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Maen al-Bayari

Sisi's failed police state must answer for church bombings

At least 21 people were killed on Palm Sunday at Saint George Church, Egypt [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 April, 2017

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Comment: Egypt's police state has failed to protect its people. Instead, it is fuelling vicious sectarian violence that has now become an almost daily occurrence, writes Maen al-Bayari.
Christian Arabs have the right to feel unsafe in their homes, and the events of Palm Sunday in Egypt yesterday, and the blood that flowed from the churches in Tanta and Alexandria, prove it.

The terrorists of the Islamic State group insist on providing further evidence for this fact, which we must now declare without fear, but they are only following the footsteps of the "tradition" established by their predecessors.

This attack, and the Islamic State-claimed deadly attack in December on a Cairo cathedral that killed 25 Coptic worshippers, are simply entries in an extensive archive of sectarian assaults. Indeed, the "caliphate" had not yet been declared in Mosul, when churches and cathedrals were being blown up in Souhag (1998), Qena (2010), Alexandria and Aswan (2011), and elsewhere in Egypt where Copts were killed merely for being Copts.

But in addition to denouncing these despicable acts, we - and others - have consistently written about the responsibility and failure of the regime in Egypt: Responsibility for fuelling sectarian violence and failure to protect citizens from the ghouls of terrorism.

In other beleaguered Arab nations, priests and bishops were slaughtered or kidnapped, and even nuns have been detained. In Iraq, Christians have been driven out of their homes in their masses, for refusing to pay a tribute to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Day after day, it becomes clearer that the regime in Egypt, since its coup, has cultivated nothing but failure
Yet Christian Arabs are not the only victims. In many countries, Shia Muslims cannot pray in their mosques without fear of extremist Sunnis armed with a heavy grudge against the "heretics". Sunni Muslims cannot pray in their mosques without fear of extremist Shia Muslims who have been whipped into a blind sectarian frenzy.

I am no sociologist, and have no elaborate explanations of the abyss the Arab world has fallen into. But I once believed that Egypt had a sufficient level of inclusive patriotism to immunize it against joining the long-standing Arab sectarian club, whose recent feats have proven that Lebanon's infamous crucible was trivial compared to that of Syria and Iraq.
  Read more: Are Copts at risk because of their Sisi support?
The massacre on Palm Sunday in Egypt, which killed at least 46, has shaken that belief. The claim of responsibility by Islamic State for the crime changes nothing, because some of the reactions we have seen show just how bad the social and political crisis in Egypt is today.

For one thing, the supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rushed to use this claim of responsibility to fuel their defence, denying the security services in Egypt were to blame for any shortcomings. They even cited the terror attacks in Stockholm, London and Paris to deflect blame from the regime, and paper over its obvious failures. Day after day, it becomes clearer that the regime in Egypt, since its coup, has cultivated nothing but failure, from the economy to the security of the homeland.
It is frightening to accept the Palm Sunday massacre, and the almost daily carnage in Egypt, as ordinary and commonplace events
France does not witness daily killings of officers and soldiers, attacks on police stations and the kind of forced displacement of minorities we have seen happen to Christians in Sinai, all under the watchful eye of the authorities. It is frightening to accept the Palm Sunday massacre, and the almost daily carnage in Egypt, as ordinary and commonplace events.

The Sisi police state has failed to protect Egypt and her people, plain and simple. The escalation in the sectarian tensions that Sunday's events portend is proof of this dismal failure.

The liberation of the Egyptian people from the clutches of this regime has therefore become a condition for their own safety and security, whether the Islamic State is or is not behind the despicable atrocities in Tanta and Alexandria.

Maen al-Bayari is a Jordanian author and analyst. He is the Opinion Editor of al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic edition.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.  

Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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