Feb 22, 2011

Conversation with a nun!

A few days ago I had a conversation with a Coptic Christian nun. We work together and we meet every now and then. This conversation is particularly important for me as I always felt that the polarity is more obvious when it has Muslim-Male on one side and Christian-Female on the other side!

No one can deny that the situation in Egypt sectarian-wise was deteriorating. A year ago a Christian friend of mine said “It’s like everyone is holding a knife behind his back for the others now”. This mistrust wasn’t only among people of different religion. It was a general state of mistrust fueled by the oppression and frustration we were living in Egypt particularly under Mubarak’s rule.

Also, no one can deny that Christians in Egypt were suffering from unequal treatment; they have restriction to build churches and incomplete access to jobs particularly related to academia and the military. However, Muslims also suffered as long as they are not privileged through socioeconomic or political status. Moreover, there are other minorities in Egypt whose voices were unheard. These are the voices of the people who didn’t belong to the three Abarahmic religions recognized by our state (Islam, Christianity & Judaism).
Monastery in Egypt

I met the nun a few times before, but we never approached politics or the situation of Christians. I was glad she opened up thanks go to the Jan25 revolution that liberated people from their state of fear and created a sense of solidarity.

She recounted her experience with the notorious State Security Investigations aka Political Police famous for crushing opposition against the regime, and for torturing and intimidating people. It also made a lot of community and charity work impossible. She was organizing an event to raise awareness of FGM which hosted a group of experts including an Islamic scholar to weigh in and show the Islamic stance against FGM. They forced her to go the police station at midnight so they can investigate about the event. In order to force her to come, they arrest a priest who works with her. It was more of an ordeal for her because she just underwent foot surgery.

We discussed constitutional article 2 (which says that Islam is the religion of the state) and expressed how it makes them feel as 2nd class citizens; we also talked about how ridiculous it is to have ID cards which mentions religion of the holder.  

What was interesting to me is that she totally believed that the government was responsible for fueling those sectarian clashes to perpetuate the regime’s stay in power, and to divert people from the political corruption going on.

 It was refreshing we agreed on most things. I felt relieved that we opened up about Christian fears and concerns. I usually felt a degree of tension in our previous dealings. I do hope that the Egyptian solidarity continues to grow.

The solution to sectarianism in Egypt begins with truly acknowledging the problem and working diligently on guaranteeing religious freedom for all.

Feb 19, 2011

Notes on a Revolution

There are many taboos in each society. However, there has been a consensus that there are three main taboos: sex, religion and politics. When I started this blog I thought I’d focus more on the first two categories. But I now believe more than ever before that everything is political.

The whole world has been watching Egypt as its youth led a people revolution that shook the Egyptian regime. The dictator Mubarak who has been ruling for all my life, 26 years that is, is finally gone.

“Protesting is an inalienable human right”, you would hear that sentence in a lot of conferences, statements, etc. The repressive regimes of our region haven’t really picked up that line. I (like most other youth) considered taking the streets protesting a major taboo. We were living in a strict police state. Protesting in the streets meant the possibility of violence, detention and torture at the hands of the police.

What we did on Jan25 was groundbreaking. We broke all those fears and took the streets. The violence against us despite us being peaceful made us more determined. There were people from different socioeconomic class, religious beliefs, gender, etc. They were all part of making it happen.

There’s a great sense of empowerment by this revolution. You find yourself rediscovering yourself, redefining your role. For Egyptians, there is now a great sense of ownership of their country. This sense was destroyed by the authoritarian regime. It has to be maintained and perpetuated.

I believe when people live in freedom and dignity, when their voices are heard, there is more room for social change. I also believe that people tend to oppress each other when they are already feeling oppressed. I am hopeful that this emerging state of mind would help us make more achievement in the social struggles related to human rights, religious freedom, gender equality, health for all, etc.  

The struggle is not over. What is coming is not easier than what have already been achieved. It’s always harder to create than it is to criticize.