Muslim, Maseehy: Eed Wahda
It’s strange. All week there is so much going on, my mind is in a million different places, by the time the weekend comes around and I finally have some time to update the blog, I have nothing to say, or rather, I don’t know where to start.
With everything that’s been happening, there are always issues to be discussed and incidents to be analyzed and questions to be raised. It’s overwhelming. What do I say about all the forces out there that are trying to kill our revolution? What do I say about the investigations saying that members of the former regime are trying to start a civil war between Muslims and Christians? In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to the incidents that took place in Imbaba last Saturday May 7th.
The story itself is fairly bizarre. This is the story so far, keeping in mind that this is all alleged and its truth is still being investigated: A Christian woman, Abeer Talaat, who is married to a Christian man, decided to convert to Islam and also decided to marry a Muslim man, Yaseen, once she gets a divorce from her husband (it is unclear which event happened first, her decision to become Muslim or her desire to marry Yaseen) – keeping in mind that Coptic Christians are generally not allowed by the Church to get divorced. So apparently Abeer then disappeared and Yaseen, her non-husband, could not find her. She then called him and told him she is being held captive by the Marmina Church in Imbaba (during her phone interviews with talk shows she has not yet been able to explain how she gained access to a phone while being held captive). He then gathered his friends, around 1000 people, and headed to the police station in Imbaba to demand the church be searched. On Saturday May 7th the police headed to the church, taking along with them Yaseen and his friends, who surrounded the church and started chanting. Various security forces stood around and watched, not yet interfering. Somewhere between then and Saturday night violent clashes erupted. 12 died, over 200 were injured. There is a reason the Quran says fitna (persecution, division) is worse than murder. This is how they have been reporting the deaths on the local news. 12 dead: 6 Muslims, 6 Christians. And then they start reading out the names of the victims, and it goes: Mohamed, Michael, Ahmed, Mark, Mahmoud, Thomas, etc.
I’m really not sure how to understand what’s going on. But if we look at this sectarian tension as a cancer, researchers have divided the causes of cancer into two types: environmental and genetic – which in this case would be exogenous and endogenous factors. There are several factors involved in the Imbaba incident.
1) There is the “coalition for the defense of new Muslims” group which despite its encompassing name tends to focus solely on Egyptian women who have converted from Christianity to Islam and are allegedly being illegally detained by the Church. This coalition was created after the revolution, although this issue has been raised for years (google Wafaa Constantine and Camilia Shehata for examples). So far, this coalition’s sole purpose in life has been to loudly protest for the release of Camilia Shehata, and once she finally appeared on TV denying that she had converted to Islam, another woman, Abeer Talaat, conveniently emerged. While I find this particular case of Abeer hard to believe, I can’t deny the possibility that the Church has previously done this. The fact is that we don’t know either way, which is why this should be left to the official investigative bodies.
2) There’s the remnants of the old dismantled regime that are seeing their former bosses and leaders being held in jail and tried and sentenced, and are, I’m sure, terrified that their turn is fast approaching. One example is the head of security of Giza, the district in which Imbaba falls, who is currently being investigated for killing protesters during the revolution, while still acting as head of security. He is just one example, and one must consider the large number of people who would potentially face justice if this revolution succeeds, as well as those who are facing the loss of obscene amounts of money that were made through corrupt deals, drug trafficking, and arms trade, among others.
3) There are the foreign forces, most likely the two forces who stand to lose the most if Egypt becomes a true democracy with a free and enlightened population: Saudi Arabia and Israel – both of whom have explicitly and publicly announced their anti-revolution sentiments. Some tend to feel that accusing foreign countries of trying to instigate civil war is too much of a conspiracy theory. But I think their histories speak for themselves. I also think history in general, and this revolution is no exception, has proved to us over and over again that when it comes to corrupt governments with obscene amounts of money, nothing is too far-fetched. Whether it’s sending your forces into another country to help a murderous government quell peaceful protests (as Saudi Arabia did in Bahrain), or sending undercover agents into another country to assassinate someone you don’t like (as Israel did in the UAE), if your political interests are under threat and you have unlimited funds and no moral code, why the heck not?
4) Then, there’s the context, the hospitable environment of poverty, ignorance, and Imbaba’s own history.
The investigations so far carried out by an fact-finding committee that consists of well-known activists (both Muslim and Christian) have connected the incident to former regime members, including Adel Labeeb a Christian businessman, as well as professional thugs. But they have stated that there are still many loose ends that will not become clear until the prosecution formally investigates.
The sad thing is to see people losing hope that Egypt will eventually overcome all this. Did we really believe that Egypt would just smoothly transition to democracy? Did we believe that Israel would stand idly by while we push a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, open the Rafah crossing, threaten to intervene if it attacks Ghaza again, and talk about a Palestinian state? Did we think other neighbouring dictatorships would stand idly by while we show their populations that tyranny or chaos are not the only two choices, and that their Wahabi interpretation of Islam is being rejected by the Muslim masses? Did we believe that those parasites that fed off the corruption of the regime, whether the country’s rulers, the NDP members, the security forces, or the businessmen, would peacefully surrender themselves to justice? The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said after returning from a battle that they had finished the lesser jihad and should now move onto the greater jihad. Our revolution was the lesser jihad. The enemy was clear, the goal was in sight, and there was a near consensus on how to achieve it. Now is where it gets really tricky.
Going back to the cancer analogy, I think almost every one of us knows someone who has gotten cancer and undergone chemotherapy, and we’ve seen how nasty its effects can be. That’s what it takes to get rid of these diseased cells, and that’s what’s happening to Egypt right now. Our immune system has been severely compromised as the security forces are learning for the first time in their lives how to establish rule of law without violating people’s rights. But no matter how much easier it is to just give up and say this isn’t working, we can’t forget that the residents of Imbaba (Muslim and Christian) stood hand in hand forming a human chain around the church shouting “Muslim, Maseehy: Eed Wahda” (Muslim, Christian: One Hand), and that the priest of the church said that a Muslim man saved his life. Most importantly, we can’t forget our rich and long history together as one family of Egyptians and that 50 years ago nobody even knew or cared who was Muslim and who was Christian. The regime has done everything it could to divide and conquer us. After everything we’ve done to get rid of them, are we just going to give up and let them win?
Before Egypt can be free it has to bleed and sweat and purge. But if we can fight through it, I know we’ll come out of it healthy.