To say that Egyptians are tolerant…

…is the same as saying that arctic temperatures average out to 45 Celcius annually; completely bogus and ridiculous.

An hour or so ago, I was engaged in a conversation with a friend about various topics of interest in Egypt and the world. We were thinking of doing some research, for our own purposes, about minorities in Egypt (ethnic and religious); Armenians, Gypsies, Coptic Christians and Baha'is etc.

I mentioned how I hated the fact that many Egyptian Muslims, while claiming to be accepting of "others", still call Coptic Christians names behind their backs. Others don't bother to hide their bigotry and call them obscene and vile names to their face. I have been personal witness to both these types of people and I find it pathetic.

My friend also mentioned that the traditional Egyptian way of dealing with minorities is either to claim that there are no differences between all members of society or it denies their existence. Obviously, the Coptic Christians' existence cannot be denied. But, few know about the Gypsies, the Armenians and the Baha'is. Few know about them because they are not integrated cleanly in society. They are forced to supress their identity and just be Egyptians.

Whatever happened to embracing our differences? Whatever happened to accepting the other even if you do not believe in their religion? Why is it that Egyptians believe that you have to say you're Egyptian and nothing but Egyptian or you have no place in this society? Personally, I believe it's because of all the authoritarian regimes that have ruled this country. All the wars, struggles and "struggles" that Egypt as a country and people have been through have forced a sense of nationalism upon the people. I do not criticize nor refute nationalism, as a concept or practice, but it appears it has guided state policy regarding how knowledge and information has reached the people.

The people, the general Egyptian public, know near nothing of all these minorities. What they know is usually tainted by the voices of a few horrible bigots who have spread malicious lies and falsehoods about the minorities I mentioned previously. The people who belong to the minorities are every bit as Egyptian as everyone else. Yet, they are also Christians, Armenians, Gypsies and Baha'is.

They have a right to celebrate that and we are obliged to accept it. Not forcibly, but willingly.

And that's the way I see it


3 thoughts on “To say that Egyptians are tolerant…

  1. Indeed. I should have mentioned the fact that they’r Armenian Egyptians… with a different orthodox church and so on and so forth.

    They are not, to my knowledge, discriminated against any differently than Christians generally in Egypt, but it’s just the fact that such a community with a distinct cultural heritage (and relatively recent migration to Egypt) are almost completely ignored by the state and state press and… the Ministry of Culture (if that’s what it’s calld).

  2. eih dah!! tarnishing Egypt’s picture!! we on the web kaman!! you won’t get away with that ya faisal 😛 lol, tab3an I agree (naturally, I am the friend mentioned in the piece, lol), but I think it is not just about the authoritarian state. There is something in a society that is too uniform and more or less homogenous that makes interaction with others hard, for the good and the bad. I mean in Lebanon for example a Sunni Muslim wouldn’t be surprised to find an Armenian neighbour (who is both Armenian and Lebanese) but at the same time might have found himself some time in the war bombing the neighbouring Christian area. Here we have neither kind of interaction.

    About the point made about the Armenians (or hence any similar ethnic minority) being “less Egyptian”, well, we were once proud that Egypt hosted many sorts of opressed ethnic minorities, and did not only allow them in, but also allowed them to be “Egyptians”, gave them its identity without taking away their original one. This is the time when Egypt was flourishing culturally and artistically; this is what diversity does (definately different than the Egypt that sweeps away Sudanese refugees just because we have enough problems).

    The problem is not just about Egypt and the Egyptian society, but I think is also rooted in the concept of the nation state. The nation state is the state of a certain “nation” and no other, and this gets dangerous if your definition of “nation” is narrow. The mentioned minority, the Armenians,is a clear example. The Armenians were screwed up because of the rise of nation states and were therefore massacred and forced out, and until now parts of their lands have been taken by other “naion states” that were able to make it to the lands first. Perhaps a clearer example is the Kurds. Because nation states had to be formed, the Kurds had to be massacred, and until now, if the Kurds are not being used in some political game against some “nation state” by another, then they are opressed.

    hmm, seems I digressed. Anyways guess it’s worth a thought


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