It’s time for mod­er­a­tion and peace­ful co­ex­is­tence among faiths

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FAITH - By Is­mael Mukhtar

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.

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