It’s time for moderation and peaceful coexistence among faiths
THE Egyptian uprising brought down the regime of Hosni Mubarak and set the stage for a new era in Egypt. Not only did the uprising topple one of the oldest autocrats in the world, it also revealed to the world the strength of the social fabric of Egypt. Egypt is the largest Muslim nation in the Arab world. It is the seat of the Al-Azhar. the most prestigious, oldest and most influential Islamic learning institution in the world.
Similarly, Egypt has a significant Christian minority. It is also the seat of the Coptic pope, whose influence extends beyond Egypt to Ethiopia, Eritrea and elsewhere. Egyptian Christians and Muslim, despite some issues, have lived side by side for centuries. Tolerance, peaceful coexistence and mutual respect have been the hallmark of their relations.
However, the recent heinous attack on the church of Alexandria on New Year’s Day tainted the picture of Egypt in the eyes of many distant observers. It created an image of a divided country where its majority Muslims were attacking and persecuting the Christian minority. Fortunately, this image didn’t last long and the uprising of the Egyptians restored the true image of a tolerant and civic Egypt. The perpetrators of the attack on the church have not been apprehended, but, with the fall of Mubarak, some fingers are pointing towards his interior ministry.
In Tahrir Square, ordinary Muslims and Christians stood side by side, rallying and chanting against the Mubarak regime. In an admirable display of tolerance, they guarded each other during Muslim and Christian prayers. When Muslims were performing the Friday prayer in the square, they were guarded by Christians and Christians were guarded by Muslims during Sunday mass in Tahrir Square.
In the neighborhood watches, they both jointly protected their neighborhoods, churches and mosques. This was the real Egypt, land of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
The Egyptian uprising demonstrated the fact that even-minded devout Muslims and Christians are civic, tolerant, peaceful, respectful of others and tolerant of differences. Sectarian tensions are the byproduct of social, political and economical dysfunctions, not theological differences. Rami Kamel, representing the Coptic Youth Movement, attested to this fact when he noted that “the regime (of Mubarak) is responsible for the sectarian problems suffered by Copts.”
Unfortunately, these stories of tolerance, humanity and moderation don’t make it to the front pages. On the contrary, acts of random violence, bigotry and the fringe voices of extremism receive the greatest coverage and attention.
When Florida pastor Terry Jones initially planned to burn the Qur’an, many uninformed Muslims thought this was the action of Christians. Given the publicity he was receiving, many didn’t realize that he only represented a fringe congregation of only 50. The fact that the overwhelming majority of North America Christians and followers of other faiths condemned this was lost in the details of the news reports.
Similarly, when the attack on the church of Alexandria took place, there was a condemnation of this action coming from Muslims all over the world, but poorly reported by the media.
For the betterment of our world, it is time for voices of moderation and peaceful coexistence to be heard louder and the fringe voices of mayhem to be identified for what they are: a fringe that represents only itself.