—- By: Alexandra Kinias —
For the first time ever, church bells rang at sunset to announce it was time for Egyptians to break their Ramadan fasting. The tolls of the bells blended with the melodious pray calls echoing in the skies of Egypt.
It was an emotional moment rarely experienced; with hearts swelled with joy and eyes filled with tears, millions of Egyptians, of both faiths, from all walks of life, sat side by side in the streets to share their Iftar [breaking the fast] meal. Christians had fasted too in solidarity with millions of Muslims who marched on the streets in the sweltering July heat, responding to General Sissi’s request, two days earlier. Sissi had asked Egyptians to take the streets to show their consent and support for the army and police and to authorize them with a mandate to take the necessary steps to curb the violence. This violence has been orchestrated by the terrorists groups that have been active since the June 30 earthquake that ousted President Morsi and shook the ground under the feet of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB].
In response to his call, a tsunami of Egyptians flooded the streets of Egypt in another mass demonstration that illustrated the largest national unity event ever taking place in the history of the country. This event delivered a message to the world that both Muslims and Christians are standing in unity as an intricately woven fabric of the society, against their internal enemy that threatens them.
The national unity event that gave the army and police a mandate to proceed with their plans to combat terror came as a reaction to the escalation of violence all over Egypt and the disruption of everyday life in the areas where the ousted president supporters assemble. Not that episodes of violence had stopped during Morsi’s year in office, but it has been publicly incited by the members of his organization–represented in his supporters who had been camping in the streets of Cairo–since his ousting. The staged confrontations and provocation to the army and police and random attacks on civilians and military personnel has resulted in continuous bloodshed and terror affecting all Egyptians, who are living in constant apprehension and fear.
The goal of Muslim Brotherhood has been to resurrect an Islamic Caliphate in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. It failed to understand, however, that it is not the Islamic identity that unites Egyptians, but their Egyptian identify; that one that was born thousands of years ago and which the members of the MB has neither allegiance nor loyalty to. Islam is the religion of the country and it was never under attack. It has never been. Egyptians are pious people, but Egyptian is their national identity, that was first compromised by Nasser’s Pan Arab dream and again targeted by the MB for their Islamic dream. However, this identity is more powerful than both and for that reason Egyptians took to the streets to revolt against the MB that was ready to wipe out their identity, had they been given a chance.
Eighty five percent of Egyptians are Muslims, but the Copts of Egypt are the real owners of the land; a fact that has to be acknowledged, accepted and respected. Even as they became a minority over the centuries, they are still important shareholders of the land. Egypt is the only land they call home and so do the millions of Muslims who took the streets to oust Morsi.
The religion is what a person carries in the heart, but the land is what gives the sense of belonging, of being, of safety, of existence, of pride. The land is where the seeds of existence are sowed in the ground when a person is born and where the roots of belonging grow. Culture and tradition play a very important role in the shaping of one’s life, character and beliefs.
The land, the air, the sky, the streets, the memories of childhood, the nursery rhymes, the school years, one’s first love, the family, the friends, the language, the movies, the books, the music, the dreams, the colors of the flag, the national anthem, the football teams, the flavors of your favorite food, the scents of a jasmine tree or the rain or the ocean, all constitute what a country is. They flow in our veins and beat in our hearts and define our belongings and loyalty. The religion is a big part of people’s lives, but it is not what shapes the identity or loyalty. Religion resides in the hearts. It can travel when people change locations, but leaving a country behind is like tearing your body apart and leaving a vital organ behind; usually a heart.
MB believes in no political borders, and has no loyalty to the land, to the flag, or to the country. Their loyalty is to the hypothetical Nation of Islam they are dreaming to build. And for their dream to materialize, the love and allegiance to the country have to be erased from the hearts of the people. The irony is that Christians realized after Morsi’s year in office that they are not in worse shape than their partners; All Egyptians were in the same boat sailing towards an unknown fate where a nightmare was waiting them at the horizon.
The call for Muslims and Christians to join the Iftar was to restore an image that has been lost, but never forgotten. The Egypt of yesterday has to come out of the ashes and resurrect above and beyond the conspiracies, divisions and differences that had been thrown on the way to hurdle the unity of the nation. For thousands of years the Nile has given life to Egypt and it flows in the veins of all her citizens.
Egypt is a force of regional stability. It is not just the land of sunshine and pyramids, but a strong power and a major player in the political arena. Its stability is very essential for the world peace. A major column for the stability of Egypt is a national unity between the partners of the land. The situation between Christians and Muslims had been volatile for many decades. And the sectarian tension and violence was systematically fueled by the regime of Mubarak that used the strategy of divide and conquer, to hold its grip tight on the people. And in doing so, the sense of national unity was lost. Fuel was added to the fire whenever a sectarian incident erupted, which always ended dramatically with more bodies to be buried and more hatred to fill the hearts.
I dream of an Egypt where religion is removed from identity cards. I dream of an Egypt where people are not stigmatized or stereotyped because of their names. I dream of an Egypt where people are not labeled according to their religion. I dream of an Egypt where everyone is simply Egyptian. This is not such a big of a dream. Egypt gave the world a great civilization thousands of years ago. And today, the Islamic reformation and the “Middle Eastern Age of Enlightenment” if they are to happen, there is no doubt that Egypt will be the place of their birth.