Just when we thought the Arab street was coming together in a tremendous show of solidarity with the ongoing Tunisian uprising against the police state of Ben Ali, a deadly bombing targeting a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, has again raised concern about religious fanaticism and sectarian divisions. The bombing is feared to have killed a dozen victims and wounded a dozen more. The news is still unfolding and the circumstances yet unclear. The first amateur videos from the scene have already started to emerge on the Internet and there are reports of violent clashes between Christians and the police in the streets of Alexandria. The bombing occurred just minutes into 2011, robbing Egyptians and many others (me included) from the short enjoyment and celebration of the new year. This acted as a reminder of the two main ills that plague the Arab world: dictatorship and religious politics. Of course we still don’t know the exact circumstances of this cowardly act, but there are strong reasons to believe that religion has something to do with this. And please no more stupid conspiracy theories about the Mossad, the CIA, Mickey Mouse and what have you. I am trying to choose my words carefully here, but I think that religion, allowed into the political sphere, breeds violence. In the same way a doctor won’t be advocating for light smoking, I, for one, won’t be using the term “religious extremism” in a way that would suggest that it is any distinct from religious politics. Religion meddling into politics is as bad for human beings as a cigarette put into the mouth of a smoker.
From the bankruptcy of Arab regimes, to the failure of education, to the rise in unemployment together with the rise in religious fanaticism, things are bad. Really bad.
I feel angst and revolt a the moment. This, unexpectedly, has reminded me of a scene from a movie called Network. At some point the actor playing the role of an news anchor, faces his audience and calls for people to rise up and shout out their anger and revolt. (disclaimer: the anchor’s speech borrows from the right wing republican rhetoric, but far from subscribing to that, if you scrap the political backdrop from it, all the acting that remains is gloriously telling.)