By Samir Morcos
Citizenry is a relatively modern concept, although the term has been known for centuries. In Egypt's case, the debate over citizenry was mostly triggered by references to the "other" in religious discourse. When identity is viewed from a religious angle, citizenry becomes a controversial issue. In my opinion, citizenry is a reflection of what we do, a mirror of our struggle for their civil liberties, political rights and equality.
Citizenry involves four elements: participation, equality, legality and distribution of resources. Citizenry is not a decision but a continual process. In the West, citizenry started out as a privilege for the few, then spread to all segments of society. In Egypt's case, one can identify a certain process. In Mohamed Ali's time, citizenry took a few tentative steps. The 1919 Revolution, through the voluntary participation of most citizens, consolidated the concept. The 1952 Revolution reduced the term to its social aspect, whereas the Islamic movement eroded it further through its emphasis on the sectarian aspect. Since 1981, the nation has been once again trying to "restore" the concept of citizenry.
If one resides in a country without getting involved in its affairs, she or he is more of a "denizen" than a "citizen". Citizenry assumes a certain level of involvement, of participation. Citizenry is not the exclusive right of one social stratum, generation or class. It must embrace all members of society. But for this to happen, all citizens should be ready to get involved, even on a grass-roots level, in matters affecting their status and future.
This week's Soapbox speaker is editor of the Citizenry Studies series issued by the Coptic Centre for Social Studies.