Security and Identity: The New Crossing

As I write this, I am looking at a common street in an upscale neighbourhood in Giza, Egypt that is celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan. Many readers might be familiar with the sense of excitement and chaos that describes this time of the year, but to see it in the streets with your own eyes is an entirely different experience.

When you look at the people in the streets, you don’t feel that the country is experiencing political tension and uncertainty at the highest levels. You don’t notice stress about the major headlines of the day, whether it’s tension with Israel or an alleged secret deal between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.

There are other tides at work. People are looking to make basic ends meet, and it is forcing them to pursue more extreme methods to protect their interests. Many people here tell me it is insane to walk in the streets without some assurance of defence like a knife or a gun. The people in the streets seem to be conforming to a different interpretation of Islam that has radically changed the face of the common Egyptian. These indicators all point to this: the basic domestic issues of identity, heritage and (most fundamentally) security in Egypt are the most important questions facing top Egyptian officials at this time. It is a fork in the metaphorical road for the Egyptian nation that will have a large impact on Egypt’s role in domestic and international arenas for generations to come.

The basic domestic issues of identity, heritage and […] security in Egypt are the most important questions facing top Egyptian officials at this time

Each issue has many different questions to answer, many of which will be difficult to answer due to moral and ethical dilemmas. However, if efficacy is the aim of achieving security and identifying a “positive” Egyptian identity moving onwards, then some questions will be easier than others to answer.

Egypt has a wealth of history from which it can draw positive qualities and pride in the heritage of the nation. Its ancient achievements, and the tremendous spirit of optimism shown recently by revolutionaries of all colours, shows that Egypt has gone through a tremendous baptism by fire through which it has established a hardy and staunchly determined reputation for itself. To go down a path that establishes an identity no different from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the like would be an incredible betrayal and waste of Egypt’s potential. And if the common Egyptian still takes pride in the Crossing, I hope they hold the current leadership to the same standard of achievement and accomplishment in Egypt’s new era.

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2 Comments

  1. Interesting article. What do you mean by establishing an identity no different from Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc, though? Do you mean in terms of a religious identity, or in terms of what radical interpretations of religion have done to these countries?

  2. The extent of interpretations of a religion tends to vary from one country to the other, so it’s difficult to say that pursuing a religious identity automatically means choosing to identify with a radical interpretation of said religion. However, one thing that I am almost certain of is that pursuing a religious identity isolates minorities and disregards the cultural richness of any society. It’s this reason that makes many people refer to the “Middle East” and “Islamic World” interchangeably, even though they identify two different entities.

    Egypt’s cultural richness extends beyond the minority Copts; it includes Bedouins, Druze, Jews, Egyptians of European descent, etc. As a country that has always taken pride as being the bridge between the East and the West, pursuing a largely religious identity – like we’ve seen in Pakistan and Afghanistan – betrays that identity that has generated a lot of cultural and financial wealth for the country.

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