‘Fight Club’ and Egyptian Sectarianism

Fight Club

From the blog Tabula Sara, her conclusion:

The first rule of sectarianism: you do not talk about sectarianism.

In most of my writings I seek to counter inflammatory headlines about Coptic persecution. There is almost always an initial incident stemming from ordinary community disputes, of which a Christian can be at fault as easily as a Muslim.

There is almost always a context in which the incident is understandable, due to cultural peculiarities which outdate any current political leader.

But there is also a narrative that strings together almost every incident, which is frightening. Here, Tabula Sara outlines the sectarianism of Egypt in four easy steps:

There are typically four stages to a full-on sectarian crisis in Egypt. First, you have the long, hard, arduous work of actually spreading sectarian venom in society. Luckily, there is no shortage of people willing to take that noble task upon themselves.

Anyhow, after the successful spread of such rhetoric, the second stage of a sectarian crisis can begin. All it needs is a little spark, nothing big: a girl and a boy who happen to be from different religious background are rumored to be in love, a fight between two merchants, a facebook status update, a scribble on a wall etc.

In between her first two stages she absolves the political leadership while appropriately holding them accountable at the same time:

The majority of people who are involved in these attacks are arguably not paid to do so, nor ordered to so by some political figure. They are people whose minds are saturated enough with that venomous broth which has been slowly simmering in society for a long time. It is not Mubarak or Morsi who order these attacks, as some like to believe. Yes, they bear some responsibility for either leaving criminals unpunished or actively promoting sectarianism, but the fact of the matter is that sectarianism is well-founded in society so it doesn’t need a top-down approach.

She then continues:

So the violence happens, the third stage can commence. No sectarianism without victim-blaming. The circle is full when the incendiary rhetoric that was used in stage one is repeated again, this time to justify the violence or to claim it was the Copts themselves who are at fault (or whichever community is attacked).

Finally, the fourth and most important stage of any sectarian crisis commences. It is the part in which a lovely state representative with a wide smile tells us there is no sectarianism in Egypt. He then recounts stories from his youth in which he used to have a Muslim/Christian neighbor with whom he used to play in the street, or alternately, depending on the level of apparent tolerance needed, in whose house he used to eat during feasts and special occasions.

Unfortunately, in conversations aplenty, these stages are evident.

Fight Club is an organized conspiracy, and I don’t believe Tabula Sara is making this exact comparison. She is right at the edge, though, for ‘sectarianism’ has such a life of its own it is almost an entity itself. Like a cancer, it spreads and destroys, but has no earthly master, only pawns and victims.

Fight Club ends in redemption and victory, but only after death and resurrection, and amid much ambiguous destruction. Will Egypt follow the same path? Would that be good, or bad?

Please click here to read the whole article at Tabula Sara, including examples of her four stages.

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