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March 5, 2011

The Copts need to study the case of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland very carefully. Many think that the UK is a nation-state – this is inaccurate. The UK, in truth, is a multinational state – one of the most successful of its kind, and a model for all other states which contain so many nations within their borders. There are many other successful multinational states in our modern-day, including Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland. States that contain multiple nations that are ruled by one nation, such as the many Muslim empires that have dominated the Middle East since 640 AD, including the Ottoman Empire, cannot be described as just or successful – in fact, they are empires rather than “states”.

Many will be shocked to hear that Egypt is not a nation-state but a multinational state, formed of at least four nationalities: Arab, Copts, Nubians, and Bedouins, with the Arabs controlling Egypt’s wealth, politics, and power. It is, however, unlike the UK, an unjust and unsuccessful multinational state. While the multinational arrangements of the UK may not be right for Egypt, there is much for Egypt to learn from this shining example of a fair state.

I will talk about this in the future in more detail, but today it is important to celebrate with Wales, one of the four nations in the multinational UK (English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish), its YES vote in the referendum that was held on the 4th March 2011. The vote will give the National Assembly for Wales direct law-making power in 20 devolved areas, such as health and education. Previously, and despite the devolution measures that had been taken since 1999, laws that affected Wales in these areas were made at Westminster in London and not in Cardiff.

Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones told celebrating supporters Senedd, the assembly building in Cardiff Bay: “Today an old nation came of age.”

Deputy First Minister and Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said it marked “the beginning of a new era of Welsh devolution – the decade to deliver for Wales”. “To demand respect, you must first display self-respect,” he said. “Today we have done just that, and the rest of the world can now sit up and take notice of the fact that our small nation, here on the western edge of the continent of Europe, has demonstrated pride in who we are, and what we all stand for.”

To many observers, the referendum represents a turning point in the Welsh nation’s history. The Copts must celebrate this, and the Egyptian Arabs must learn from the example of the UK as a successful and just multinational state that is responsive to the needs of its various nations. Let them learn that fairness is the cement that bonds nationalities together; and that domination and lordship of one nationality over the other in any multinational state is the recipe for disaster.

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