READING 2 SUMMARY
Castellino and Cavanaugh.
Two primary types of minorities in the Middle East: Religious minorities and Muslim ethnic minorities (p. 79).
Religious minorities include those part of the region’s early history as well as groups established during or after the 19th century. (Ibid.).
“The second category comprises Muslim ethnic groups spread over two or more territories with a distinct cultural identity and language.” (Ibid.).
The idea of nation-states was brought over by the west and effectively replaced Pan-Arabism and the secular models of Islamic societies “that existed in the early twentieth century and shaped minority identity construction within these societies” (Ibid.).
Being a minority doesn’t always mean that the population of the group is necessarily smaller than the dominant group. It only means that the dominant group has more socio-political or geopolitical power than the “minority” group. (Ibid.).
“Whereas such identities were historically distinguishable from the Muslim majority by socio-cultural factors, that distinction became politically framed and informed by that minority’s relationship with the state” (Ibid.).
Religious minorities do not just include non-Muslims, but also political minorities such as Shi’a (Saudi Arabia) or Sunni (Iran) Muslims.
Castellino and Cavanaugh also reference a “distinction between Muslim intellectuals living (mainly) in the West who engage in an ‘optimistic’ discourse on minorities against the ‘rigid framework of shari’ah-minded discourse’ located elsewhere.”
Outlines a dichotomy of perspectives, perhaps a “false optimism” from the west that excludes the local shari’ah perspective of minority rights.
Minority Group #1: Kurds
Minority Group #2: Copts
Violence in Egypt against Copts is depicted as sectarian in the reading (p. 96).
Copts have populations in Jordan, Sudan, Lebanon, and especially Egypt, where it has the largest denomination of Christians.
Case by Country:
Copts in Northern Sudan have had a “higher profile” than other Christian denominations in Northern Sudan. (p. 119).
For instance, Copts are registered for their churches to receive tax-exempts, where others are reluctant to do so for fear of “interference” (p. 119).
By far the largest denomination of Christians in Egypt (p.119).
“Whilst the Copts are physically and linguistically indistinguishable from the rest of the Egyptian population, many within the community believe they are a separate race with a distinct language and that they are not Arabs but descendants of the pharaohs, the original Afro-Nilotic people of the land.”
There are different external and internal interpretations of the Copts. For instance, outside of Egypt, “the Copts are sometimes portrayed as a religious (non-Muslim) minority community under siege and this narrative has been used to particular effect in the United States” (p. 120). But internally, “Egyptian civil society has come to regard the Copts with some suspicion; whilst Egyptians march for democracy and self-governance from a repressive state, the demonstrations by Copts (some leading to violence) have been primarily to reassert their difference within Egyptian society” (Ibid.)
This has led to interpretations of certain events like the violence that occurred on the 9th of October 2011 where 26 Coptic Christians were killed to be interpreted as “another example of the rise of an increasingly intolerant the Middle East for non-Muslims” (p. 120) by people outside MENA, but the discourse internally is much different.
The calls for justice for the Copts in Egypt from external sources, while perhaps justified, raised a lot of worries about colonialism. Castellino and Cavanaugh explain that this is because “appropriating and reinforcing these differences left footprints in post-colonial states, where the idea of embracing differences was not seen as a mark of ‘liberalism’ but as a historical hangover of Western interference” (p. 120-121). For more information on Human Rights check on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights
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