Saturday, 12 March 2011

Muslims and Christians: Two Halves of One United People

The Friday prayer and demonstrations took place in front of the television tower and on the Tahrir Square under the banner of unity between Muslims and Copts. People showed up with crosses and crescents painted on their cheeks. The banner  which were displayed today mostly highlighted the “naturally determined” and, therefore, “national” and “necessary” union among all Egyptians despite of their religious differences. At the same time, the written slogans campaigned against the reform of the old and for the elaboration of a completely new constitution. 
Demonstration for national unity among Muslims and Copts on the Tahrir Square on the 11th of March
On the 19th of March the Egyptians will be asked to vote whether or not they want to accept the old constitution to be emended in order to speed up the election process. People fear that if the old constitution is merely reformed and not completely replaced, the old system which favored widespread corruption and empowered the secrete services, will continue.
The prayer and the political agenda of unity among Muslims and Copts did not attract even half as many people as had been there one week ago. “Where is everyone?”, did I ask a woman who was following the happenings next to me. “Most of them are in front of “Maspiro”, the television tower where the Copts have been protesting for seven days!”
The middle of Tahrir Square was deserted and the circle of sand in the centre flooded with water. An ugly looking swamp was left at the place where only one week earlier poets, activists, preachers, victims and street sellers were still gathering fool of energy and enthusiasm about the revolution.

Demonstration for national unity among Muslims and Copts on the Tahrir Square on the 11th of March

The representative of the Supreme Council of the Egyptian army stood next to a high priest and a monk of the Coptic church. They hugged, kissed the pictures of the victims of the revolution which were handed up to them and sung the national anthem twice with the crowd. The high army officer in his simple uniform held up a Quran and a cross in his hand and had the people repeat that Muslims and Christians are all Egyptians and will rebuild this free new country together.
The scene looked artificial, stiff, exaggerated and therefore unintentionally comic enough to remind me of Adil Emam’s parody of a conference for the national dialogue among Muslims and Copts in his film “Hassan wa Marqus”. In one scene, the representatives of the two major religious groups of the country talk bad about each other before entering the conference hall and then finally –hand in hand–  they stand up after every intervention and call out aloud: “Long live the [union of] the crescent and the cross!”

Later in the afternoon,  a shaykh from al-Azhar claimed out against the corruption of the old system. He accused Mubarak, al-Adly and the former ministers of corruption and reminded the importance of their public trial to the audience who had gathered in front of his stage which was formed by a van and a pile of black amplifiers.
In front of the television building on the Corniche of the Nile, four tanks, barbed wire, iron bars and armed soldiers made the protesters “feel save”. The same slogans were voiced as on the Tahrir Square. However, Muslims seemed not to be plainly happy with the attitude of the Coptic Church. Baba Shenouda III remained loyal to Hosni Mubarak’s regime until its very end. This is the reason why, some of the Muslim revolutionaries now feel that the Christians are trying to profit from a political movement which has not really been theirs.
Even though, in these difficult and uncertain times, the Egyptians have barely lost their sense of humor. Two days ago, I witnessed the performance of folk songs against “Adly Bey”, “Mubarak”,  other representatives of the fallen regime, the baltagiyya and the secret services. Today, I attended a shadow and puppet play which mocked the revolutionary situation and ended by making the children –who were eagerly following the show– sing the national anthem. I am also spending my days laughing about Mubarak and other jokes and my nights looking at the caricatures which are massively published in the newspapers.

Mubarak Joke

For his birthday, Mubarak gets a turtle as a gift. The person offering the animal, tells him that it might live 400 years. Mubarak answers, not really convinced: “Hmmm, we will see about that…”

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