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J’accuse
Hypocrisy and good intentions will not stop the next massacre. Only a good hard look at ourselves and sufficient resolve to face up to the ugliness in our midst will do so
Hani Shukrallah , Saturday 1 Jan 2011
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We are to join in a chorus of condemnation. Jointly, Muslims and Christians, government and opposition, Church and Mosque, clerics and laypeople – all of us are going to stand up and with a single voice declare unequivocal denunciation of al-Qaeda, Islamist militants, and Muslim fanatics of every shade, hue and color; some of us will even go the extra mile to denounce salafi Islam, Islamic fundamentalism as a whole, and the Wahabi Islam which, presumably, is a Saudi import wholly alien to our Egyptian national culture.

And once again we’re going to declare the eternal unity of “the twin elements of the nation”, and hearken back the Revolution of 1919, with its hoisted banner showing the crescent embracing the cross, and giving symbolic expression to that unbreakable bond.

Much of it will be sheer hypocrisy; a great deal of it will be variously nuanced so as keep, just below the surface, the heaps of narrow-minded prejudice, flagrant double standard and, indeed, bigotry that holds in its grip so many of the participants in the condemnations.

All of it will be to no avail. We’ve been here before; we’ve done exactly that, yet the massacres continue, each more horrible than the one before it, and the bigotry and intolerance spread deeper and wider into every nook and cranny of our society. It is not easy to empty Egypt of its Christians; they’ve been here for as long as there has been Christianity in the world. Close to a millennium and half of Muslim rule did not eradicate the nation’s Christian community, rather it maintained it sufficiently strong and sufficiently vigorous so as to play a crucial role in shaping the national, political and cultural identity of modern Egypt.

Yet now, two centuries after the birth of the modern Egyptian nation state, and as we embark on the second decade of the 21stcentury, the previously unheard of seems no longer beyond imagining: a Christian-free Egypt, one where the cross will have slipped out of the crescent’s embrace, and off the flag symbolizing our modern national identity. I hope that if and when that day comes I will have been long dead, but dead or alive, this will be an Egypt which I do not recognize and to which I have no desire to belong.

I am no Zola, but I too can accuse. And it’s not the blood thirsty criminals of al-Qaeda or whatever other gang of hoodlums involved in the horror of Alexandria that I am concerned with.

I accuse a government that seems to think that by outbidding the Islamists it will also outflank them.

I accuse the host of MPs and government officials who cannot help but take their own personal bigotries along to the parliament, or to the multitude of government bodies, national and local, from which they exercise unchecked, brutal yet at the same time hopelessly inept authority.

I accuse those state bodies who believe that by bolstering the Salafi trend they are undermining the Muslim Brotherhood, and who like to occasionally play to bigoted anti-Coptic sentiments, presumably as an excellent distraction from other more serious issues of government.

But most of all, I accuse the millions of supposedly moderate Muslims among us; those who’ve been growing more and more prejudiced, inclusive and narrow minded with every passing year.

I accuse those among us who would rise up in fury over a decision to halt construction of a Muslim Center near ground zero in New York, but applaud the Egyptian police when they halt the construction of a staircase in a Coptic church in the Omranya district of Greater Cairo.

I’ve been around, and I have heard you speak, in your offices, in your clubs, at your dinner parties: “The Copts must be taught a lesson,” “the Copts are growing more arrogant,” “the Copts are holding secret conversions of Muslims”, and in the same breath, “the Copts are preventing Christian women from converting to Islam, kidnapping them, and locking them up in monasteries.”

I accuse you all, because in your bigoted blindness you cannot even see the violence to logic and sheer common sense that you commit; that you dare accuse the whole world of using a double standard against us, and are, at the same time, wholly incapable of showing a minimum awareness of your own blatant double standard.

And finally, I accuse the liberal intellectuals, both Muslim and Christian who, whether complicit, afraid, or simply unwilling to do or say anything that may displease “the masses”, have stood aside, finding it sufficient to join in one futile chorus of denunciation following another, even as the massacres spread wider, and grow more horrifying.

A few years ago I wrote in the Arabic daily Al-Hayat, commenting on a columnist in one of the Egyptian papers. The columnist, whose name I’ve since forgotten, wrote lauding the patriotism of an Egyptian Copt who had himself written saying that he would rather be killed at the hands of his Muslim brethren than seek American intervention to save him.

Addressing myself to the patriotic Copt, I simply asked him the question: where does his willingness for self-sacrifice for the sake of the nation stop. Giving his own life may be quite a noble, even laudable endeavor, but is he also willing to give up the lives of his children, wife, mother? How many Egyptian Christians, I asked him, are you willing to sacrifice before you call upon outside intervention, a million, two, three, all of them?

Our options, I said then and continue to say today are not so impoverished and lacking in imagination and resolve that we are obliged to choose between having Egyptian Copts killed, individually or en masse, or run to Uncle Sam. Is it really so difficult to conceive of ourselves as rational human beings with a minimum of backbone so as to act to determine our fate, the fate of our nation?

That, indeed, is the only option we have before us, and we better grasp it, before it’s too late. 





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56



sam
02-01-2013 01:53pm
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the prospects seem grim
as the author notes prejudices run deep in Egypt and even those who tout an abundance of tolerance are complicit in the continued illusion of coexistence. as long as we identify ourselves via our differences and speak suspiciously under cover of one another, we're doomed.
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55



Medical assistant schools
05-10-2011 07:05am
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Medical assistant schools
The author has really written very brilliantly. Its good and inspiring.
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54



Robert Kesten
10-07-2011 12:37am
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J'accuse by Hani Shukrallah
As an outsider, it is so hard for me to believe that Egypt, a nation rich in history and culture is incapable of finding ways to deal with issues that the nation has been dealing with for thousands of years. Cleopatra had Jews in her capitol as well as Greeks, Egyptians and myriad others. Women were educated, the arts flourished and the Library of Alexandria was the envy of the known world. Currently in Alexandria civil society, business and government are coming together to establish a Human Rights City, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)...being integrated into human resource policies, laws and the social structure of the city. In Cairo a group of committed organizations and businesses are seeking to launch the first national Human Rights Corps, to ensure within 2 years that every woman, many, youth and child knows, owns and can act upon human rights as part of their everyday lives...at work, at home and in the course of all social and political interacti
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53



Davinci Emily 4791
09-03-2011 10:35pm
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Great Article!
Great Article Hani! I believe that if we all just decided to be open minded and to confront the issues as they are without any biases, ours will be a better country to leave in. http://davinciemily.info/
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52



Feisty
04-02-2011 05:10pm
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Re: American Internvention
If you think the author is tell Copts to seek assistance from the U.S., then you didn't understand the article. The author is clearly saying the exact opposite of that. Let me eliminate all the extra bits and phrases from the sentence that mentions Uncle Sam so you can understand it more clearly. [Our options are not so impoverished and lacking that we are obliged to choose between having Egyptian Copts killed or run to Uncle Sam.]
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51



tesla22
13-01-2011 05:52pm
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American Intervention??
re: "jo - Thursday, January 13, 2011 2:25 AM American Intervention??" Jo - perhaps you should actually READ the article before commenting. Pointing out one phrase as if it was the only thing said is a dis-service to other readers. Hani made a CLEAR challenge to you and other Egyptians to resolve the issues he raised IN EGYPT so any other choices you have would NOT be an option. Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Good luck to all Egyptians that you can resolve these issues and make a better country. The US has enough problems that it can't or won't solve, without getting involved in yours.
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50



jo
13-01-2011 02:25am
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American Intervention??
All due respect but as an Egyptian Copt I too would rather die than seek American intervention... and though it seems naive and extreme at this point, I would still take up this position after many many more deaths, and even after a major Coptic exodus from Egypt, because at least in that case, heartbreaking as it may be, I would at least know that the decisions and actions came from within Egypt, and that Egypt acted for its own sake. I think the talk of American intervention is primarily exacerbating the whole situation, and is largely a part of the cause of this madness. I can only hope that Egypt will learn to stand on its own two feet and see through its own folly, not only in this regard but with regards to so many of the other problems we have been facing. The last thing we need now is Western power imposing its standards and coming along selling fantasies of saving the third world. Much as it pains me to say this, if Egypt cannot save itself, then I would prefer no Egypt at all
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49



Jmh
12-01-2011 08:09pm
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Experience
In order to understand one's position, one must be open to hear the reason
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48



Laura Schimmler
11-01-2011 12:41am
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A wonderful article
I have just finished reading a translation of this article in the German weekly newspaper "Die Zeit". Hardly ever have I seen such fine, eloquent and precise writing filled with so much truth. However, reading it also made me sad. The people who are addressed within the article are unable to understand its message. The exact people who are accused of bigotry and narrowmindedness will not, even if they read the article, recognize themselves in it. And even if they do, they will hardly be able to question their own ideas in a way that will lead to their rethinking them. Still, if only one of them does, that's already a small step in the right direction.
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47



Isis ElMasry
08-01-2011 09:32pm
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Steps to correct the situation
Hani you hit the nail on the head. Religious discrimination and violence have been steadily growing in Egypt, and the Government’s failure to prosecute those who persecute Christians only adds fuel to the fire. Unless the Government takes firm actions to pass Anti-discriminatory laws (equality in the building of places of worship and swift punishment for those who incite hatred), the Alexandria church bombing will not be the last. On the contrary, it will be first step in Egypt’s spiral into social unrest. There is a glimmer of hope: the environment of “acceptable intolerance” is slowly changing. Calls for unity from the media and intellects that “we no longer are Muslim or Christian – we are all Egyptians” are spreading. However, these calls will continue to be undermined until the Government removes “religion” from off the personal Identification Cards. It’s a long shot, but only then can we say we have taken steps out of the dangerous spiral that threatens to engulf all Egypti
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