Egyptian Aak: Week 14

Coptic death (Coffins of dead Copts following Saturday sectarian clashes – Twitter  via @auscma)

Main Headlines








  • Clashes erupted at the main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo
  • Morsi says Cathedral attack is like “attack against me.”
  • Report: Bullets from automatic weapons killed Copts in Khosous
  • Tourism minister stops Iranian flights to re-evaluate program

A Few Thoughts

 The poisoning at  Al-Azhar:

A new week, a new, subtle confrontation―this time between Al-Azhar, Egypt’s oldest Islamic institution, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The confrontation follows the poisoning of hundreds of students, an incident that understandably enraged many, but was exploited by pro-Brotherhood students who protested against Al-Azhar leadership. The protests prompted Sheik al-Azhar to dismiss the Azhar University chairman and also prompted counter-protests by pro-Azhar supporters.  To understand this saga, a few points are worth clarifying:

  • First, Al-Azhar has always been involved in politics; it organized resistance during Napoleon’s era, endorsed Mohammed Ali independence from the Ottoman role, and revolted in 1919 against British occupation.
  • There has always been subtle tension between Al-Azhar and the Muslim Brotherhood, probably  because the founder of the Brotherhood, Hassan el-Banna, was not a graduate of al-Azhar.
  • During the Mubarak era, many Brotherhood members were critical of Al-Azhar’s Sheik for agreeing to join the political committee led by Mubarak’s son Gamal.
  • Following the revolution, the tension between the two became more obvious as the Islamist parties proposed various laws that challenged Al-Azhar authorities.  Two ideas were floated earlier, mainly by Salafi groups: obligatory Zakat (Islamic tax) and had al-haraba – capital punishment for “brigandage” under Islamic law; the Brotherhood appeared to oppose the ideas, but did not say so outright.
  • Many non-Islamists sought the support of al-Azhar in stopping what they perceived as an invasion of radical ideas into Egyptian society.
  • Ironically, the last debate was about Sekuk law (Islamic funds); the Brotherhood strongly backs the idea, while Salafis and others want the Al-Azhar verdict first.
  • Among the many rumors that fill Egypt these days, one claim is that the Brotherhood wants to replace the Al-Azhar Sheik with its man in Qatar, Sheik Qaradwi, by limiting his term in office to four years.
  • Against the above backdrop came the mysterious poisoning case, exploited by the pro-Brotherhood as a weapon, which sparked Friday’s counter-protests

This controversy highlights the lack of transparency and accountability in Egypt where scapegoating is the easiest way to solve problems; rather than dismissing the chairman of the university, the right course of action was to establish first a fact-finding inquiry to investigate the incident, punish the culprits, and provide guidelines to prevent a future disaster. Nonetheless, the Grand Sheik has demonstrated canniness; his swift action has deprived his opponents of their weapons and granted his survival in the ongoing battle for the soul of Islam in Egypt.

The Ongoing Sectarianism:Coptic Cathedral

 Another tragic episode in the ongoing sectarianism in Egypt; “unknown assailants attacked the main Coptic cathedral in Egypt as thousands of mourners held a funeral for victims of Saturday “clashes” in the Qalioubiya region. Five Copts were killed on saturday, followed by one more death on Sunday and many more injured. This all came after the alarming report of a rising wave of kidnappings of Copts in the south of Egypt. Again, few points that is worth highlighting:

  •  The campaign against Copts has risen sharply within pro-Brotherhood newspaper and social media outlets; accusing the Copts of supporting the “counter-revolution” has added fuel to the already chronic tension, particularly in rural Egypt where any rumor of conversion or conflict is enough to trigger bloodshed.
  • This is the first ever attack against the Coptic cathedral since its opening in 1968
  • Sunday’ s events bear a striking similarities with the attack of Port Said mourners. The ministry of interior has not learned any lesson. The statement by President Morsi will unlikely calm Copts who today feel raped in their own home, and the Brotherhood’s narrative of “plots” behind the current events is counterproductive
    It is no exaggeration to say that if the remaining tension continues without radical solutions Copts in Egypt will be the new Jews and may soon disappear from the country (by death or immigration). The tragedy of the Copts has religious, social, political, and security dimensions and will not be resolved without addressing all of them.

 Toppling el- Sissi?

 The new buzz in the local media is the rumors of growing tension between Egypt’s army and the Muslim Brotherhood. I think it is safe to say that the longstanding lack of trust between the two has never been resolved. Despite the façade of patriotic rhetoric, both sides are unwilling to bridge the wide gap that currently exists between them. Nonetheless, el-Sissi seems to know how to pick his battles, and to send a prompt veto whenever a red line is about to be breached. The question is not whether the rumors are true or false, but, as I have written before, it depend on whether Morsi view “el-Sissi” as a “spoiler”? Also and can Morsi remove el-Sissi ?

Replacing West with East

 The local McDonald’s in Egypt has announced a new “Turkish” burger. This may sound trivial, but it isn’t.  It is a reflection of the growing Turkish influence in Egypt―from Turkish soap operas, to the Anadolu news agency that is currently the closest and most trusted by the presidential team, to the spread of Turkish supermarkets in Cairo. Following decades of Ottoman occupation, now Egypt is experiencing a new, emerging Ottoman soft power, and hence the ottoman burger! It is a reflection of a new policy by Morsi’s leadership that seems eager to head East, not just toward Turkey, but also toward Iran, Pakistan, and India in a hasty way without much attention to quality or risk. The new warmer relationship with Iran is a good example; Morsi’s Egypt wants to improve economic bonds with Tehran, but doesn’t want the “Shia” visiting Cairo mosques or Turkish investment without Turkish secularism. This does not work, Mr. President.

Burning Egypt’s Heritage:

 The elegant South Cairo Court building, one of the oldest court buildings in the country, was the most recent casualty in a tragic trail of destruction that has plagued post-revolution Egypt. The outcome of the mysterious fire in the building’s third floor was the disappearance of many sensitive and crucial files, including the one on Gaddafi’s cousin.  Pity the nation that destroys itself to bury the truth. However, since when have we cared about heritage? It is systematically looted, Dahsour is the recent example.


 Like Mubarak who felt uneasy in Cairo and sought refuge in Sharm-el Sheik, Morsi seeks refuge in his various trips outside the country, particularly to other Muslim nations like Sudan that greet him warmly.  Morsi’s attitude toward Sudan symbolizes what is wrong with his entire leadership; he refuses to see Bashir as a war criminal, fails to appreciate the impact of Bashir’s disastrous policy that led to the division of Sudan, and deliberately turns a blind eye to the failure of Islamists in Sudan.

For Egyptians, Sudan is the experiment they dread and do not want to replicate; for Morsi, Sudan is an example to cherish. No wonder Morsi cannot reconcile with his people. The disputed border between Egypt and Sudan is another crucial test for him. I doubt he will pass it successfully!

For Bassem Youssef, hopefully, I will write a separate piece soon.

Good Read

Finally, here are Jayson Casper prayers for Egypt

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
This entry was posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Egyptian Aak: Week 14

  1. nedhamson says:

    Reblogged this on Ned Hamson Second Line View of the News and commented:
    I am sure that many wish their land would awake from what now seems to many as a bad dream That will only happen if you raise your voices loud enough to wake even the deepest sleeper!


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