Arab Angles

Came across (with the help of John Maas) an interesting site that tries to remedy one of the major lacks in this country, a necessary remedy for a better — or even simply, for an — understanding of the Arab world, and thus of the current crisis foci (though as Ed Dorn put it: “we do not even yet / know what a crisis is”). It is called Arab Angles, and though at this point it seems very limited (though its links allow to locate a range of related information from the Arab world) and possibly a Christian-inspired site (haven’t been able yet find out who the volunteers who run it are) it is a step in the right direction. Here is the front page, published 16 September:

Welcome to Arab Angles, an independent volunteer project that aims to present English translations of analyses and opinions published in the Arabic-language media in different countries, dealing with political, social and cultural issues from a variety of viewpoints.

Each issue of Arab Angles will present articles that examine a single topic from different perspectives. This first issue contains articles from the independent Egyptian media on the underlying reasons for the sectarian violence that broke out in Alexandria in April 2006, when a Muslim attacked worshippers in three Coptic Christian churches there. In addition to offering different explanations of sectarian violence in Egypt, the articles in this issue have much to say about the functions of religion in Egyptian society:

The Sword of Force and the Scales of Justice: ‘The Citizen’… Holds the Knife

In the magazine Weghat Nazar [Points of View], ُeditor Ayman El-Sayyad argues that religion is not the main issue: rather, the Egyptian state’s violent repression of all dissent, and its refusal to accept an independent judiciary, have created a climate in which ordinary citizens have come to believe that they must resort to violence in order to achieve their aims.

Unstable Nation

The editor of the newspaper Al-Dustur [The Constitution], Ibrahim Eissa (who was recently jailed for defaming the Egyptian president), rails in his inimitable half-comical, half-serious style (to which the translation cannot hope to do justice) against religious bigotry in Egypt, which he sees as partly a way of compensating for a collective inferiority complex, partly a cover for corruption, partly a result of ignorance about religion, and partly a substitute for the political competition that the state forbids.

One-Dimensional People

Writing in the newspaper Nahdat Misr [The Rebirth of Egypt], Abd El Moneim Said argues that Egyptians have become one-dimensional, that religion has usurped the place of all the other ties that once held Egyptian society together, and that this has divided Egypt along religious lines.

Is Egypt Protecting the Rights of Minorities, or Paving the Way for Civil Strife?

In an article published on Ikhwan On Line, the web site of the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group, which is banned but tolerated to an extent), Ahmad El Talawy expresses the view that the US and Israel have provoked sectarian conflict in Egypt, as part of a plan to divide Egypt and other Arab states into statelets along ethnic and religious lines. He emphasises that the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to full and equal citizenship for Christians and Muslims.

What is Behind the Incident in Alexandria?

Writing in the Coptic newspaper Watani [My Nation], Samih Fawzy argues that disruptions in Christian-Muslim relations elsewhere in the world have been needlessly imported into Egypt by a self-serving media, which encourages Muslims to be hostile towards Christians rather than addressing the real problems Christians have faced for decades.

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