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The recent controversy in Egypt has taken an ugly turn, and suddenly appeared without warning. It concerns ‘who is the guest of the other’ in the country, and it shows that no one in the region is immune from this cancer-like sectarian virus. For if this disease is not isolated, it will destroy the body [of the Middle East]. There is a belief in the region that Egyptian society was immune to such social ills, by virtue of its historical fusion, and the prevalence of the central state, over hundreds of centuries. This created an atmosphere of social harmony amongst the main components of the religious community, the Muslims and the Christians. Yet the current controversy has emerged amidst the background of a discouraging religious scene in Egypt. The sectarian virus is rearing its ugly head in more than one location, threatening social cohesion and the structure of the state. In many cases, the sectarian scene becomes a cover, for local, regional and even international political objectives, and has nothing to do with the communities involved, its safety or welfare.

Regarding the hotbeds of tension that currently threaten the region, ranging from Iraq to Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, there are Shias, Sunnis, Huthis, al-Qaeda, and extremist Jihadists, in addition to Muslims and Christians. The result is the same: the disintegration and division of nations, or their transformation into failed states, such as the case of Somalia. This country, in reality, is now considered as more than one state. It has inherited extremist organizations, headed by warlords who live off smuggling, lawlessness and piracy.

There is no logic in evoking historical, ideological, or ethnic differences from centuries ago, and turning them into a field of controversy today, unless our minds have contracted a mad illness, which has made them unable to see hope for the future. The rational world is competing over technologies, minerals, and new markets, whilst our region is living in past conflicts. It has become the world’s ‘delusional man’, whom everyone looks upon with amazement.

The general principle applied worldwide today is citizenship, i.e. that everyone has equal rights and duties as long as they hold the nationality of the country, regardless of their origin or affiliation. This is what preserves the integrity of the community, and no one can say that a particular society’s origins have not been influenced by any other race. Today’s societies are characterized by pluralism. If we examine many European societies, which are led by leaders whose ancestry stems from immigrants, of other ethnicities, we find that no-one questions their loyalty, or questions the origins of their family. The important thing is their policies, and what they can offer their society.

Returning to the subject of the recent controversy in Egypt, no one can claim to be a ‘guest’ in the country; history alone is the judge of that. Pharaonic civilization precedes modern history, thus Egypt has passed through many eras over the centuries. Its society has merged influences from the Ptolemies, the Romans, and Christianity. Then Islamic civilization arrived, with all its features and stages. Egypt witnessed the Umayyad, Abbasid, and Fatimid Caliphates. These were followed by the Mamluks and the Ayyubids, and then by the Ottomans and the Mohamed Ali Dynasty. Ancestries and origins were mixed together, as a result of the migrations that accompanied each period, in a world with no borders except the geographic distinctions. All this historical background has formed Egypt’s character today. There is no wisdom or logic in making people’s beliefs the subject of public debate and controversy, or to transform individual cases into the subject of demonstrations or protests, in which insults are exchanged. To do so only causes further damage. What we need is for wisdom to prevail, and those advocating sedition to be isolated. We have had enough crises, and the voice of the silent majority must rise against those promoting sedition and destruction.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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