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Alexandria massacre, locally made

There are no words in our national lexicon to express the shock over the horrific crime perpetrated at the Two Saints Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve

Emad Gad , Tuesday 11 Jan 2011
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Views: 2828

Most of us do not have the faculty or words to answer the questions of the young girl who escaped the raging fire, who asked, “Why did this happen? Why are they trying to kill us?”

In response to the attack, an army of writers and analysts showed up, ready as always to regurgitate their usual statements which no one believes in anymore. This time, no one was even willing to listen to them. There were those who claimed that the attack was a foreign conspiracy, and these theorists were divided amongst themselves, with one group pointing the finger at the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, and another asserting it was Al-Qaeda operating abroad. They insisted that this was a plot targeting Egypt’s security and stability, and maintained that country is doing fine, its population united to the end of days.

In all honestly, theories about foreign perpetrators have developed out of an attempt to escape the truth and deny responsibility for what had happened, rather than out of true conviction or efforts to find explanations. Naturally, foreign conspiracy theories have a large audience; we are experts at these and are held hostage to conspiratorial thinking. Under such conditions, it is comforting and self-exonerating to blame the Mossad for targeting Egypt in its effort to tear apart our national unity. And why not? After all, there are plenty who believe that the Mossad was behind the terrorist bombings in Sharm El-Sheikh, Al-Arish, Taba, Al-Omraniya incident, the shark attacks, and finally, the massacre at the Two Saints Church. This is highly exaggerated and perilous because it makes legend of the Mossad, a rather average intelligence agency with more failures than successes.

In fact, the Mossad’s successes rely on paying off domestic agents, i.e. traitors: it assassinated Palestinian resistance fighter Yehia Ayyash by subverting his nephew; it killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin by paying someone in his close circle to plant sensitive tracking devices in his wheelchair so he can be found and targeted, and the assassination of leading Hamas figure Mahmoud Al-Mabhuh was made possible after the Mossad recruited a prominent confidante of his. Accordingly, claiming that the Mossad is behind these attacks implies that this agency has infiltrated our society. Also, the magnitude of the attack is an affront to the capabilities of Egypt’s security agencies, which I do not believe is in line with reality.

Meanwhile, accusing Al-Qaeda of having a major role in the attack is also a hyperbole. It is true that the group has in the past threatened to target Copts, but this would mean that there are local networks and cells in Egypt who have at least adopt the same ideology, and who took action, prepared explosives, and travelled to Alexandria where they (or he) went to the church to carry out the attack. But according to this scenario, there remain many unanswered questions, such as what have we done to placate the simmering sectarian atmosphere in Egypt as a whole and in Alexandria in particular. For months, fundamentalist groups have organised Friday protests in which they marched through the city while spewing their anger and vitriol towards the Egyptian Church – a target of previous attacks.

I believe this was a locally concocted attack; there might have been support from abroad, but the explosives and human elements are local. While explosives can be found, bought or made, the more dangerous ingredient is the human one, namely the perpetrator or perpetrators who decided to detonate themselves in order to kill innocent Christians.

The critical question here is what caused a segment of Egyptian society to reach this mental state? The short answer is that this is a natural product of a cultural process launched at the beginning of the 1970s. After President Sadat came to power, a comprehensive transformation of Egyptian society began, altering the national character and spirit. The country’s model of coexistence was distorted through modifications to school curricula, which propagate that Egypt’s Christians were a people without historic roots in the country and undermined their beliefs. This was accompanied by sectarian media policies and a passivity of religious leaders who convinced the youth that the only source of pride in their great history came after Arab arrival in Egypt.

At the same time, the state withdrew from playing a role in specific areas as though retracting the umbrella of nationhood from over the heads of its people. The nation suddenly found itself without a roof to protect it and so its Christian members sought out the Church whose roles expanded and extended. Both sides were comfortable with this recipe; the state dealt with Copts as a sect or creed and addressed their leader, while the majority of Copts found what they thought was safety and refuge within the walls of the Church.

According to this formula, the civil state diminished and the Constitution was changed and amended. The belief in citizenry, equality and coexistence had left the body, mind and heart quite a while back. We are reaping the rotten fruits of what was sowed in the early 1970s, and they are very bitter indeed and threaten to detonate the homeland and weaken its armor against outside threats.

If we truly sense the danger of what happened in Alexandria, then we must stop talking and start acting. No more statements, but action on the ground. Egypt has changed, and so have its Muslims and Christians. The new generations have no role models, and have not experienced the coexistence which was prevalent in Egypt in the mid ‘70s. The solutions will not come from abroad – they must be Egyptian-made. The decision lies with the state, which possesses the majority of the tools of nurturing in terms of the education system, media and religious discourse. It is also able to bring about real change in the country by channeling the capabilities and energy of its people into the creation of foundations for a modern, civil state.

The question remains, however, is there political will to create a civil state?

Most of us do not have the faculty or words to answer the questions of the young girl who escaped the raging fire, who asked, “Why did this happen? Why are they trying to kill us?”

In response to the attack, an army of writers and analysts showed up, ready as always to regurgitate their usual statements which no one believes in anymore. This time, no one was even willing to listen to them. There were those who claimed that the attack was a foreign conspiracy, and these theorists were divided amongst themselves, with one group pointing the finger at the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, and another asserting it was Al-Qaeda operating abroad. They insisted that this was a plot targeting Egypt’s security and stability, and maintained that country is doing fine, its population united to the end of days.

In all honestly, theories about foreign perpetrators have developed out of an attempt to escape the truth and deny responsibility for what had happened, rather than out of true conviction or efforts to find explanations. Naturally, foreign conspiracy theories have a large audience; we are experts at these and are held hostage to conspiratorial thinking. Under such conditions, it is comforting and self-exonerating to blame the Mossad for targeting Egypt in its effort to tear apart our national unity. And why not? After all, there are plenty who believe that the Mossad was behind the terrorist bombings in Sharm El-Sheikh, Al-Arish, Taba, Al-Omraniya incident, the shark attacks, and finally, the massacre at the Two Saints Church. This is highly exaggerated and perilous because it makes legend of the Mossad, a rather average intelligence agency with more failures than successes.

In fact, the Mossad’s successes rely on paying off domestic agents, i.e. traitors: it assassinated Palestinian resistance fighter Yehia Ayyash by subverting his nephew; it killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin by paying someone in his close circle to plant sensitive tracking devices in his wheelchair so he can be found and targeted, and the assassination of leading Hamas figure Mahmoud Al-Mabhuh was made possible after the Mossad recruited a prominent confidante of his. Accordingly, claiming that the Mossad is behind these attacks implies that this agency has infiltrated our society. Also, the magnitude of the attack is an affront to the capabilities of Egypt’s security agencies, which I do not believe is in line with reality.

Meanwhile, accusing Al-Qaeda of having a major role in the attack is also a hyperbole. It is true that the group has in the past threatened to target Copts, but this would mean that there are local networks and cells in Egypt who have at least adopt the same ideology, and who took action, prepared explosives, and travelled to Alexandria where they (or he) went to the church to carry out the attack. But according to this scenario, there remain many unanswered questions, such as what have we done to placate the simmering sectarian atmosphere in Egypt as a whole and in Alexandria in particular. For months, fundamentalist groups have organised Friday protests in which they marched through the city while spewing their anger and vitriol towards the Egyptian Church – a target of previous attacks.

I believe this was a locally concocted attack; there might have been support from abroad, but the explosives and human elements are local. While explosives can be found, bought or made, the more dangerous ingredient is the human one, namely the perpetrator or perpetrators who decided to detonate themselves in order to kill innocent Christians.

The critical question here is what caused a segment of Egyptian society to reach this mental state? The short answer is that this is a natural product of a cultural process launched at the beginning of the 1970s. After President Sadat came to power, a comprehensive transformation of Egyptian society began, altering the national character and spirit. The country’s model of coexistence was distorted through modifications to school curricula, which propagate that Egypt’s Christians were a people without historic roots in the country and undermined their beliefs. This was accompanied by sectarian media policies and a passivity of religious leaders who convinced the youth that the only source of pride in their great history came after Arab arrival in Egypt.

At the same time, the state withdrew from playing a role in specific areas as though retracting the umbrella of nationhood from over the heads of its people. The nation suddenly found itself without a roof to protect it and so its Christian members sought out the Church whose roles expanded and extended. Both sides were comfortable with this recipe; the state dealt with Copts as a sect or creed and addressed their leader, while the majority of Copts found what they thought was safety and refuge within the walls of the Church.

According to this formula, the civil state diminished and the Constitution was changed and amended. The belief in citizenry, equality and coexistence had left the body, mind and heart quite a while back. We are reaping the rotten fruits of what was sowed in the early 1970s, and they are very bitter indeed and threaten to detonate the homeland and weaken its armor against outside threats.

If we truly sense the danger of what happened in Alexandria, then we must stop talking and start acting. No more statements, but action on the ground. Egypt has changed, and so have its Muslims and Christians. The new generations have no role models, and have not experienced the coexistence which was prevalent in Egypt in the mid ‘70s. The solutions will not come from abroad – they must be Egyptian-made. The decision lies with the state, which possesses the majority of the tools of nurturing in terms of the education system, media and religious discourse. It is also able to bring about real change in the country by channeling the capabilities and energy of its people into the creation of foundations for a modern, civil state.

The question remains, however, is there political will to create a civil state?

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