From LaGuardia to Cairo International: International Perspectives on the Cross
By Sally Bishai
If you ask me what my nationality is, I’d have a hard time answering you. That’s because there are about fourteen hundred things to consider in the composition of my answer.
For example, I was born in the United States, but Americans generally don’t consider me “one of them,” despite the fact that I grew up with them and know more about them than they probably do.
My parents are from Egypt, and have lived here longer than they have there, but again, when I go to Egypt, the Egyptians there—despite my perfect Arabic and the fact that I probably stick closer to “the Egyptian Manifesto” than the people living in Port Saiid, Alexandria, or Heliopolis—generally don’t consider me “one of them.”
I—and others like me—have a totally separate culture from the accepted and traditional (and I don’t mean that in a generational sense) “Egyptian” and “American” and even “First-generation American” ones.
Other categories I don’t really fall neatly into include the “Coptic” culture, mostly because
1- I was not raised with Christian Egyptians of any denomination (though I myself am actually Protestant, and not a member of the more numerous Coptic Orthodox faith) and 2- because I much prefer to steer clear of this designation because I feel as though it only widens the gap between Muslim and Christian Egyptians, on several different levels.
For example, the disparity between Christian and Muslim Egyptians seems to be increasing in an official sense, what with the recent parliamentary win of 88 seats by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as opposed to the fact that there are less than 10 Members of Parliament in Egypt who are Christian.
On the other hand, though, this divide seems to be decreasing in social circles as the new generation of young Egyptians—equipped with a technology that wasn’t present when our parents were twentysomethings—takes a more active role in fighting for democracy, equal rights, improved conditions, and a new Egypt.
To give you an example, such popular bloggers as Egyptian Sandmonkey, Big Pharaoh, Gr33n Data, and Free Copts collectively draw over 100,000 visitors to their sites per month, which indicates that there is a huge interest in the cultural, political, and news events that these writers cover.
An excellent site that provides feeds to these and other Egyptian blogs—not to mention a great house blog—can be found at the mega-popular Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket ( www.manalaa.net. ).An army of advocates for equality and free speech do not a democracy make, however; this may be because Egypt is rife with corruption, bribery, and bureaucracy. Meaning, if they don’t like how you look—or what you’re wearing—they can pull you aside, make you wait 10 times as long, or even deny you service.