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Since the flame of democracy took root in Egypt and began it's inexorable spread across the Middle East, new issues - though derived from a very old conflict - are quickly arising. Violence against Egyptian Christians, particularly the large minority of Coptic Christians, has begun to bloom across the country as Egypt begins to sort out it's next steps in the process following the fall of the Mubarak dictatorship.


Muslim-Christian sectarian violence intensified in Egypt this weekend, spurring an emergency meeting of the Cabinet and public exhortations from Coptic Christians for international protection.

At least 12 people were killed and 232 others were wounded in sectarian clashes outside a Cairo church, according to state TV. Officials said violence began over rumors that a Christian woman who converted to Islam was being held at the church against her will

International opinions seem to be mixed on this sectarian fighting - though it appears to be clearly a religious divide - and whether it's just a birthing pain of the new democratic movement or a symptom of a much larger problem that may be facing Egypt, and by extension, any new government that arises from Middle East democratic movement.

Historically, most new forms of government, when taking the place of a previously entrenched tradition, are born into tumultuous times. Some go well or decently well - The United States, Russia after the fall of the USSR - while others falter, struggle or rip themselves apart in bloodbath of ideologies or sectarian hatred.

From a foreign policy perspective and from an American perspective, I believe it is in our best interests to ensure that revolutions like those in Egypt or the ongoing struggle in Libya are not only successful, but also come to some sort of stable fruition.

Nation building is difficult - and our former fearless leader George W probably set back the craft by a decade or so - but it can be accomplished through other means than occupation and foreign military dictation of government.

For the most part, this community strongly supported and continues to support this burgeoning and developing democratic movement throughout the Middle East. But we cannot stop or lose interest because the revolutionary stage has ended(Egypt) or the fight is descending into a longer, drawn out struggle(Libya).  Our voices, and the voices of our elected leaders will need to present a clear and concise method of support to ensure that the people of these new nations - regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion - survive the next step in the process. A nation or nations- governed solely by the people's will - that will provide them with the liberties and opportunities to become equal player on the global stage.

Some important questions for the months and years upcoming with regard to the Middle East democratic movement:

1.) Will the fall of an authorization but mainly secular government like Mubarak's lead to an increase in the persecution and discrimination of the nation's minority religious groups, Christian or otherwise?

2.) With  new, free elections being instituted across Egypt how will the various political parties, ethnic and religious groups strike a balance that will lead to pluralistic democracy not at the expense of the minority population?

3.) What kind of policies and actions should the U.S. - and by extension the U.N - enact or suggest to ensure the peaceful transition to democratic rule?

Just some thoughts. I don't have the answers obviously but I am curious for the Dkos community feedback and opinions.

Originally posted to campionrules on Mon May 09, 2011 at 02:26 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  in other historical moments (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, birdboy2000, Anorish

    where one-party police states were yielding to bottom-up democratization movements, there were these sudden explosions of ethnic/racial/sectarian violence, always with the accompanying narrative of "this is what happens when you remove the firm guiding hand of the paternalistic state, people cannot handle freedom and democracy," etc.

    and more often than not, once the transition was complete, it turns out that a lot of those seemingly organic acts of communal violence turn out to have been orchestrated by former intelligence agencies, plainclothes military, or organized crime linked with the former regime.

    to be clear, i have no specific information that this latest sectarian violence is of that sort, but the question cui bono? is worth asking. i would not assume right away that it was done by who the news assumes it was. false flags are not uncommon in these situations, and most of the christian-muslim violence ceased when tahrir square was occupied by protesters, back in jan-feb of this year.

  •  The question is will the Egyptian (0+ / 0-)

    government have the will to curb the anti-Christian ideology and tendencies of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood?  

  •  This is racism, pure and simple (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is not "sectarian violence" or a "racial divide" as you discuss in your diary.  It's the same as the Ku Klux Klan lynching African Americans.

    The murder of Coptic Christians should be condemned by all, just like all other racist violence.

  •  Mubarak is gone; no one cares... (0+ / 0-)

    anymore, as one can see from the response here to an episode of ethnic cleansing that is being repeated across the Middle East and beyond.

    It's just like in the good old days before Tunisia.  Not much concern about Syria either, when the hot current obsession is OBL.

    •  Is ethnic cleansing the right term? (0+ / 0-) understanding is that Coptic Christians are Arabs just like the muslims.

      •  It's a quibble for some... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Danish Brethren

        but here is one commentator:

        Despite its recurrence, ethnic cleansing nonetheless defies easy definition. At one end it is virtually indistinguishable from forced emigration and population exchange while at the other it merges with deportation and genocide. At the most general level, however, ethnic cleansing can be understood as the expulsion of an "undesirable" population from a given territory due to religious or ethnic discrimination, political, strategic or ideological considerations, or a combination of these.

        And here is another:

        Petrovic himself adopts the wider definition:

            “Ethnic cleansing is perpetrated against particular groups of individuals, according to their ethnic, national, religious, or other characteristics.

        Here is the cite to Petrovic:

        •  thanks... (0+ / 0-)

          ...that makes more sense to me.

          My concern here is that we make sure people do not think that the Christians are being targeted because of their "race", i.e. white or non-Arab.

          It is more correct to think of this as Islamic Arabs wanting to cleanse their society of the Christian Arabs left among them.

  •  to just say this is messy is an understatement. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandbox, Danish Brethren

    It is sad to say and as much as we don't want to admit it, a fairly significant portion of Islam thinks that behaving like the Ku Klux Klan is appropriate and godly.

    This is not just "democracy is messy"- especially since there is not any democracy in Egypt right now.  The Arab world seems to finally be dealing with the idea of democracy.  But we can't ignore the fact that democracy itself is a very Western concept- and it was still very hard for the Church and other christian churches to come to terms with democracy in the 19th Century.

    The question is will Islam accept the same relationship that Christianity accepted in the West- basically that all humans have a fundamental right to freedom from religious domination of the political sphere.

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