The Ghosts Behind Egypt’s Sectarian Violence

The Ghosts Behind Egypt’s Sectarian Violence


An Egyptian man walks by a burnt out car and shop following sectarian violence in Kossous.

Sectarian violence has once again gripped the hearts and minds of Egyptians, following the tragic deaths of seven on the outskirts of Cairo. The small town of Kossous was shaken after its streets were left bloodied and littered with smashed cars, burnt-out shops, and shattered glass.

Yet the violence, which left mothers without their children, and daughters without their fathers, is not the first to challenge Egyptian society. For the past few decades, hundreds of Egyptians – mainly Coptic Christians – have been killed amid heightened tensions between Muslims and Christians.

The violence which impacts thousands of Egyptian lives each year is a mystery. The media is quick to show flashing images of rock-throwing, gun-fire, burning cars, and men carrying their comrades to safety, but a few days later Egyptians are left with no solution. The screams of those who were injured, the cries of the mothers of those who have died are instantly drowned in a sea of talk shows and empty promises by the government.

Unlike elsewhere, the perpetrators in Egypt are rarely brought to justice. While the USA plastered photographs of those involved in the Boston Bombings all over the media and shut down a whole city to capture the bombers (albeit kill one in the process), Egypt simply blames ‘unknown groups’ – ghosts – with no one ever standing trial for the horrific acts. Families are left with no closure and Egypt is left divided.

Violence erupted last week outside a Cathedral in Cairo following the funeral of four Copts who were killed in Kossous.

Yet, these ‘ghosts’ that are behind the attacks are not part of a foreign plan to destabilize Egypt. They are not remnants of the Mubarak regime (as in the recent Cathedral attacks) or members of a radical Islamist group. They are average Egyptians.

The ghosts are the result of a deteriorating society. They are the outcome of a media that sensationalizes and speculates. Above all, they are the consequence of stubborn religious and political leaders and a flailing education system.

The ghosts breathe radical religious speech that is spewed – un-moderated – on our television sets. They thrive on ignorance that is grown in Egypt’s deficient schools. And they are encouraged by the blind exchange of accusations between political powers and religious leaders.

Unfortunately, the government and the Egyptian people have failed to recognize that only through real, decisive action can this violence be stopped. They have continued to blame religious differences, while ignoring serious political, economic, and social problems that fuel sectarian violence.

Enough with the rhetoric and the blaming of ghosts.

Just two years ago, Muslims and Christians stood side-by-side during protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak. The unity displayed then has since wavered.

At a time where Egypt is entering a new-found era – an era where Egyptians are no longer afraid to let their voices be heard – it is each Egyptian’s duty to ensure that those who are constantly being trampled upon are allowed to stand up for their rights.

It is a time where we – as Egyptians and not as Muslims or Christians – unite and no longer accept the deaths of several Copts and Muslims over a weekend as a ‘normal outcome of religious tensions,’ but as a grave problem that requires serious action.

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  • Let’s hope the new president will tackle this problem ernestly and with decisive actions. My heart grieves as I read your article. https://erozasvet.com/, Thanks for the well-written article and the interesting comparison between the reactions to violent incidents in Egypt and the US.

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  • bystanding witness

    I only stumbled now and by accident over your excellent article! Congratulations for your open words. Such clear stand was long overdue. Just … what do we do now? Where do we go from here? Let’s hope the new president will tackle this problem ernestly and with decisive actions. He seems to be a sincere person and I hope I’m not wrong!

  • Refugee Archives at UEL

    Reblogged this on Refugee Archives Blog.

  • I love the empowerment message in your article Mohamed. I do agree with you that who ever the third party may be the average Egyptian on the street has embraced their ideology through media and regular incitings of violence. The salafi movement along with the brotherhood movement has been embraced by many of the average Egyptians, enough to cause havoc in the society. My heart grieves as I read your article. I agree with you education and self empowerment is the key. But how will this take place when there is no law & order?

    How do you then unembrace this ideology? How do you wake up this brain washed population to the reality of life? There is no infra structure to sanction justice. To date no one has been tried over all the Coptic massacres, rape kidnapping, property damage, burned businesses and so on and so on. I am afraid that when the Copts have been annihilated, it will be the moderate musilims turn to be persecuted then it will be a battle between the salfi’s and brotherhood.

    Having the infrastructure to realise this empowerment is vital in shifting this radical movement that has infiltrated the proffessional societies, judiciary and rules every aspect of the Egyptian’s life. Whilst there is no justice, law & order it is very difficult to move forward.I am afraid that whilst the Egyptian borders are insecure Egypt will always be a breeding ground for these extreemest ideology facilitated by ignorance and lack of opportunity.

    How will the Egyptians attend to education and economic development when they are so crippled with failing goverment and struggling with everyday basic necessaties of life and safety? How can a father attend to his business when his children are being kidnapped on the streets going to school everyday? How can a proffessional woman resume her career knowing the dangers that face her as she steps out of her home?

    There is also the “Brain drain” factor as many of the talented and gifted and accomplished Egyptians lare eaving the country, whilst the rest are being slughtered for speaking out. More public discussion needs to focuss on the strategies of moving out of this very sad scenario.

    The Egyptians will have to reorganise themselves to govern and face these tidal waves of challenges. They are a battered lot at the moment, weary with wounds. This slaughter of human life must stop. If Egypt is to regain its dignity and pride as a nation it must value its animals as well as its people of all walks of life. These people cannot move forward unless law & order can be gauranteed. It is only then that people will send their children to school and attend university and invest in a better outcome for themselves.

  • Mina

    Thanks for the well-written article and the interesting comparison between the reactions to violent incidents in Egypt and the US.
    I still think that the problem is a little deeper than catching the ghosts that should only be one phase in a longer process of dispute resolution. The main challenge of sectarianism in Egypt is how to put first things first on our dialogue agenda. Topics like churches construction, education curriculum, religion conversion and religion insults should top the agenda of any national talks, media programs, etc.
    As long as we refrain from tackling the core of the dilemma, we will stay stuck at the uncertain peripheries.
    Have a good one 🙂

  • Reblogged this on Ned Hamson Second Line View of the News and commented:
    I am not afraid of no ghosts! Come out in open ghosts or are you afraid?

  • What you write is very interesting. I had not heard on the news in England anything about this. Not surprising really because of what happened in America. Anything that happens in America automatically takes centre-stage. I guess that happens when the ‘world revolves you’. Keep safe.

  • Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

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