Our reading in the Cairo press this month takes us to the trial of Alex W. in Dresden, Germany. Last July, Alex W., a 29-year-old Russian born German and a Muslim hater, had stabbed to death Marwa al-Sherbini, a 32-year-old veiled Egyptian woman, in a courtroom in Dresden. The incident created a furore on the Egyptian scene, with the “terrorist, racist, Crusader West” heavily condemned by both State-owned and independent papers in Egypt. Many Egyptian journalists are now in Dresden following up on the details of the trial. Amid this inflamed climate, an article printed in the daily independent al-Dustour entitled “Double standards…and triple sometimes”, written by editor-in-chief Ibrahim Eissa, sounded a sensible note.
Eissa denounced what he called public over-reaction to the crime. “This incident exposes the double, perhaps triple, standards so rampant today among Egyptians,” he wrote. Eissa remarks that, while everyone is rightfully shaken by the murder of Sherbini, the crime is being taken out of its context as an individual, fanatic crime. In the process, Eissa says, we Egyptians simply overlook the religious freedom afforded to Muslims living in the West where they are allowed to freely maintain their own dress code, perform prayers, or build mosques. In several governments in the West, he reminds, Muslims hold top positions.
In Egypt, on the other hand, Eissa says, angry Muslims attack churches and burn Baha’i houses simply because Christian and Baha’i faith is different than theirs. “We don’t shake a hair when we learn of incidents of violence against Egyptians of ‘another’ faith, he says, but we exploded in anger over the incident of a lunatic in Germany who killed one of our Muslim daughters. We couldn’t care less about a Copt killed in sectarian violence in Upper Egypt, as though we believe he’s earned it by right of belonging to another faith,” Eissa says.
Eissa stresses that “Extremism, fanaticism and discrimination are indivisible standing against them is also an indivisible stance. We have to denounce them at home as we do abroad.”
Eissa’s article is by far the strongest yet to give a different view concerning the Shirbini case. It pains me, however, as an Egyptian and a Copt, that while Sherbini’s murder gained so much media coverage, the midday murder in cold blood of the Copt Abdou Gorgi in Bagour, Menoufiya, was so obscured. This was also a hate crime, so is Muslim blood superior to Coptic blood? So much for citizenship rights.
Still ‘Victory of Islam’
The story of changing the name Victoria Square in Shubra, one of Cairo’s populous districts, into Nasr al-Islam, literally Victory of Islam, was printed in both the weekly state-owned Rose al-Youssef and the weekly independent al-Fagr, and was reported in Watani by ‘Copts in the press’ last December. Cairo governor Abdel-Azim Wazeer then insisted the square’s name had not been officially changed and promised to prosecute whoever was responsible for changing the square’s signposts. Hany Labib followed up on the issue in his weekly column “Qalam Hurr” (Free Pen) Rose al-Youssef. Labib draws Wazeer’s attention to a similar incident, also in Shubra, where the name of a main street, Tosson Street, was changed to Mohamed Ibn-Fadl al-Ameri. Bearing in mind, Labib writes, that Tosson is not a Coptic name but is the name of the grandson of Mohamed Ali who ruled Egypt during the first half of the 19th century and is widely considered to be the founder of modern Egypt, why the trend to Islamise the names of streets and districts? He stresses that, despite Wazeer’s declarations, the signposts bearing the name Nasr al-Islam have not been removed. Labib finally calls upon Cairo governor to heed the sectarian vision behind these changes, which aim at blurring the identity of Egypt and colouring it with an Islamist hue.
Can unofficial ‘reconciliation sessions’—as opposed to justice through the judiciary system—put an end to sectarian strife? This was the main question posed by the daily state-owned al-Gomhouriya in an opinion story under the title “Reconciliation sessions arouse controversy.”
“In some conflicts, legal intervention serves to inflame matters, and the literal implementation of the law negatively affects all parties involved,” Strangely, this opinion was cited by none other than Mohamed al-Qadi, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Helwan University. If this is the opinion of the Dean of the Faculty of Law, one is left wondering at the validity of law as the last rung in the development of justice in the human community throughout the centuries. Peter Ramsis, a lawyer, commented that if reconciliation sessions have to be implemented, they should be fair to all involved and the penalties imposed should be harsher. Another lawyer, Ihab Ramzy, said that no pressures should be applied on any of the conflicting parties during such sessions to ensure their success. Michael Mounir and Nabil Gabrail, however, absolutely rejected these sessions, Gabrail saying they bring us back to primitive times.
The daily al-Wafd, the mouthpiece of the Wafd political party, recently printed statistics on the number of incidents of sectarian violence which recently occurred in Minya, Upper Egypt. Considering that throughout 2009 alone Copts in Minya were attacked in no less than 10 incidents, Al-Wafd dubbed Minya “the capital of sectarian strife” and wondered till when will it remain so? On my part, I wonder till when will Egypt in its entirety remain so?