Malak: Dahshour and sectarianism

Dahshour and sectarianism

Karim Malak writes on the timing of Egypt's latest sectarian incident in Dahshour in context of the election of the next pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church:

With both the state and the Church caught up in a web of crises, it is no wonder that the incident will be swept under the rug. For the Church, however, it may serve as a good battle cry rally, a smokescreen to all the controversy over the papal elections and the candidacy of Bishop Bishoy. Despite a laymen opposition front’s objection, most observers agree that his candidacy will go through. The election committee has also decided to go ahead with the old Nasserite election law with some amendments so Churches abroad are recognized and have the right to vote.

Registration of voters continues to be with a letter of the archbishop of the area. Sadly not all Coptic faithful have the right to vote. Any amendment to the election by-law would retain interim Pope Pakhomios in power for an extra period; this makes his term a sensitive one.

Nasser’s papal election law bars women from voting altogether and practically disenfranchises the laity from taking part and holding the clergy accountable to their vote (since the election by-law has a skewed electorate of more clergy than laity). While we have heard of disgruntled opposition inside the Church lobbying against the clergy, the elephant in the room seems to be the election law itself. Yet the laity is too weak to muster as little as a murmur against the election law. However with Pope Pakhomios, a qualified bishop, at the helm now, it seems that he may have his tenure quietly renewed and this issue may come to the fore if the right lobbying is done.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.