Violence and Solidarity in Cairo

Which ever way you look at it the disproportionate use of force over the weekend against peaceful demonstrators in Cairo is alarming and disconcerting, but we should be wary of seeing the recent disturbances as the start of some Iraqi style sectarian conflict.

The catalyst for the demonstrations was the destruction of a Church building in the  Aswan Province on 30th September. Yet this was more than a Christian protest against Muslim mob rule. Those demonstrating on Sunday included Christians and Muslims.

What started out as a demonstration about the lack of effective intervention by the security forces and the attitude of the governor of Aswan Province developed into something bigger: protest against the lack of progress in implementing democratic political reform.  

The most common rallying cry heard that day was the call for the resignation of the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. The ruling military council has set November 28 as the date for the start of the Parliamentary elections, but it has not as yet set a date for new Presidential elections.

This then was not a demonstration that pitted Christians against Muslims but one that saw citizens from across the religious spectrum join together in the ongoing struggle for liberty and democracy against repressive elements of the ancien regime. The interreligious solidarity that underpinned the demonstration needs to be noted and applauded rather than conveniently overlooked.

We need to support the democratic aspirations of those who demonstrated on Sunday rather than allowing our own distorted analysis of events to create division where none currently exists. If division does exists it is structured  politically rather than religiously.

The struggle for human rights in Egypt is a transformative process against the politics of domination and exclusion. It is a struggle that aims to reshape the nature and exercise of legitimate political authority.  The events of the last few days merely warn us that this struggle is ongoing.

This entry was posted in Human Rights, Islam, Middle East, Religious Freedom and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Violence and Solidarity in Cairo

  1. Henrik Grape says:

    Thank you Charles for this analysis. The shallow reporting from conflicts around the world to often gives us the clash of religions perspective.

  2. Thanks Henrik – good to have you on board and to hear your thoughts.

    I’m surprised that the clash of religions thesis still has any traction today. My worry though is that its prsistnec in some quarters of the media encourages and invites a doctrine of cultural relativity which to my mind is to surrender to what John Stuart Mill called the ‘despotism of custom’.

    Would be good to have a chat with you sometime offline on what, if anything, you are doing regarding Rio+20.

  3. Pingback: The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks out on the situation in Egypt | Ethics and Foreign Policy

  4. peddiebill says:

    It is certainly good to see some of the nuances of a difficult situation spelt out – and the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury has draw these to public attention is helpful. There is however a serious dimension to the current situation in Egypt that is getting less than good coverage. Some of the groups who feel their views are not being heard in Egypt have partisan views that if expressed and listened to would make life unpleasant for other groups. The Salafists feel they have not been properly heard in their desire to have Egypt made an exclusively hardline Islamic state. The Copts feel they have not been heard in that hardline elements in the community are restricting their freedom of religion. The Coptic Christians have a vested interest in working for a less hardline Islamic state. The Army feel their power is under threat – as is their line to their US paymasters. Many in Egypt feel their dislike of Israel has been misrepresented by a previous government anxious to keep peace with Israel in return for substantial aid packaging. The foreigners who provide the specialist jobs in Egypt feel they will not be welcome if jobs are allocated according to a Nationalistic policy. The Shia are nervous that by allowing the Sunni majority more say their freedoms will be curtailed. Egypt (as with Libya) will no doubt get more democracy as a result of the displacement of the authoritarian government – after all that happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the question is how that will make for a better peace with neighbouring countries like Israel or help minority groups in the Egyptian community?

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