15. Muslims and Christians in Egypt… from coexistence<SUP> </SUP>to national melting

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The article deals with coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

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The incidents that have taken place in recent years which have led to sectarian tension between Muslims and Copts in Egypt indicate that coexistence, which has been a fundamental element of Egypt, is under threat.
First, the author mentions some basic principles for establishing coexistence:
According to the author, an important condition for realizing citizenship is the separation between the "political group" and the "religious group"; Egyptians should comprise of one political group and two religious groups: Muslim and Christian. This idea is clearly evident in the motto raised by the 1919 Revolution, "Religion for God and the homeland for all".
Egyptians should not imprison themselves in history; Christians should stop speaking about the persecution that they faced after the arrival of Islam in Egypt and Muslims should stop talking about what the church committed against Egyptian paganism and boasting that they saved Christians from Roman persecution.
There should be a mutual admission of the presence of some violations on both sides; Muslims should admit that some of them adopt extremist views about Christians and view them as kāfirs and likewise Christians should admit that there are some Christian extremists who view Muslims as heretics.
A distinction between the holy texts and practices should be made clear. Both the Qur’ān and the Bible include values that guarantee coexistence and mutual respect if people abide by them. The holy texts should therefore not be blamed for what Muslims and Christians do to one another.
There should be partial secularism based on the belief that separating religion from state authority is necessary but separating it from life is a crime.
The general context should be changed; there should be a comprehensive political reform in which the basis for a democratic civil state based on the principle of citizenship and circulation of power is laid.
Any problem of coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt should be solved on a national ground and according to an Egyptian agenda.
Second, the author argues that from the conditions for coexistence are the presence of dialogue, the ability to deal with the other with tolerance, and ensuring equal opportunities.
Third, the author states that although there are some factors that may threaten coexistence, there are many chances for it to exist:

  • Ethnic homogeneity: Egyptians are one of the most ethnically homogeneous people in the world. They are close in physical features and also in psychology.

  • Geography: Christians are spread all over Egypt’s villages and cities and do not inhabit a certain geographical area. This puts them in day-to-day face-to-face contact with Muslims. This in turn increases mutual interest and renders the notion of separation impossible.

  • Cultural assimilation: Egypt today has assimilated all the cultures that it has witnessed throughout its history.

  • Shared folk heritage: Egyptian folklore is shared by Muslims and Christians; they have the same customs for expressing joy and sorrow and the same rites in celebrating mūlids and react similarly to popular myths.

  • Market relations: The commercial relations between Muslims and Christians ensure lasting coexistence between them.

  • Fear of the consequences of fitnah: This fear curbs both parties from escalating any clash.

Fourth, the author mentions seven means for consolidating coexistence:
  • Education: The curriculum should include elements that encourage coexistence and be purified of anything that could stir hatred.

  • The media: It can smooth tensions and consolidate the values of tolerance and accepting and respecting the other.

  • Cultural production: It should encompass all Egyptian cultures.

  • The legal system: There should be a number of legislations that legalize coexistence.

  • National projects: there should be various national projects that embrace all Egyptians without discrimination and direct their energies toward useful national achievements.

  • The bureaucratic body: There should be fixed fair criteria for appointments and promotions.

  • Civil society: The existence of charitable societies between Muslims and Christians could enforce coexistence in Egypt.

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