to maintain significant influence behind the scenes, and 52% to maintain their economic interests (0% opposition to this idea)
  • Of responders, 60% believe the military wants to conduct an open democratic transition, but 40% do not
  • 48% believe they want to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood, and 61% believe they want to prevent Islamist rule in general

The future holds:

  • 48% of all and 73% of responders are confident a real democracy will begin to emerge
  • At the same time, of those responding, half fear the return of another autocratic system
  • 55% believe the economy will continue to deteriorate, with only 27% predicting new prosperity
  • Only 3% predict a return to Islamist rule, but 79% predict a continued low-level Islamist insurgency
  • 9% predict war in Egypt’s near-term future

In quick summary, therefore, this sample of foreign Christian residents of Egypt indicates the community largely accepts the anti-Islamist narrative concerning the Muslim Brotherhood, while at the same time displaying significant, but not universal, distrust about the role and intentions of the military and state.

Determining whether their perceptions are correct or incorrect was not the goal of this survey. Rather, results indicate the following possibilities:

  • Foreign Christian residents are disproportionately influenced by local anti-Islamist sentiment or their own anti-Islamist inclinations
  • Western media has not exhibited sufficient pro-Islamist bias to sway their interpretation of events, but has contributed to a distrust of local actors
  • As residents, these foreign Christians are well placed to interpret local events.

Other interpretations are also possible, including combinations of these three.

Western media is understood to be professional in its coverage, though subject to the ability to find suitable local spokesmen to convey perspectives. Most actors in Egypt are polarized and subject to their own biases.

Egyptian state media, however professional, is understood to be the voice of the government, and independent media has been drawn into the local dispute. Pro-Islamist media has largely been shut down.

In wading between the two, one further assumption is necessary concerning foreign Christian residents: They will represent the truth as they perceive it. The value of this survey consists therein.

Advertisements

One thought on “Surveying Foreign Christian Residents in Egypt on the Interpretation of Political Events

  1. Really illuminating, Jayson. This answers some of the questions I wanted to ask you after hearing strange things while talking about politics to some Copts.

    Like

What's your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s