Muslim-Christian cooperation in Egypt

February 11, 2011

I have become a BBC Middle East addict.
I check in every few hours to see updated reports of what is happening in
Egypt. I cannot get enough of the freshness of their reporting, their insightful
and personal commentary and their somewhat cynical take on the world's

The most fascinating story coming
from Egypt is the incredible persistence of the protestors, persistence that
finally led to President Hosni Mubarak's resignation
earlier today. But I'm struck as well by the relationship between Egypt's
Christians and Muslims. Just weeks ago, Copts celebrated Christmas under
threat of violence from Islamist miltants--but with the protection
of their Muslim neighbors. Yesterday, Anna Alexander from the University of
Cambridge had an excellent piece on Muslim-Christian
cooperation during the protests.

Alexander suggests that the earlier attack against Copts may
have been fueled by the Mubarak regime, in order to make the regime look like
Egypt's only sane alternative. But the sight of Christians and Muslims dancing,
chanting, singing and praying together in Tahrir Square makes the regime's
story look pretty thin.

The Egyptian state has had a great deal of self-interest
in fueling sectarian tensions, but Egyptians are reaching for a greater unity. A
commenter on a CCblogs
post on the Coptic Christmas story expressed
some ambivalence about unity found in nationalism. But I am not sure that
nationalism, in and of itself, is serving a bad purpose here. It is raising the
question, "What kind of Egypt do we want to live in?"

That seems like a profound question to ask, and if the
behavior of the protestors on the street is an indication of the answer, then I
for one am inspired.