Western countries have routinely, almost robotically, declared that “the new Egyptian order must be built by Egyptian with no interference from outsiders”. Other countries have been less shy, or less naive. As a statement of fact, the Western declarations are absurd. All countries interfere in each others affairs for their national gains. The powerful lobbies in Washington DC attest to how a variety of countries pay top dollar to influence American policy.
Interference in Egyptian affairs by outside powers has a long and sad history. But it is real and persistent. A realist needs to ask only about the kind of interference, not its presence.
The geographical presence of Egypt approximates the cultural cross currents buffeting the country today. Does Egypt belong to the Southern rim of Europe? Will it become a cultural colony of Saudi Arabia? Will the Gulf countries heavily influence its culture and economy though direct investments and the presence of Egyptian expatriates in these countries? Will Egypt assume a leading role in Africa?
The Egyptian Diaspora in the West needs to shake its hands-off attitude and become more heavily involved. Although this community is more heavily christian than Egypt itself, the involvement by American and European Muslims is critical. They are a cultural bridge. Egyptian-American Muslims need to ask themselves a number of fundamental question: have they, as Muslims, had more rights and freedoms, religiously and economically, than Muslims in Egypt? Have they as a religious minority in the United States had more rights than religious minorities in Egypt? Would they wish their freedoms and economic progress in the United States to be the lot of Egyptians in Egypt?
Egypt needs more, not less, interference. But it has to come from the Egyptian diaspora in the West. Only they can they bridge the gulf separating Egypt from its rightful place.
The saddest aspect of the events of this weekend at Maspero is not that the Egyptian Army killed dozens of Copts. It is that the Army killed dozens of its citizens. Egypt has been coarsened and brutalized by 30 years of Mubarak. There is a need to develop protests that do not end up as riots. Most importantly there is a need to retrain the police so that keeping public order is not a licence to kill.
The Army crossed a threshold. It is straining under the weight of being in government and politics. To claim that the killings were the result of panicked soldiers is more damning that to simply admit error. No one wants a panicky military.
Last, and saddest of all, is that fact that Copts are often the proverbial “Canary in the mine”. Soon the Army will be killing its citizens regardless of faith. This needs to stop. Egypt needs to be reclaimed, not lost.