The Alexandria riots are something that Egypt needs to figure out; what is causing all this hate? We have heard that this is an anomaly and it doesn’t happen often, simply a few ‘fanatics’ that are ruining the good name of Muslims and Copts across the nation. It is hard to digest. Within the past six months now, there have been two incidents of sectarian strife in the coastal city, not to mention the sectarian violence in southern Egypt. This has to get under control.
Often people, mostly Americans, ask if it is safe to live in the Middle East. The answer is an unequivocal yes. It is safer to live in Cairo than it is to live in New York City. The crime rate is near zero here and anyone, women and men, can walk almost any street at any hour without fear of being mugged. While there are a few outliers in this area, for the most part Cairo, like any other Middle Eastern city save Baghdad these days, is safe and welcoming.
However, with the recent sectarian strife in Alexandria, the world sees Egyptians as a violent people that cannot live in harmony with one another. This image must change if the Middle East is going gain the respect of nations beyond this region. Molotov cocktails, knife stabbings and mass demonstrations that turned into mobs have garnered much attention across the globe. This doesn’t help to show Egypt in a good light. But what can be done to stem these actions?
First, the religious communities need to come together and have a real dialogue. It is not enough for leaders of the Muslim and Coptic communities to give statements telling us that this isn’t normal. It obviously is normal. There is something wrong with these communities if they resort to violence against each other based on religious affiliation. A publisher told me last week how his company conducts nadwa’s across the country. These cultural gatherings attempt to have a conversation on the issues that are plaguing the country at any given time.
It is time to have a nadwa between the Copts and Muslims in Alexandria so they can express what is bothering them enough to resort to violence. Without a real dialogue, Egypt will be plagued with sectarian violence for years to come. Let’s not pretend that this is not something that happens rarely because it does happen, and more often than people want to believe.
Let’s use an example of denial that resonates throughout the west to illustrate how Egypt is in denial of a real, systemic problem. In the film Syriana we see the west, namely America, that wants to continue the disarray and violence in the region in order to put forward their economic growth without thinking of the people who live in this part of the world. After the movie, most Westerners dismiss the film, saying it isn’t any good or it’s not believable. The sad fact is that it is too believable and people, especially Americans, don’t want to believe that this could actually be the way things are done. We don’t want to think that the American government is responsible for horrific actions in our name.
Likewise, Egyptians don’t want to believe that violence between Copts and Muslims is really a big problem. Unfortunately it is. A friend of mine recently told me about how at his office, someone told him “you know how they (Christians) are.
These are the same words that white people gave in the west to justify racism. Yes, racism. Here in Egypt there is something going on that is akin to western racism. While most are unwilling to admit to this, it is obvious in the sectarian violence that has ripped through the nation over the past few years.
Egyptians must stand up and stop blaming someone else for the problems here in this country. Denmark, America, Israel and even the Egyptian government are not responsible for the actions of the people. People have made a decision to destroy each other and however many mistakes and pain inflicted by outside forces, sectarian violence is not a product of Israel or America. Sorry, it just isn’t the case. Instead, it is a product of issues that have lasted a lot longer and, we, as a nation, won’t be able to rid the country of them without a thorough look into what causes this violence.
People don’t want to believe there is racism in Egypt, on whatever level; there is a real hate for Muslims toward Copts and vice versa. The only way to attack those problems is to first accept that there is a problem in the conversation and second, to look for solutions that are just and peaceful. Like Americans after watching Syriana, Egyptians don’t want to believe there is real racism between religious groups in this country. Sadly, until Egyptians admit this, no solution can be made that will end such disgusting acts of violence.