Miss Mabrouk of Egypt

Check the archives too - a lot of good stuff to enjoy. Me myself? Off to new adventures in the blogosphere, if time permits.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Naguib Mahfouz: Unity in action

Al-Ahram Weekly is using archived quotes by Nobel Litterature Laurate Naguib Mahfouz every week. This time, a very timely topic.
Every society in the world has a core of beliefs that defines its way of life. For Egypt one such premise was national unity. My generation stuck together. We didn't think of ourselves as Muslims and Copts but as Egyptians. And this was at a time when the British were still in Egypt and political strife was a daily phenomenon. In his memoirs Lord Cromer said the only difference between a Muslim and a Christian in Egypt is that one goes to a mosque and the other to a church. Aside from that they live the same way, observe the same traditions and share the same language and culture.

It was only by chance we would know the religion of a friend. No one asked and no one paid much attention. I discovered that one of my closest friends was Christian only when his father died and I was told that he would be available for condolences at the church.

In my time the cabinet included 12 ministers among which it was customary to have at least two Copts. Wissa Wassef, a Copt, was parliamentary speaker for many years. When prime minister Ismail Sidqi, a Muslim, disbanded parliament Wassef attacked him fiercely and was hailed as a national hero for doing so.

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