Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We will rock you

Demanding reform isn’t easy.

Demanding reform from an institution whose bedrock encompasses unwavering thoughts and ideals would be seen by a great many as being nearly impossible.

Yet the inclination of reformation has been persistent quality of mankind. Some social scientists liken this drive to constantly improve, as a thirst that can never be quenched. Throughout time mankind has had an inclination to improve upon itself making the possibilities of improvement virtually boundless. However, in the realm of everything that encompasses religion—there are those that will disparage the efforts of kindhearted reformers—through the use of irrelevant arguments and hatemongering. These efforts are especially manifest when the lights of reform shine brightly.

We can commend and protect our church with incessant praises. We can label those that urge reform as unfaithful heathens. But in the end will that do any good? Unfortunately, it will only hurt us. The below portion is a historical analysis of the partnership that has regrettably worsened our condition.

The Millet System

The partnership between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Egyptian government is reminiscent of the Ottoman Era millet system. As an outcome of Ottoman expansion, the sultans structured their conquered subjects into religious communities, called millets granting them a large degree of self-government.[i] Every millet was headed by a religious leader who had direct authority over the affairs of his community. The millet system allowed religious freedom and the power to “retain their religious education systems and religious legal structures.”[ii] The heads of religious communities were in charge of collecting tax revenues, administering justice, creating educational curriculums and determining the religious affairs of their communities.[iii] Allowing non-Muslims the right to administer their own communal affairs provided the Ottomans the ability to govern a diverse populace with little threat of rebellion. Despite the economic improvement of some groups under the millet system, under Ottoman law they could not be equal to Muslims. Religious communities were tolerated under the system, but were socially discriminated against due to the prohibition against non-Muslims in the military and ruling elite.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Copts had lofty expectations of equality and inclusion, but after decades of authoritarian rule by Mubarak and his predecessors, many Copts found themselves “battling discrimination, violence, marginalization, and the threat of demotion to the old dhimma status in an increasingly Islamized Egypt.”[iv] The partnership between the Church and the State has solidified Pope Shenouda’s role not only as head of the church but also as the leader of the Coptic community. There exists no civilian leadership in Egypt independent of the church and no independent leadership that can effectively address Coptic grievances and promotes a secular vision.[v] Even in the People’s Assembly, more Copts have been appointed by the President than have been elected by the people, making Coptic members of Parliament greatly indebted to the government.[vi]

[i] Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East. 3rd ed. Boulder: Westview Press p. 48

[ii] Ibid., p. 49

[iii] Ibid., p. 49

[iv] Sedra, Paul, “Class Cleavages and Ethnic Conflict: Coptic Christian communities in modern Egyptian politics.” Islam & Christian-Muslim Relations, no. 10 (1999): 219-236. EBSCO, via Academic Search Premier, http://p2048-www.lib.utexas.edu.content.lib.utexas.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.epnet.com.content.lib.utexas.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=6061275p.12

[v] Ibid., p.11

[vi] Ibid., p. 12


Monday, March 03, 2008


It's Election time! No, I'm not talking about the Democratic/Republican primaries, or even the election of Dmitri Medvedev, but of Student Government ("SG"). I've received more campaign fliers in my mailbox from candidates running for various positions in SG, than I care for.

We all have different opinions about SG.

I don't care about SG, because I view it as 'glorified' popularity contest for individuals who want something to put into their empty resumes. Nevertheless, there has been one instance where the members of SG came together and created a resolution that impacted my experience at my former Alma Mater. I think it was when they worked with city officials and created the e-Bus. The e-Bus took take hundreds of college kids from main campus to 6th Street and back until the wee hours of the night.

I haven't been paying much attention to the Democratic/Republican primaries much this election year. This might be due to the fact that I don't own a television. I tend to turn into a couch potato whenever there's a TV around, especially if there's more channels than I can possibly handle.

I don't care much for the Democrats this election year. All of their talk about bringing home the troops, and universal health care scares me. While I consider myself a liberal, I do understand that a strong foreign policy and a sound fiscal policy will do more good than evil. It's safe to say that most Democrats view the Bush as the epitome of all that is evil. But I think 'W' understands the region better than most, or at least his advisers do. We need to mimic Teddy Roosevelt's doctrine of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. As a nation, we're faced with a rising trend of Islamofascists that is in serious needs to be defeated. I know my talk of Islamofascists can be likened to that of Ann Coulter, or Brigette Gabriel, but the Islamofascist ideology threatens our way of life, just as Communism decades ago threatened America's hegemony.

Even universal healthcare scares me shitless. Excuse my French, but do we really want more taxes and an even larger government bureaucracy. Universal health care can be solved by adopting a Romney-isc system, where state governments act as a third-party facilitators, to help individuals find health-care programs that suit their needs. Yet the issues of illegal immigration come into play here, because in system such as the one suggested by Romney, participation of all citizens is mandatory. It's an all-around messy issue. However, the current situation that we're facing isn't perfect. We need a solution that does not substantially burden/bankrupt the middle class.

For all those moral voters out there--the politics of abortion and same-sex marriage don't matter. If change is to come, it would be through the court system and not through the ballot box. If history is a guide to the future, then it's safe to say that women will still have the right to choose and sometime in the near future homosexuals will marry. Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas was right on the dot.


Sunday, March 02, 2008


I'm supposed to be reading for Civil Procedure. I've got a ton of reading to get through and very little motivation. There is nothing like learning about alternative dispute resolution, (ADR)! Man am I pumped--I can't wait to get started. Unfortunately, I was supposed to begin over an hour ago.

Man this past weekend been 'odooles' of fun. I really should not be having this much fun while I'm at school.

I spent time with people I genuinely care about. Or at least some of the people I hanged out with I truly care about. It's hard being the only single guy in a group where the majority are married, or have a long-term girlfriend. I've been in that situation before and it doesn't seem appealing to me at this juncture in life.

Moreover, I'm the youngest of my friends--many of whom are focusing on on-campus interviews for law firms. While I can qualify for some interviews, I really have no motivation to dress up, print out a couple of polished resumes and a writing sample for an interview with a big firm. I could care less. That scares me.

It's funny how we start school with a group of friends that we automatically connect with on all levels, and after a while slowly begin to drift apart. I've seen it happen to other people and never thought it would happen to me--unfortunately it has. I'll try not to let my pride get in the way. Enough is enough, no more burning bridges.

Disgruntled hungover law student out.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Freethinking, or intellectual arrogance?

I guess I’m back...and I am here to stay.

I know I’ve promised this before, but I think that a world full of studying and a lack of television can drive any student up the wall. Writing for me is therapeutic. It’s a great way to not only improve my writing skills but to channel my thoughts into something productive.

It’s been a great second semester of graduate school so far. At first I didn’t think that I would fit into a small city where life moves at a much slower pace, seeing that I am an urbanite. However, I have transitioned quite well. My smooth transition is largely in part to the friendships I have formed here, in Smalltown, USA.

Initially, I wanted my first post to herald my return to blogging. Yet, I have been troubled by an ongoing situation in my life that I would like to discuss. As you all might know, I belong to a group of people that form one of the largest Christian groups within the Middle East. Although we might not be a sizeable minority, such as the Maronites of Lebanon, the Copts of Egypt, claim the title of being the purest descendants of the Pharaohs.

I guess our survival in that turbulent area of the world was largely due to our stubborn, conservative nature. If you step into any church where there is a sizable Coptic population, a visitor would not see any stark differences amongst the congregation. We all dress our best for Sunday liturgy. We all look alike with our brown eyes and coarse black hair. We all sing the same hymns and participate in the same events. Yet if you squint hard enough, a visitor might just see one or two Egyptian liberals in the midst of a sea of conservatives.

While I hate to generalize, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of Copts are unwavering conservatives that are hostile to any form of criticism against the church. I encountered much of this hostility when I created a Facebook group called, ‘Coptic Freethinkers’.

My initial reasoning in creating ‘Coptic Freethinkers’ was to give a voice to the progressive Coptic Christian who was tired of having to deal with the stifling conservative atmosphere present in church every Sunday. I was tired of my priest bashing other Christian dominations, homosexuals, or the idea of women within priesthood. While I may not be a supporter of any of the above examples, I do not feel the need to bash, or label different groups as being blatantly wrong in order to cement my faith. Our church has survived several centuries of oppression, yet our clergy feels constantly threatened.

Additionally, most of the commentators in ‘Coptic Freethinkers,’ automatically assumed that because I had a different opinion from the majority, I suffered from a grave sin. What does advocating financial transparency, democracy within the walls of the Maglis al-Milli, or even demanding the separation of the church from politics, have to do with sin?

It's a crazy, crazy world we live in.


Friday, August 17, 2007


I’m back.

I just returned from a month and half journey across Egypt. It was truly a humbling experience to discuss the issues close to my heart with the common man. Their openness and genuine hospitality over shadowed their close minded nature. Their ideals of freedom, life, liberty mimics our own here in America. They too dream for their children to grow free without the troubles of poverty, racism, and gender equality. They too aspire to have control over their daily lives without the intrusion of the ever power government. However, Egyptian society has a lot of ‘growing-up’ to do in the coming years. The ideals of equality for all Egypt’s citizens regardless of race, religion or gender have still not gained traction among the common man. The average Muhammad is fed-up with the current political situation that he has espoused a hard-line response to the lack of freedom and democracy. The lack of opportunity and the slow pace of reform have forced millions of Egyptians to turn to Islam as a salvation from their day to day problems.

The situation isn’t any better when I discussed the problems of the Coptic Church with family members and church laymen. Many believed the church was on the right track and the main issue lies not with reform but how to safeguard the Coptic nation from the sword of the Islamic fundamentalist. A part of me believes that the sectarian events that occur in Egypt are isolated and are similar to the hate crimes that occurred in America’s south during the turbulent ‘60s. The issue of reform with the hallowed walls of the Coptic Orthodox Church remains close to my heart.

I come from a family that has served the Church each in different capacities. My uncle in an undisclosed location in Egypt has worked over the decades to restore Church property that was once taken away due to President Nasser’s nationalization of private property. Just last year, he turned in the final paper work to regain a Coptic school for Girls back to a diocese in the Delta. Even my father began a campaign of democracy in our annual church council elections. When I was growing up many of these elections was nothing but forums of approval for the candidates that the priest handpicked. Now thanks the effort of my mother and father all members of the church above the age of 18 are able to contest, participate and vote in these elections. Instead of being handpicked they are chosen from a list of candidates and narrowed down over the successive elections. It’s a small victory but we still have a lot more to do.

More to come…

Fcuk the System.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Holiest of the Holy

I've been in Israel now for about a week and two days and beginning to understand more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More soon.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Muslim or Christian?

Let's go back ten years to 1996... the year that 'California Love' and 'Gangsta's Paradise' were top songs. Who can forget that year? For me that year holds special importance, it's the year that I first laid eyes upon Egypt. The Summer of 1996 connected to me my roots, my humble roots. The sites and sounds of Egypt amazed me, everything from the traffic jams in Cairo to the ancient ruins in Aswan excited me.

I still remember my 'epic' journey to Egypt in the summer of '96, but I'm worried about how much the country has changed especially when it comes to religion. Even in Nady al-Qahiria (Cairo Country Club) there were children that asked me my religion, as if my name didn't already give it away. Being of a certain religion made you apart of the group, excluding or including you based upon your answer. Why does religion matter so much, if we are all Egyptians?

As I'm embarking upon my journey to Egypt and the greater Middle East this summer, I'm scared that the vision that I had of Egypt will be smashed. The news coming from Egypt of sectarian violence and thuggery of Mubarak's regime has opened my eyes that Egypt isn't the land of hope or peace but of tyranny.
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