Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Egypt must tackle its sectarian problems head on

To prevent further attacks on Christians, Egypt's Islamist leaders need to defend the separation of politics and religion

Magdi Abdelhadi
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 7 August 2012

"....The Egyptian state has never accepted the obvious: the Copts – estimated to be 10% of the population – suffer discrimination. Not only are Copts hard to find in senior government and military and security posts, but their right to worship is seriously undermined. While Muslims can build mosques anywhere they like – even illegally, and the state never dares to knock them down – Copts face often-insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles to obtain planning permission, not just for new churches, but even to renovate existing ones.

The Copts don't like to describe what happened in Dahshour or elsewhere many times before as "clashes". They describe each such sectarian incident as an "attack" on them, and rightly so.

But they too bear part of the responsibility for their ordeal. The more they take refuge in their own religious institutions the more they walk into the sectarian trap. Relatively few are active in public life. The deeply conservative Coptic church, which has resisted social change as much as its Islamic counterparts, has sought to speak on behalf of Christians – which tends only to aggravate Egypt's sectarian wounds.

Religious solidarity along sectarian lines is part of the problem, and certainly not the solution. While it is understandable that the church has to defend the interests of its followers, the response to the dangers of politicised Islam should not be politicised Christianity.

The interests of Copts are best served by defending the separation of religion from politics and not by turning the church into a political platform."

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