The recent tragedy of the suicide bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt has not received much in depth analysis in Western media. Many journalists have focused on this tragedy as part of a supposed systematic scheme to cleanse Christians from the Middle East or at least it being a sign of the severe hardships that Christians face at the hands of Muslims. And though no one has claimed responsibility for the attack as of yet and law enforcement has not identified who the perpetrator was, the popular assumption is that the attack must have been perpetrated by a Muslim despite the fact that there have been Christian suicide bombers in the region.
This morning, I received an e-mail from an Arab-American Christian colleague that is currently in Egypt now. This is some of what she stated:
Ordinary people–Muslims and Christians have united with a shared critique of the regime. Progressive people see this as a victory in that Muslims and Christians are not taking their anger out
on each other–but directing it at the regime that has played a key role in the sectarianism.
Media in the region such as Al-Jazeera has shown the amount of outrage relating to the tragic attack highlighting large protests where Muslim women were carrying crosses and Christian women were carrying crescents. Virtually every Islamic group in Egypt has condemned the attack upon the church, even the Muslim Brotherhood, which stated that it would provide body guards for daily protection if needed. Moreover, a large number of Muslims have vowed to act as “human shields” to protect the church at the upcoming Coptic Christmas Eve mass.
Though there are definitely radical elements within Egypt, many Egyptians believe that there are outside hands involved in this recent attack similar to “The Lavon Affair” or that the regime’ was actively or passively responsible.
Many activists have taken this tragedy as an opportunity to say enough is enough. Not just enough is enough regarding extremism, but enough is enough with the current regime’, which has been oppressing Christians and Muslims alike. Egypt has nothing equivalent in practice to the First Amendment, which affords its citizens the right to assembly peacefully and the freedom of speech including the right to speak out against the government without fear of being arrested and possibly tortured.
See the following video of Egyptians chastising their Coptic clergyman when he thanks President Hosni Mubarak in the beginning of the funeral for the “Coptic Christian Martyrs.” The video clearly shows them stopping the funeral for an extended period of time chanting “La…La…La!” meaning “No…No…No!” in Arabic.
While there is no doubt that there is some discrimination against Christians in Egypt, as minorities dwelling in any country face some level of discrimination (I feel discrimination in America still as a Black man), the repression that Egyptians feel in general is due to the current regime’, which is neither an Islamic regime’ nor a Christian regime’. It is a regime’ lacking of civil rights and democracy. It is the regime’ that is making the lives of Egyptians miserable, and it is the repressive social conditions, which set the environment for extremes.
All of this needs to be considered within the context of what is going on right now in Egypt instead of casual, lazy labeling that the attack against the church is part of an epic clash of religions and civilizations. Such simplistic labeling will not assist the Egyptian people and plays into the hands of those with Islamophobic agendas.