Saturday, 31 August 2013

Apparently no heart attack... Leader of #Egypt's Brotherhood in good health in jail: ministry | Reuters

Absolutely moronic! #Egypt's billionaire Naguib Sawiris stirs ire calling for 2-year protest ban - Ahram Online

#Egypt security forces arrest 'top Sinai militant' - Ahram Online

#Egypt's Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie 'suffers heart attack' in jail |

Red Sea hotel occupancies expected to decrease 80% as Italy and Russia issue travel warnings against #Egypt

Government unveils new stimulus plan - #Egypt

via Twitter

August 31, 2013 at 01:01PM

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The 'Sectarianization' of Egyptian Society

Originally published by openDemocracy

In a sense, the attacks on Coptic Christian churches and institutions that have plagued Egypt in recent days are the denouement of a decades-long process – what one might call the ‘sectarianization’ of Egyptian society. Although journalists are wont to use the language of eruptions and explosions when characterizing such violence, there was nothing sudden about the anti-Coptic sentiment that motivated the attacks. While Muslim Brotherhood incitement may well prove the proximate cause of the violence, the Brotherhood is operating in a political landscape in which sectarian appeals carry considerable weight – arguably, far greater weight than at previous points in modern Egyptian history.

This is emphatically not to suggest that anti-Coptic attitudes are primordial or immutable. Indeed, one can only understand sectarianism as the product of particular historical circumstances, and this holds as much for Egypt as for contexts readily associated with sectarianism like Iraq or Lebanon. The question then becomes: What are the particular circumstances in modern Egyptian history that have imparted such weight to sectarian appeals?

One of the factors, perhaps the most obvious of them, is the rise of Islamism or the Islamic trend. And here I have in mind not so much the development of political organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, but rather the vast expansion in media, social, and educational institutions oriented to issues of faith. Since the 1970s, Egypt, and for that matter the entire Arab world, have witnessed virtually uninterrupted growth in institutions that are actively engaged in the interpretation of holy scriptures, and the application of these interpretations to everyday life. From the televangelism of Amr Khaled to the Azhari institutes of the educational system, the presence of faith-oriented institutions in the public sphere is greater now than ever before in Egypt’s modern history – and continues to grow.

While these faith-oriented institutions have enjoyed material support from a wide spectrum of generous benefactors – not least, the Egyptian state – civic institutions in the public sphere have, on the whole, suffered a steady decline over the past 30-40 years. One of the consequences, then, of the Islamic trend for Egyptian Muslims, is that reference to one’s faith has become at least as common in the current Egyptian public sphere as reference to one’s national feeling.

In tandem with the Islamic trend whose rise since the 1970s I have described above, there has grown a Coptic trend likewise embracing media, social, and educational institutions. But in contrast to the institutions of the Islamic trend, which have had varied origins and benefactors, those of the Coptic trend have overwhelmingly developed within the organizational framework of the Coptic Orthodox Church – and if not literally within that framework, then at least with the knowledge and blessing of the Church hierarchy.

The astonishing success of Church leaders in keeping these institutions within their orbit owes much, perhaps ironically, to the Egyptian state. Back in the 1950s, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Coptic Church hierarchy shared a foe – Coptic landowners and notables. Nasser sought to dispense with these elite Copts given their participation in the old regime, while the Church hierarchy saw them as a threat to their control of Church finances and endowments. As a result, Nasser and the Coptic Patriarch made common cause to marginalize the Coptic elite. Since that time, the Egyptian state has recognized the Coptic Patriarch not merely as the spiritual, but further, as the chief political representative of the Coptic community. And patriarchs have used this position of prominence to make the Coptic Orthodox Church the dominant institution in the lives of most Copts.

Rounding out the narrative, just as Egyptian Muslims have found themselves bombarded in recent years by admonitions about faith from the institutions of the Islamic trend, Copts have, for their part, found themselves enveloped by institutions controlled by or affiliated with the Church – and all this while the civic institutions of the bygone post-independence era withered for lack of funds. These are the circumstances under which two solitudes – one Christian, and one Muslim – have emerged in Egypt.

The cycle of sectarianism that Egypt faces is certainly vicious, in the sense that anti-Coptic violence invariably prompts still further withdrawal by Copts into the orbit of the Church, and still further separation from the everyday lives of Egyptian Muslims. But the revolutionary moment of February 2011, with Copts and Muslims standing side-by-side in Tahrir Square, was the surest demonstration that sectarianism is assuredly not immutable – that sectarianism is contingent on history, and people make that history.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A Long List of English-Language #Egypt Twitter Feeds

Ever wondered who to follow for the latest news and comment in English on Egypt? This is a long list of Twitter feeds I've put together for my students this fall...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

From Citizen to Problem: The New Coptic Tokenism

Originally published at Mada Masr, and republished at Jadaliyya

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry released a statement this past Thursday that was entirely without precedent, and yet it received practically no media attention amidst the political turmoil the country is currently experiencing. According to the statement, “Beyond overlooking the violent and dangerous reality of the Rabea and Nahda sit-ins, a number of foreign governments and international media outlets have also chosen to overlook the recent increase in killings and attacks that are once again targeting Egypt’s Christian community.”

Observers of Egypt’s Coptic community could be forgiven for rubbing their eyes in disbelief upon reading this pronouncement by the Egyptian government. What is so remarkable and, indeed, bewildering about the statement, is that the Egyptian government has repeatedly and forcefully denied the existence of sectarianism on Egyptian soil for decades. For an arm of the government to reference Copts as a target of violence—much less reference the Copts as a distinct community at all—is a stark departure from a long-standing policy of refusing the acknowledgment of sectarian divisions within Egyptian society.

This refusal of sectarianism has long remained a practically unquestioned pillar of Egyptian national identity. That the Foreign Ministry should so blithely disregard the once-firm taboo on sectarian discourse surely means that the Egyptian polity has crossed a Rubicon of sorts. But can one count this as a step towards the greater frankness and transparency that Egypt’s revolutionaries demanded back in 2011?

To the contrary: The ministry’s statement represents the sort of reflex support for the government in power for which Egyptian state television has become particularly notorious. By criticizing foreigners for ignoring the plight of Egypt’s Copts, the Foreign Ministry sought merely to further the indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood as a criminal, terrorist organization—an indictment that Egypt’s military government has vigorously advanced for the six weeks’ of its existence.

The Brotherhood has denied involvement in the widespread attacks on churches that followed the dispersal of the Cairo sit-ins, despite repeated instances of sectarian incitement and hate speech against Copts in the speeches of Brotherhood leaders. Whatever the nature of Brotherhood involvement in these attacks, the government must answer for how they could have taken place at all: Where were the police at a time when one could have expected sectarian tensions to flare?

One cannot help but doubt that this outrage will ever be properly investigated, given the whitewashing of the Maspero massacre, the bombing of Alexandria’s Two Saints’ Church, and the further instances of sectarian violence that have plagued Egypt since the revolution. But setting aside the question of justice, what I find most worrying about the current crisis are the assumptions that seem to undergird political discussions of the Copts.

There is a widespread cynicism—dare I say, almost sarcasm —about the notion of equal citizenship for Copts before Egyptian law. In place of the serious debates about citizenship that once preoccupied Egyptian intellectuals is a tokenism of unprecedented magnitude. Indeed, I would venture that “the Copt” has become a practically empty signifier in Egyptian politics.

Fewer and fewer Egyptian Muslims have the experience of lived relationships with Copts, for a host of reasons that I have explored in my research. Under such circumstances, the pronouncements of political leaders about the figurative “Copt” displace understandings of difference born of everyday interaction. Whether in the rhetoric of the Brotherhood or the government, opportunistic references to the figurative “Copt” amount to a dehumanization of Copts that makes the burning of churches conceivable.

I have long criticized the government taboo on acknowledging sectarianism, because that taboo has prevented serious and much-needed discussion of problems in Coptic-Muslim relations. But with the figurative “Copt emerging on the media landscape, there is one aspect of the taboo that I miss—the sense of gravity that the taboo imparted to questions of sectarianism in Egypt. No longer an essential part of the nation, the figurative ‘Copt’ has now become a “problem”—one that the state apparently has to address.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Report from Watani Newspaper on Today's Attacks Against Copts

Source: Watani International, 14 August 2013

Report on the attacks against Copts on 14 August

Until 7pm this afternoon, the following churches and Coptic-owned institutions in Egypt had been burned at the hands of Islamists. Watani lists them here chronologically:

Three churches and six buildings at the monastery of the Holy Virgin and Anba Abra’am in Dalga, Minya, Upper Egypt
The church of Mar-Mina in the district of Abu-Hilal in the town of Minya
The bishopric church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in Sohag, Upper Egypt
The church of the Holy Virgin in Nazla, Fayoum, Lower Egypt
The Baptist church in Beni-Mazar, Minya
Coptic-owned shops in Gumhouriya Street in Assiut, Upper Egypt
The Good Shepherd School in Suez
The Fransiscan School in Suez
The Holy Bible Society in Fayoum
The church of al-Amir Tawadros (St Theodore) in Fayoum
The church of the Holy Virgin in the district of Abu-Hilal in the town of Minya
The Catholic church of St Mark, Minya
The Jesuit church in Abu-Hilal, Minya
The church of Mar-Morqos (St Mark) and its community centre, Sohag
18 houses of Coptic families in Dalga, Minya, including the home of Father Angaelus Melek of the Holy Virgin and Anba Abra’am’s
The Evangelical church on Nassara Street in Abu-Hilal, Minya
The church of Anba Moussa al-Aswad in Minya
Coptic-owned shops, pharmacies, and a doctor’s clinic in Minya
The Jesuit church in Minya (attacked, not burned)
The St Fatima Basilica in Cairo (attacked, not burned)
St Joseph’s School in Minya (attacked, not burned)
The Nile boat al-Dahabiya, owned by the Evangelical Church in Minya
Coptic-owned shops, pharmacy, and hotels on Karnak Street and Cleopatra Street in Luxor (attacked and looted)
The church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in Wasta (attacked)
The church of St Michael on Nemeis Street in Assiut, Upper Egypt
The Adventist church in Assiut; the pastor and his wife were both kidnapped
The Greek church in Suez
The church of Mar-Girgis in Assiut
Coptic houses on Qulta Street in Assiut attacked
The church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in Arish, North Sinai
The church of St Dimiana and the Evangelical church in the village of Zerbi in Fayoum
The offices of the Evangelical foundation in Minya, and those of Umm al-Nour in Beni-Mazar, Minya
The church of Anba Antonius in Kerdassa, Giza
The bishopric church in Etfeeh, Giza

In addition to the attacks against the Copts, their churches, businesses, and property; Egyptians were aghast at attempts by the Islamists to break into the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) in Alexandria and set it on fire. The BA security and staff confronted the assailants in the courtyard, and there was an exchange of gunfire. According to Khaled Azab, the BA’s media manager, the conference hall was plundered, and a number of acquisitions went missing. The glass façade was shattered.

In Deir Muwass, Minya, the locals called Watani in horror to report that 30 armed Islamists broke into the local water treatment station and cut off the water supply to the nearby villages and towns, meaning that should a fire erupt there would be no water to put it off.

Coptic youth organisations—including the Maspero Youth Union, Copts Without Chains, The Coptic Consultant Council, and the Coptic Coalition—have all condemned the attacks against the Copts and the inadequate protection they were offered. The demanded security protection, and called upon Egypt’s Muslims to join in their defence.

Father Rafiq Greiche, spokesman of the Catholic Church in Egypt, strongly condemned the attacks against churches and Christians, saying that the Copts were made to pay the price for their participation in the revolution against the Islamist regime on 30 June. He demanded that the State should take a firm stance against the assailants.

Fr Rafiq announced that the Catholic Church has called off the celebrations of the feast of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin tomorrow.

The Coptic Orthodox Church issued a statement in which it said it was closely following on the “lamentable situation” in Egypt today. The statement strongly condemned the “successive attacks against Egypt’s Christians, their churches, property and livelihoods,” and also the attacks against the Egyptian police and civilians. It called upon the Egyptian government and armed forces to defend Egyptians and maintain the unity of Egypt. It also called upon “our Muslim fellow Egyptians to stand against the vicious attack of places of worship which should never be part of any struggle.
“We pray to the One God we all worship for every Egyptian to be a shield to defend the homeland against terrorism and violence. We pray for peace and calm to reign over Egypt.”

Reported by Nader Shukry, Tereza Kamal, Basma William, Michael Victor, Samira Mazahy, Ra’fat Edward, Girgis Waheeb