Is Egypt Really A Model We Want To Follow? I Hope Not.

Immediately in the aftermath of the startling events in Egypt, there was much celebration across the Middle East.  People in Jordan seemed simultaneously to be in a state of shock that a ruthless dictator was so easily deposed and overcome with euphoria at the thought that changes in the region were spreading.  I found it odd.  After all, nearly every Jordanian I’ve met considers the Egyptians to be a definite step down the totem pole of groups.  After all, they’re building guards and what not… really the flotsam that makes Jordan work doing jobs Jordanians don’t want.  And yet, when Mubarak fell, Jordanians somehow felt invested in the outcome.  I found it curious.  Still do.

But, as my three faithful readers will know I called a caution on the zealous celebration.  I worried for the minorities, in particular the large Christian population.  As much as I wanted to be wrong on this one, it doesn’t seem that I was.  Starting with the troublesome news of security personnel breaking down walls and such at monasteries, the news has continued to be a rather grim for the Christians.

On the 9th of this month violence broke out when a group heard a rumor that a Christian woman who converted was abducted (read about it here).  This was an unsubstantiated rumor.  The woman came out on the television to say that she had never converted and had no idea how the rumor started.  Yet, in the name of righting this “wrong” 15 people died.  Something seems off.  Tensions that were kept under control seem to be slipping out.

And then, on the 20th, an article appeared speaking of how Christians are continuing to protest that fact that two churches remain closed.    They refuse to go home until the churches are open and safe.  Imagine 10% of the population wants the ability to worship peacefully and safely.  How demanding of them.

But, on the flip side, it seems that every group in Egypt is now staging sit-ins and protests using the same thing that brought down Mubarak’s government… the youth who have nothing better to be doing.  I’ll tell you, this is something I definitely am not hoping for in Jordan.  It’s why I keep calling for people of Jordan to understand the protection of minorities before demanding democracy.  Because democracy without freedom… we’ve seen models of that… where were they?  Oh yes, they’re toppling like sand castles in the high tide throughout the region.  And so again, I say Egypt’s model may have come at the right time, but we ned to consider how do we get there from here.

The aftermath of their shocking success in ousting Mubarak has not led to immediate improvement in the lives of average Egyptians.  If it had, we wouldn’t see millions out protesting (they’d have jobs and somewhere to be).  It has not led to a better circumstance for minorities, if it had, we wouldn’t see this destructive interreligious strife.  Bottom line, I’m not exactly sure who has benefited, and perhaps we’ll have to wait awhile to be certain.  But, I for one am hoping that Jordan takes a more reasoned, measured approach to finding its way through this potential minefield.  After all, as a minority I appreciate how tenuous our position is.  As long as we keep quiet and keep our heads down, we’re okay.  But, really, is that any way to live?

Happy Religious Intolerance!

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2 thoughts on “Is Egypt Really A Model We Want To Follow? I Hope Not.

  1. As far back as I can remember there has never been a problem with Christens being a minority in Jordan, the problem may arise out of their ethnicity and not their faith. For example if the Christian happens to be of Palestinian origins s/he may be prejudiced due to their Palestinism and not their Christinism. The native Christian Jordaians enjoy a great deal of esteem amongst their other fellow Muslim Jordanians as well as the government. It is not true that unless they says yes and comply they will not stay protected, they did say no and continued to be protected just like all other citizens– if not a litttle more since their status in Jordan as a minority is considered an added plus an asset if you will. At this point in time I wouldn’t worry at all about the Christians in Jordan. I think that there are many critical other issues the country is facing & going throughright now besides this one, I wouldn’t even consider it a marginal issue, I would even venture to say that it is a non-issue. I understand that there are problems in Egypt, but I think that it has something to do with them being Copts rather than pure Christians, I could be wrong too but that is just my opinion. Sit back relax and enjoy being Christian in Jordan , it could be a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block.

    • Max, sorry but I can’t find agreement on this one. While the current rulers certainly give Christians protection and freedom of some sorts. Can’t say that life is a picnic here. It isn’t always easy to be a Christian and at times during the year, it’s miserable. Ramadan in particular marginalizes the needs and wants of the “minority” Christians and non-practicing Muslims. Certainly there are many, many critical issues, but we need to be mindful that people here have not been raised with the mindset that minorities must be protected as a matter of law and practice. During the last elections, we even had one candidate putting up a sign derogatory toward Christians immediately in front of a church. The doesn’t bode well should an incoming “democratic” government have a strong fundamentalist Islamic viewpoint. In addition, my kids end up memorizing portions of the Quran as part of their language curriculum which has books featuring only hijabi moms. It sends a challenging message that we have to counter in our kids to reassure them that they don’t have to veil to be part of Jordan. It isn’t purely the allure of the West that has seen so many Christians immigrating permanently out in recent years. The numbers continue to dwindle and what has been a minority for a very long time becomes a smaller and smaller minority. We don’t talk about it much, but it is a reality of our lives here. Sigh. Christians in Egypt are much larger and more visible portion of the population. They have demanded rights and find themselves in a precarious position these days… Democracy may be a boon in some sectors, but unless it is democracy of thought and practice it ends up being a negative for most minorities from where I sit.

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