Minorities between state-society dynamics in revolutionary processes: The Christian Copts of Egypt 2011-2013
A lecture by Mai Mogib, Faculty of Economics & Political Science, Cairo University, CNES visiting Fulbright scholar
The concept of “minority” has acquired new urgency. Although the dilemmas related to the concept are enduring, it is now possible to confront them in a quite new light. Under revolutionary periods ,a product of numerous events that snowball into fully fledged eruptions lead to drastic changes in the political and social fabric of states and societies and thus to the context of minorities.
One of the most difficult tasks for political analysts is to determine whether a society has embarked on a revolutionary course of development, or is simply showing signs of resentment and resistance to a political order that is capable of sustaining itself ,despite its unpopularity and lack of legitimacy. And the “revolutionary” events that took place in Egypt since 2011 have underlined that the previous outward appearance of political stability was deceptive, the holding of free elections did not in itself guarantee the creation of long- lasting legitimate institutions. The ongoing events throughout the last 3 years introduce new givens to both political and societal levels , intense sectarian events, rise of Islamic tendencies, and a new role for the military supported by religious institutions, are all issues that influenced the place of Christian Copts since 2011.
Egyptian politics stands out for its low level of ethnic and sectarian conflicts. Egyptians themselves often describe their nation as homogeneous and many bristle at the idea that there are any “minorities” in the country, even those groups who differ in some way from the majority lay claim to being fully Egyptian and often resent the “minority” label. This protestation is not wholly inaccurate –ethnic and sectarian differences do tend to be less pronounced in Egypt than in many neighboring countries.
However ,is the way in which the differences that do exist have not become politicized, where Egyptians do differ, they do not always bring their differences into the political realm, but once politicized , there seems to be a significant rise in resentment as the risk of greater Muslim- Christian tension. Why does this relation become politically relevant and why does it sometimes remain latent? What are the main factors that feed that tensed relations? Is the concept “minority” applicable on the Copts of Egypt? How do Copts fit to the religious identity of the state in Egypt? Where is the place of religion since Christian Copts are a religious group? What is the nature of state-society relations that took place in Egypt since the Egyptian “Spring” 2011? How do political institutions relate to religious institutions? To what extent did the church-state relations vary throughout the last three years? Do the ongoing events prove a step forward towards Christians’ inclusion and integration?
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Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014