A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Morsi to Have Woman, Christian VPs: Would Rafiq Habib be the Christian?

Egyptian President-Elect Morsi's advisors yesterday promised that he will appoint a woman Vice President and a Christian Vice President.

The aides have said that they will have real powers and will not be mere tokens. Morsi also met with the "Acting Pope" (locum tenens) of the Coptic Church (photo), Metropolitan Bakhomius, in an attempt to reassure Egypt's Coptic community.

A lot will depend on who the woman and Christian Vice Presidents may be. The Freedom and Justice Party, for example, even has a Christian Second Vice President, Rafiq Habib, but while he may be a fine person, I have to wonder if he would be the right candidate. (Interviews with him here and here.)

Although as a Christian, Habib cannot join the Muslim Brotherhood as such, he formerly joined the Wasat Party and more recently the FJP. Both of those credentials would no doubt impugn his credibility with many Christians, but there is another issue which is not immediately obvious from the FJP's talk about its "Coptic Vice President." It is that Dr.Habib is a Protestant in a country where the overwhelming bulk of the Christian community is Coptic Orthodox.

Dr. Habib is the son of a pastor (and later head of) the Evangelical Church of Egypt, an indigenous church originally created by Presbyterian missionaries, and sometime referred to as the Coptic Evangelical Church. (The Samuel Habib who wrote the linked article in the Coptic Encyclopedia kwas, I believe, the same Samuel Habib who was Rafiq Habib's father.) While in  that sense he can be called a Copt,  And, while evangelicals and Orthodox cooperated during the revolution, many Coptic Orthodox, including senior clergy, do not really consider Evangelicals to be Copts. Habib's ability to be a representative of most Egyptian Christians might, therefore, be somewhat limited, even without his Brotherhood ties. A prominent Coptic businessman or political figure without these limitations might prove a more politic choice.

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