Qatar the Scapegoat

Countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia cut ties with Qatar. The official reason was that this country supports terrorism. There are some who support Islamic terrorism more such as Saudi Arabia but no sanctions have been made against them. Of course, nothing was done against them because Qatar is a convenient scapegoat.

Egypt’s Actions Against Qatar

One of the ways Egypt is punishing Qatar is by blocking some of their news websites such as Al Jazeera and Huffington Post Arabic. Qatar did play a role in terrorism in Egypt by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood during the mandate of Mohammad Morsi. Historically, Saudi Arabia caused more

Flag of Qatar
Flag of Qatar

terrorism and crime in Egypt than Qatar. Saudi Arabia has financed the Muslim Brotherhood. Then, in the 1980s, Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia brought back to their home country Salafism, which increased its influence in the Brotherhood and throughout Egypt. If Saudi Arabia plays a bigger role in terrorism, then why isn’t Egypt imposing sanctions upon them?

Let’s not forget that Egypt and Saudi Arabia haven’t resolved their dispute over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir. Egypt also got some funding from the Saudis to build a new capital, a new and modern extension to Cairo. Escalating such a conflict would be risky.

But that’s not all. The United States and Saudi Arabia are allies. Donald Trump has been in touch with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt for a variety of issues: restoring United States-Egypt relations, the situation of Christians… Egypt would harm its relationship with the United States should its conflict with Saudi Arabia get worse.

What’s in It for Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia also gains something by imposing sanctions on Qatar. In Saudi Arabia’s conflict with Houthis in Yemen, Qatar supports the Houthis, a politico-religious Shiite Muslim group. In the Middle East, Iran tends to support Shiite armed groups. Saudi Arabia has been enemies with Iranian Shiites

Flag of Egypt
Flag of Egypt

because Shiism is an illegitimate form of Islam according to Wahhabism. This belief has no religious basis: it was simply an excuse to give Saudi Arabia a reason to raid Iranian caravans in the 19th and 20th centuries. Weakening Houthi supporters reduces thus the presence of Iran, their enemy, in the Gulf region.

Saudi Arabia avoids sanctions by finding what the countries of the region have in common against its enemy. Granted, Qatar did play a role in Islamic terrorism but it is such a convenient scapegoat. These sanctions have more to do with punishing a Saudi enemy than curbing ISIS. Might makes right. Rather, wealth makes right.

Flag of Saudi Arabia
Flag of Saudi Arabia

Copts and Muslims of Egypt: What ISIS can’t Divide

On the first day of Ramadan 2017, ISIS attacked three buses carrying Coptic (native Egyptian Christians) children on a field trip to Saint-Samuel’s monastery near Minya.

ISIS killed children on a field trip. How tough and manly of you, ISIS. God is surely impressed with your devotion and bravery. Your mothers must be so proud of you. Here, you deserve a (poisoned) biscuit.

It’s a pattern: ISIS attacks Copts; many women and children die; social media is flooded with messages of grief, anger and criticism of Christians and Islam; politicians express formally their sincere condolences; and the pattern repeats itself. There have been tensions between Egypt’s Christians and

graffiti_cross_crescent_Egypt
This graffiti from the Arab spring shows the solidarity between Christians and Muslims in Egypt. The cross has been defaced, probably by a Muslim extremist. Photo taken in 2012 in Maadi, Egypt by Mark Homsany

Muslims since the Middle Ages but they are united. It’s been so since at least since the beginning of the 20th century.

It’s not surprising to see Christians and Muslims protecting each other while praying and shouting, “Christians! Muslims! All united!*” during the Arab Spring. Pharaonism, a form of Egyptian nationalism, began in the 20th century. It stresses that Egyptians are not Arabs but descendants of the Ancient Egyptians and part of a larger Mediterranean civilization. It also emphasizes the importance of the Nile and the Mediterranean Sea. In other words, Egyptians of all creeds and ancestry relate to each other on the basis of their love for their country and history. The unity between Christians and Muslims is reflected in the lyrics of Sayed Darwish. He was a composer, a revolutionary, the father of modern Egyptian music, and the author of Egypt’s national anthem. He sang lyrics which were a call to unity against the British such as “Love your neighbour before loving your own existence/What is a Christian, what is a Muslim? A Jew? What are you talking about?/Those are just words, we’re all born from the same ancestors.”** This same song and others by Sayed Darwish were sung by protesters in the streets during the Arab spring.

If then, Egyptian society is so united, why is there tension between Christians and Muslims? Wahhabism, the movement that influences Muslim extremist groups from the Muslim Brotherhood to ISIS, turns Christians and Muslims against each other. According to Wahhabism, anything that differs from its version of Islam harms society. Around New Year’s Day in 2011, Hosni Mubarak’s government

graffiti_flag_1919
This graffiti from the Arab spring mimics the Egyptian revolutionary flag of 1919. It reads in Arabic “Long live the crescent with the cross”. Photo taken by Mark Homsany in Maadi, Egypt, in 2012

hired Muslim extremists to bomb All Saints’ church in Alexandria. Mubarak’s government aimed to get Christians and Muslims to fight in an attempt to thwart the Arab spring. ISIS is attempting something similar to invade Egypt. They attack Christians on feast days and near symbolic monuments to make them too scared to worship and by the same token, make Egyptian Muslims live in fear. Is ISIS’s plan working?

Of course Egyptians are scared but they have been through over 2,000 years of foreign occupation and many decades of dictatorship. They can fight off another crisis. Terrorist attacks and injustice in Egypt have been bringing Christians and Muslims together more and that is proof ISIS cannot win. Terrorists, you’re in for a ride.

 

*They were saying literally “Muslims! Christians! One same hand!”(مسلمين مسيحيين يد واحدة)

**From “Rise, Egyptian!” (قوم يا مصري). Translation by Mark Homsany