Egypt does not belong only to the Egyptians

The land of Egypt belongs to all Egyptians. The idea of Egypt belongs to all humanity. A great deal would be better if Egyptians viewed themselves as the owners of their land and custodians of their history for all mankind. Egyptians can reclaim Egypt by understanding the universal experience of their civilization and their role in preserving it.

The Egyptian revolution was thrilling to the world because of its intrinsic narrative of peaceful uprising against oppression, but also because Egypt occupies a central place in the minds of the world, especially the Western world.  The plethora of Hollywood movies with Egyptian themes, buildings, popular tales all attest to that.

The Napoleonic expedition jolted Egypt out of its complacency and in the years since the Egypt has had a massive “Khawaga” inferiority complex. It manifests in many ways,  ranging between two extremes: attempting to mimic Western ways blindly and sticking to a very narrow idea of  “authenticity” that rejects much of what is valid about global and universal values.  Both extremes are bad, and some balance must be struck to achieve a less traumatic national consensus. Fundamentalists of all stripes (Muslim and Christian) who want to be “pure like the original believers” are guilty of romanticizing the unknowable.  Copts need to refrain from repeating the myth that they are “the original Egyptians”. Every Muslim can trace his ancestry to a converted Copt, and all Copts carry the impressions of Islamic Civilization within them. Egyptians are much too syncretic to be “pure”. Egypt is richer for the accumulation of influences of all that have lived in its land, including invaders and profiteers. As Egyptians accept the different strands of their history, they will come to accept their universality and profit from the larger global world.

Egypt can be reclaimed, both for Egyptians and for the world by acceptance of tolerance, universality and the fundamental nature of the average Egyptian: patient, humorous, devout and generous.


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