The Alexandria attack: a juvenile analysis

Posted on April 15, 2006

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****Update: Read a translated eyewitness account here. And I guess there’s nothing to do now but pray it doesn’t get even worse.

The incident in Alexandria: horrible beyond measure. I’ve been reading coverage and comments for a couple of days now, trying to glean an idea of how people think about this. I don’t know what to think anymore, you see, and so I’m looking for new ideas to espouse.

The government: it is hardly worth mentioning that the Egyptian government does not protect any of its citizens, and in fact is the biggest persecutor of them all. Occasionally, in response to massive international pressure, one or two victims obtain some sort of nod to due process. However, in this case there is evidence to suggest that church security turned a deliberate blind eye to the man running in with a sword. There has even been some suggestion of police collusion. And then comes the usual fabrication of events, denigration of perpetrators as mentally ill, etc. But no one expects much from the government anyway, certainly not the Christians of Egypt.

The international commentators: I speak of the internet community here. The mainstream media usually shies from editorializing (I don’t get CNN here so I don’t know what journalistic atrocities they’re up to these days). But all of the comments I have been reading from outside Egypt agree that it is becoming more and more futile for Muslims to maintain that each violent attack does not represent their beliefs or their culture, and that they condemn it. I myself have long believed that all humans are as evil, and as good as each other; and that it all comes down to education in the end. The religion itself is immaterial as all religions can be interpreted any way according to personal predilection. Certainly Christians are rarely blamed, as a group, for wars around the world perpetrated by those who claim to be Christian. Criticism of the recent American wars, for example, seems to be political. So why Islam, or Muslims, should be blamed for the various incidents of violence isn’t immediately apparent. In this case, the man committed his murders in the name of Allah, and Islam is usually brought up in the communiqués from “terrorist” organizations as influencing their actions. The recent violent attacks on embassies in protest against the depiction of Islam as violent were very damaging. So while I don’t believe that any people or any religion are inherently more “evil” than any other, the recurring use of Islam by perpetrators in justification of their acts of violence makes it very hard for the reasonable observer to maintain that it is, in fact, unconnected.

The Egyptians: the English language bloggers of course condemn the attacks, and most blame Egyptian security and the Islamists. The Arabic commentators vary between surprise at the angry Christian sentiments reported, and lamentation over the state of Egypt today and fear of the future. There’s a lot of blaming of the government as well, but whenever sectarian violence erupts, people always blame the government for staging, or permitting, these things to occur in order to cement their power through divide and rule. It is puzzling, however, that people are surprised to hear hateful sentiments from Christians; in the privacy of their own homes everyone makes bigoted comments and I’ve heard it from both sides. But in the case of the Christians, it seems more than justified after all the centuries of discrimination and oppression that mar their daily lives in small, humiliating ways and great, violent ways. But no, no generalizing or stereotyping; a grieving mob must be politically correct at all times. And what of the Muslim religious institutions? The head of the Brotherhood has condemned the attacks and reinforced the fictional notion of the united Egypt. The man is a consummate politician. I am sure the Azhar will soon follow suit. Yet everyone hears the hatred that spews out of the minarets every Friday. People are all small and spiteful; it is the responsibility of religious leaders not to encourage human vice. There is blame to be placed on the hatemongerers who seek to ease the pain of economic inequality and political oppression by finding an easy target for the resentments of the ignorant. Is my analysis elitist? Probably. But I’ve seen no evidence of anyone in the world coming to any revelations without educational prodding, and it’s important that the prodding be positive. Whatever positive means, it means not hateful, at the very least.

Who knew I could get so political? I have sought comfort in fluff ever since I started my first class in political science, where I saw a hint of the vast abyss that is the human capability for harm. Maybe it’s time I stopped pushing those heartbreaking thoughts away; mere talkers though we all are, I still don’t think there’s awareness enough.

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Posted in: Copts, Egypt, politics