alexandria burning

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Editorial by Hani Shukrallah

while we celebrated new years last night to the sounds of egyptian band massar egbari and the hizzing of a fashionably late belly dancer escorted by several large body guards — releasing what we thought was our pent up stress and lucid pressure from living here in egypt — we were just a few tram stops away from a terrorist attack. whats shocking to me isnt that it was a terrorist attack, but that it was by egyptians against egyptians — whats even more shocking is that it’s not a surprise at all, i would go so near to say it was expected. why?

palestinian professor dr. naseer aruri described egypt as “a place that has a lot of depth” and as simple of a description as that is, it’s entirely true. nothing happens here that isn’t related to something else – there’s no such thing as an isolated incident in this country. every event is related to the economic  state of the country, inter-religious relations, the nonexistent but omnipresent authoritarian government, gender oppression, sexual repression, the verbal and physical sexual harassment, the pollution, everything – you name it, and it has a direct relationship to the daily happenings in the lives of egyptians and the not so daily events like yesterday’s church bombings. as a foreign student here in egypt, my first instinct isn’t fear – i don’t fear being targeted or that the places that i frequent will be targeted. my immediate reaction is anger that the world isn’t paying attention to places like alexandria, where the clashing problems of religious identity and class oppression are literally omnipresent and overwhelming – this is a hotbed for interreligious violence and has been for a while.

the government just points the finger elsewhere thus never “solving” anything. this is a place where the government is thriving off of mass ignorance and misinformation – that’s where the government gets its power, by debilitating its people by convincing them that they are always under its mercy, by convincing people that if it weren’t this way with this government, it would be worse, by freeloading on the suffering of palestinians and exacerbating conspiracies by blaming israel for everything that goes wrong in egypt, thus relieving the government of any responsibility in the situation. there are several whodunnit theories that are going around egypt right now, you can find some of them right here (from Egyptian blogger Zeinobia), but i don’t think that any one of these theories truly address the issue.

it is common sense that where there is poverty, there is the heightened possibility for religious extremism to spread – and alexandria is a a place where the christians and the muslims are very religious, and it is a race of religious identities. the more religious — wait, the more religious of a facade as one group makes for themselves, the more pushback they will get from the other group.

sidenote: a professor that i met at a book reading once corrected a girl who said that “egypt is a religious society” (“مصر له مجتمع متدين”) by saying “no, egypt is a worshipping society” (“لاء على فكرة هذا مجتمع متعبد”). and this stands true for alexandria in particular.

what w need to do is to state what the government, and the people have been struggling to admit for a while: that this is not a conspiracy, that religious extremism is on the rise in egypt, and it’s not what people think is “brotherhood” religious extremism, but its real and its got weapons and its a threat. its also not just a religious issue. just watching mainstream egyptian television, like something on the dream channel, you will hear religious spokespeople spew ridiculous conspiracies about jews (not only zionists) and the fact that these people go unchecked is proof that there should be no surprise when something like the alexandria church bombing happens. egypt is the mother of the arab world, and whatever happens here ripples throughout the rest of this region – culturally and socially. with that, conspiracy is truth here – and this kind of fact-checking-free khutba can only come out of this kind of arab country, out of egypt – where conspiracy is truth.

to do the martyrs of 1-1-11 justice, we must demand justice – true justice. on this day the palestinian activist under occupation jawaher abu rahmah was killed by israeli forces. at least 18 pakistanis were killed by us drones. at least 21 christian egyptians were killed by egyptian muslims (read it and swallow it. if i’m proven wrong later i’ll accept it but for now, it’s the only truth.) the year is but a day old and the first 2 incidents were done by enemies, occupiers, colonizers, a stranger.  the alexandria church bombing was committed by brothers, neighbors – its not just fratricide, it’s suicide. and it’s not going away. allah yir7am shuhada2 2011. w allah yisa3id alba2i. cz we sure don’t know how to help ourselves.

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