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Sectarian Violence and Conspiracy Theory
By: - momen salam


by Moomen Sallam

Almost everyone knows of the sectarian problem in Egypt so there is no need to go into the details of recent events. It’s time to start looking for solutions to this Egyptian dilemma.

The first step to solve a problem is to admit that there’s a problem, then you determine what the problem is, find the causes of this problem, and finally work to find the solutions.

The problem now is that we Egyptians don’t admit that we have a sectarian problem which takes violent form from time to time. Since the start of this type of violence in the 1970s, one frequently heard words coming out after a killing and burning event:

-- “That’s not Egyptian”

-- “Egyptians throughout history were tolerant people and they don’t behave like this”

-- “It’s an external hand that plays with Egypt’s stability”

We kept hearing those words till the end of the Mubarak regime and with the start of new era of the revolution where everything will be fine and we’ll get rid of all our problems, the first of them being sectarianism. Utopia is coming.

Soon we woke up to the reality of renewed sectarian violence, but this time it is stronger and bloodier against individual Christians and Christian churches. Some of us who didn’t believe in the coming “utopia” weren’t surprised because we know it is a deep rooted problem in Egyptian society that won’t be solved solely by a “revolution” and the departure of Mubarak. But we expected a different method in dealing with the crisis. We expected a real solution; we expected the ministry borne in Tahrir Square would be more transparent. We waited of Prime Minster Sharaf to come out and admit that we have a sectarian problem and tell us about his plan to solve it.

None of this happened; instead we started to hear the same old stories or even worse. Welcome back conspiracy theory.

As we Egyptians are “too good to be violent”, there must be some one to blame for all the violence. During the Mubarak days it was “external hands” and everyone was left to imagine whatever enemy he likes to fight. But since the revolution, these external hands are being identified.

If you are part of the current regime, the external hand is “the remaining of the old regime” who wants to destroy the revolution.

If you are Christian or a revolutionary secular, the external hand is “Saudi Arabia using the Salafis” who also want to destroy the revolution.

If you are a Nasserist (Arabic Nationalist) or Islamist, the external hand is “Israel using the remaining of the old regime” with the same goal to destroy our great revolution that will liberate Palestine from the river to the sea.

None of the above wants to admit that we have a sectarian problem that should be solved. None wants to look into the internal problem to find its roots and seek solutions to fix it.

It’s easier to blame “the external hands” then looking into our educational system that enriches sectarianism, our legal system that doesn’t protect minorities from discrimination, the Islamic religious discourse that calls for jihad against all non Muslims, sectarian media that use sectarian vocabulary -- such as calling the Muslim dead “martyrs” but Christians “dead”, or reports of normal problems that can happen between any two Egyptians (such as a commercial deal or the payment of a transportation report) as a sectarian problem just because the participants happen to be Muslim and Christian.

Don’t expect a solution for this problem in the near future, unless our regime comes out and says that yes, Egyptians were always tolerant till the end of the 1960s but this has changed, and we are going to fight sectarianism in our educational system, in our media, in our houses of worship and that it is our plan to do so.

Until then, pray for Egypt.

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