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The Dhimmi narrative a comparison between the historical and the actual in the context of Christian-Muslim relations in Egypt today

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Authors
Martin, Gianstefano C.
Subjects
Advisors
Hafez, Mohammed
Kadhim, Abbas
Date of Issue
2009-12
Date
Publisher
Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School
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Abstract
Religious texts, narratives, and history often provide the template by which religious leaders and their communities of faith frame actual events in modern times. In 2007, while conducting interviews in Egypt with leading figures from the Muslim and Christian communities, the author noted frequent comparisons, both favorable and unfavorable, between the dhimmi experience lived by Christians as separate millets in the past to describe the present conditions of the sizeable Christian minority living in Egypt today. This thesis investigates to what extent the parallels and analogies between the past and the present are valid and illuminating, and to what extent they are actually confounding, conflating, and obfuscating what is really going on. After identifying the hallmarks of the historical system by which the dominant Muslim authority managed its religious minorities in terms of spirit, ethos and practice, there follows a comparison of the main characteristics of the historical experience based on chronicles of Christians living as citizens in the modern Egyptian state. The thesis argues that although the origins of some current practices can be validated in some particulars, the dhimmi narrative as analogy is largely essentialism, and a rhetorical device, largely because it lacks the systemic, discriminatory intentionality and application exemplified by the millet system. As a way of understanding historical connections between the present and the past it has limited and circumscribed utility. Deployed as narrative or analogy by which to make meaning out of the present, it reinforces stereotypes, confounds attempts at conflict resolution, and infuses the future with an unwarranted sense of preordained path determinacy. It leaves much to be desired as a useful analogy, but is useful in terms of developing taxonomy of attitudes and positions regarding the place of Christians in today’s Egyptian state.
bfuscating what is really going on. After identifying the hallmarks of the historical system by which the dominant Muslim authority managed its religious minorities in terms of spirit, ethos and practice, there follows a comparison of the main characteristics of the historical experience based on chronicles of Christians living as citizens in the modern Egyptian state. The thesis argues that although the origins of some current practices can be validated in some particulars, the dhimmi narrative as analogy is largely essentialism, and a rhetorical device, largely because it lacks the systemic, discriminatory intentionality and application exemplified by the millet system. As a way of understanding historical connections between the present and the past, it has limited and circumscribed utility. Deployed as narrative or analogy by which to make meaning out of the present, it reinforces stereotypes, confounds attempts at conflict resolution, and infuses the future with an unwarranted sense of pre-ordained path determinacy. It leaves much to be desired as a useful analogy, but is useful in terms of developing taxonomy of attitudes and positions regarding the place of Christians in today's Egyptian state.
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Thesis
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Naval Postgraduate School (U.S.)
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x, 113 p. ;
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Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
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