Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Christian-Muslim Relations in Egypt: Politics, Society and Interfaith Encounters

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Christian-Muslim Relations in Egypt: Politics, Society and Interfaith Encounters

Article excerpt

Christian-Muslim Relations in Egypt: Politics, Society and Interfaith Encounters. By Henrik Lindberg Hansen. I.B. Tauris: London, 2015. 304 pp. $99.

Hansen has made a substantive contribution to our understanding of Egyptian society by focusing on relations between Christians and Muslims. His discussions on a number of topics are insightful: the patron-client relationship between the two groups, the complex identities existing within the continuum between Muslim and Christian-from those on the extremes who see themselves exclusively as Muslim or Christian to those in the middle who see themselves as Egyptians-and Egyptian society's worsening post-revolutionary polarization along Islamist, secular, and Christian lines.

The book is not for the lay reader; its first fifty pages closely examine a number of sociopolitical and psychological theories and then regularly invoke them as paradigms for understanding Christian-Muslim relations. Moreover, while Hansen gives fair warning that "this book is addressed to Western academia," the result is a work that incorporates one of the key deficiencies of such scholars: the failure to factor in religion, particularly Islamic doctrine, when analyzing societal issues.

Thus, while noting Egyptian Christians' marginalized position, he also portrays them as "clannish and mistrusting" in what seems a strained effort to appear objective. When declaring that "discrimination [against Christians] is not a product of Islam as an essentially evil religion, which propagates the suppression of people not belonging to the faith," he trivializes and thus dismisses the topic of Islam's doctrines. …

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