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Author Topic: MODERN EGYPT  (Read 7464 times)
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« Reply #30 on: January 14, 2009, 10:07:50 am »

Sectarianism is not just about the kinds of violent clashes that in 2008 left one Copt and a Muslim dead. It is also about explicit and implicit tendencies to religious isolationism, a retrenchment both religions are experiencing and which has steadily redefined the role of both the Church and Al-Azhar. Copts and Muslims both acknowledge the growing role of the church and the mosque in their daily lives. This role, they say, is not just about religious practice but also about the daily conduct of their lives, physical protection included.

In the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, in the Delta governorate of Mansoura and in the once cosmopolitan coastal city of Alexandria individuals say that when it comes to clashes with citizens of the "other" faith, it is to clergymen and to the Coptic or Muslim community, not the state, they resort.

Certainly this was the sentiment that seemed to predominate last summer when a group of Muslims living in a near-by village and Coptic monks clashed over the expansion of the Abu Fana monastery.

"When we first came under fire from nearby villagers we called up the police forces. It was hours before they arrived. We were under fire. Our church was being burnt. We had to react," said one of the Abu Fana monks. "It is sad for me to say it but there was only one reason for the delay. The attack on the monastery did not matter much to security officials who are exclusively Muslim. We don't want to further exacerbate sensitivities and we don't want any more problems."

Tellingly, similar complaints were voiced by the residents of Aarab Houre, the small village in the vicinity of the monastery. "They allow them [the monks] to expand and take up ever more land but they come and attack our mosques and round up Muslim young men under all sorts of pretexts," said one villager who declined to identify himself. "They call us terrorists and they let the Copts do whatever they want. Of course, it is because the Copts have the support of the West and because the government does not fear God but fears the US," he added.
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