We know how to live together
By Ammar Ali Hassan
The bonds between Muslims and Christians are too strong to be undermined by sectarian tensions, the unfortunate statements of clerical figures such as Pope Shenouda or Muslim scholars such as Selim El-Awwa notwithstanding.
It is no coincidence that we have lived side by side in peace for centuries. For one thing, Egypt is racially homogenous. It would be impossible to tell Muslims and Christians apart by examining their features. As Pope Shenouda once said, "the unity of Egypt and Egyptians is one of the enduring secrets of this eternal country".
Egypt is not segregated. Christians live in every village and city, interacting with Muslims on daily basis. This makes it hard to ponder secession. The entire population will have to keep living together, sharing the same space, no matter what.
Because Egypt is a continuum, created by one great river, those who venture outside the Nile Valley risk their futures. This is why the country has a history of centralisation. Insurgents have no place to hide. Culturally, Copts see themselves as Arabs, so much so that some of the most persuasive proponents of pan-Arab nationalism were Christians.
Egyptians share traditions that hark back to their common, pre-Christian past. The customs of birth, marriage, and of village festivals, are the same across the nation. A shared past still appeals to large swathes of the population, regardless of creed.
Business and trade brings followers of the two faiths together. In mediaeval times Muslim governments hired Christians as scribes, treasury and tax officials. Muslims and Christians have since worked together, owned businesses together, and bought things from one another.
These are bonds that have stood the test of time and will survive minor grievances and ill-advised remarks.
In a bi-communal society such as ours no one wants to risk open-ended confrontation. Angry words may be exchanged, but the dust will always settle. It always did.
This week's Soapbox speaker is a political analyst.