Politicalmonkey2010

The Truth Shall Set You Free…It might piss you off first, but it will set you free.

Egypt – What Happened?! Symptomatic of the World

Posted by politicalmonkey2010 on October 11, 2011

We have all watched in horror and dismay the events in Cairo the past two days as the Coptic Christians clashed with security forces on the street leaving at least 25 dead, and over 330 injured.  As this country takes it steps towards democracy, the birthing pains are being felt on the street.  I do not think it is adding sensationalism to say that the world is in a state of flux, we see it on the national level, and right down to the small micro-systems we each operate in.  Egypt is no different, this is a complicated country, multi layered social fabric, and in the middle of  re-inventing itself.  I do not have any answers as to what happened, but it is important that all the components be factored into the events in Egypt and the larger ramifications.

The Media

If you want to look to the local media for the story and you want facts good luck.  The media for the past 30 years had been controlled tightly by the Mubarak regime.  During the revolution I remember watching Nile News, there were literally 1,000’s of people outside their studio and they were talking about the Valley of the Kings and tourism.  With the toppling of Mubarak a new door was opened – journalism, or at least the idea of reporting a different narrative than what the state wanted to provide.  The only problem is the idea of fact checking, canons of journalism, ethics and responsibility in reporting haven’t quite caught on – sensationalism, and promoting a specific agenda are alive and well.   This is no different than what we have in the US – i.e. Fox News where thinly disguised “opinions” are presented as facts.  There is a mentality that we have been conditioned to that says – if I saw it on TV it MUST be true.  This mentality has also moved over to social media, it was tweeted out so it must be true.  We have seen the emergence of more talking “heads” in cyberspace with their own internet radio talk shows – catering to a specific audience, cherry picking information and packaging it all very neatly for the consumer.  It is not different in Egypt.  News consumers world wide are facing the same problems with accuracy of information – news must be viewed in the same light as if you were buying a car, you have to contrast and compare, and you have to be brave enough when the facts show, no matter how much you want to believe “XYZ” they are wrong.

Social Media

As we watched the Arab Spring unfolding on social media, specifically on Twitter the world had the benefit of living in real time with people in Tahrir Square.  The peaceful protests over threw a dictator in 18 days, the world rejoiced.  From Twitter also sprang a new form of mico-celebrities.  Some rightly earned, some rightly earned and then started to believe their own press, and simply could not give up the limelight.  Egyptians knew the world was watching, they had a unified message, they carried it thru flawlessly.  Without a doubt the news media  was a part of the success of the revolution.  News organizations such as CNN and BBC provided coverage 24/7, interviewed tweeters from the square – they say fame is addicting and for some tweeting Egyptians it became a way of life.  The continual occupying of Tahrir Square moved from being a revolution to being an impediment to moving forward, because if Egypt moved forward and no protests were happening, their claim to fame was also over.

The Military and Security Forces

During the revolution when the tanks rolled into the city I literally sank to my knees in fear and terror.  The military acted with honor, not once did they open fire on the crowds in Tahrir Square.  When the tanks rolled into my neighbourhood, they were greeted like heroes.  The chants the people and the army are one reverberated throughout the country.  One of the complaints you hear from the youth of the Revolution is that the army is moving too slowly, that they want to retain power.  I do not believe that for one minute.  The military wants to go back to doing what a military force does, protecting the country, not running the country on a daily basis.  I think they are very eager to  give control to the civilian sect, and they are taking their responsibility during this transition very seriously.  Nobody wants to see the need for another revolution in a year.  They are proceeding with caution.

They have handled the protesters with kid gloves, they have acquiesced to demands, these are not the actions of people who want to retain power.  When the security forces disappeared during the revolution the people took over protecting their own neighbourhoods.  Security forces still are not back in mass, there is a security void being filled by the military.  People want to live in a safe place, basic need any where in the world, Egypt is no exception.  There is an overwhelming large silent majority that fully support the military.  They are going to have to find their voices – because what the media is covering are the “squeaky wheels”.

I, like everybody else watched in horror as the tanks went through the crowds two days ago, as hard as the images were to watch there are two things that stand out.  First, if the   military wanted to open fire they could have very easily wiped out all the protesters.  Second, the tanks were being used to disperse the crowd, you can see in the videos the driver slowing down, if he had wanted to crush them all he would not have slowed down.  Does that sound harsh?  Do I think it was handled right?  No, and the Egyptian government doesn’t think it was handled right either.  You cannot “un-ring” that bell.

Christian VS. Muslim?  or Divide and Conquer Extremism

For over 1,400 years Coptic Christians and Muslims have lived side by side.  Like any neighbours, problems have arisen.  This is not a unique occurrence.   Catholics VS. Protestants in Ireland.  Ultra Orthodox Jews VS. Reformed Jews in Israel.

One of the easiest ways to divide a society is through religion.   When anybody adds God into the equation you are lighting a match at a gas station.  The battle cry of “God is on our side” should send shivers down everybody’s spine.  The real question is.. are you on God’s side?  The most volatile, emotional wedge is one of religion.  It ignites passion.  We see this in the US don’t we?  In the last few days we have heard Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor and leader of the Southern Baptist Convention say  he believes Mormonism — along with Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism — are “false religions.”

Having lived in this country I can tell you what I see, I see Christians and Muslims living side by side as neighbours, I see them in business together.  I see them supporting one and other on their own spiritual journeys.  During Ramadan when Muslims are fasting I see Christians very much aware that they are fasting and they are very careful not to smoke and eat in front of them.  Conversely, I see Muslims returning the respect when Coptics fast.  I see them giving one and other greetings of peace.   I see them offering one and other holiday greetings.   I saw Christians during the revolution forming a human shield around praying Muslims, pouring the water for them to perform their ablutions.   I saw Muslims lifting a priest upon their shoulders and chanting, the Cross and the Crescent are one.

Every Egyptian male (with few exceptions) are required to enlist in the military.  That means both Muslims and Christians are serving in the military.  There is no special uniform that says I am a Muslim or Christian in the Egyptian army, they are brothers.  They are one.

In my own household, I as a Catholic, married to a practising Muslim we observe and support one and other on our spiritual path, for one very simple reason – the goal and the God are the same.   I participate in Ramadan and Eid, he participates in Easter and Christmas.  It isn’t a matter of “converting”  or who is “right”, it is a matter of love,  the greatest commandment  Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This will upset right wing nut jobs to learn that in Islam there is an obligation to protect and non Muslim.  It is not a recommendation it is an obligation, no negotiating.

We too in the US are actively experiencing the effects of extremism, it has reared it’s head in politics and religion.  The result has been nothing short of disastrous.  People standing behind all or nothing mentalities caused the downgrade of US debt,  to get this Congress to enact a law for the benefit of the people has not happened for almost 3 years, and I wouldn’t hold my breath for the remaining term.  The Tea Party has held the country hostage, and now we have the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street.  Of course the Tea Party doesn’t like to be compared to them..but here’s the truth, Occupy Wall Street is a direct result of the push from the right, they are the left’s extremist. Religious groups like Westboro Baptist and Mr. Jeffress shoving their beliefs down our throats.  Koran burning pastors seeking the limelight.  There is an “attack on God and faith” in the US and it is coming from ignorant extremist, fundamentalist, self appointed saviours of our collective souls.  God must certainly weep as he looks down upon us.

Who Benefits from Division?

The real question is who would benefit from a civil war in Egypt?  There are a million conspiracy theories out there, and I don’t have enough time to cover them.  I will however, address what I feel is the most likely guilty party – and that would be left overs from the old Mubarak regime.

We have seen this hand at play before, during the revolution the bizarre “camel attack” was orchestrated by a member of Parliament.. the trial is literally ongoing as of this blog posting.  There is an ongoing investigation into the New Year’s Eve bombing of a Church in Alexandria, where it is being alleged that it was coordinated by the former Interior Minister Habib Adly.  Again, another on going investigation/trial.  The creation of chaos with prisoners being freed during the revolution, the police disappearing, another orchestrated event by Habib Adly.  Unleashing chaos is a way to keep people in fear, to keep people from moving forward, to make them long for the days of the safety of the tyrant and regime.   Is it a coincidence that this occurred as Egypt announced the date of elections? and there is a law being considered to prohibit members of the former ruling National Democratic Party from holding elected office.

When politic office is your career,  there is a huge danger that it is not about public service.  Walk down the prison halls of Tora prison outside of Cairo Egypt and you can literally start a government.  Presidents, members of Parliament, ministers of departments have all taken up residence on charges ranging from graft to murder.  If you have earned your living through raping the country’s treasury for your personal enrichment, it is hard to replace that kind of job and lifestyle.  These people stand a great deal to lose as Egypt goes forward.

I cannot help but draw comparisons to US politicians, how many have benefited from political action committees, contributions?  Left political office in order to become a lobbyist?  We in the US are not that far removed from an Egyptian situation.

What Triggered It? and Who is Responsible?

Again, if you are looking to the local media to give you the full story I am sorry to say you won’t find it.  This is what I know – take it with a grain of salt:

In order to build a church or a mosque, you must get permission.   (By the way Al Azhar is asking for the law to be applied, which I believe is on the books that says you can building a church or a mosque according to population, i.e. if you are predominantly a Christian neighbourhood then you should logically have more churches than mosques.(

There was a structure, it was not originally part of a church, it was a hall of sorts that was used for weddings, engagements etc.  According to the governor in Aswan, there was never a permit issued to build a church or any religious institution on that spot.  Some type of permit must have been issued as the hall was expanded, and evidently expanded beyond what the permit allowed for, as a result, it was demolished.  This was the trigger.  Other sources say it was a church to begin with.  Other sources says, it was torched by Salafi’s.  I don’t know what happened, and I am not sure we ever will.  In some ways it doesn’t matter why it happened, it did.  It illustrates what happens when government is in control of religion.  This should be a huge warning to Americans as we watch the “Christian” extremist trying promoting their belief system into our laws.

The march to Maperiro was a protest by the Coptic Christians saying they were not being treated fairly.  Then something went terribly wrong.  Some say plain clothes people in the crowd opened fire on the military forces, the Church says the group was infiltrated, but by whom?  The investigation is on going.

Who is responsible ultimately?  Everybody.  Nobody is innocent in this tragedy.  And it is time that everybody owned it.  The country has been engulfed in a protest fever…if you don’t like something then protest!  One of the things that caught my eye during this protest march were the signs in English “Quit Killing Christians”.  Why in English?  Egyptians speak Arabic.  Who was the audience they were appealing to?  That makes me uncomfortable.  If  I were in protesting in the US would I write a sign in Arabic?  Probably not.

How Egyptians take this revolution forward, take it from off the streets to practical application is being challenged.  Elections must go forward. Things in my neighbourhood remained calm.  People were shocked and surprised.  Everybody seemed to know that this was a danger  from the beginning- a division caused by sectarian violence.  They were determined that Egypt would not fall into this trap…and yet it happened.   It has become fashionable and almost expected to protest since the revolution.  Everybody has done it, teachers, doctors, drivers, and now religious sects.  It begs the question, for over 30 years you have been living with a boot on your neck and you choose now during a critical transition period which needs each and every Egyptian speaking with one voice – and  you choose now to protest?

How to Move Forward

I don’t know, I don’t have a magic wand, we can’t turn back time, but we have to move forward.

As my husband and I watched it all unfold, tears came to our eyes.  It was all so very, very wrong.  We also knew we could not change the country by ourselves, but we could set an example.  We went together to a  Mass at a Coptic Church – a Muslim and a Catholic, an Egyptian and an American…then I put on a scarf and I went to evening prayers at my neighbourhood mosque.  We are one.

I believe deep in my heart the Egyptian people will come out of this stronger, more united, democracy will bloom.  There will be more challenges, but at the end of the day, nobody will have died in vain, no blood will have been shed for naught.

 

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