Coptic-Muslim coexistence: A far-fetched dream?

9 05 2011

I admit that this post will be biased! I can’t be neutral when I see my people getting attacked more frequently and more severely. I just can’t , but also I can’t lie, exaggerate, or accuse anyone without proof.

I also admit that I’m not optimistic regarding the current situation, but I won’t lose hope, not soon at least.

If you haven’t already heard yet, the Copts in Egypt got attacked AGAIN for maybe the 5th or the 6th time since the Egyptian revolution. This time the Islamic extremists (hopefully extremists not mainstream) gathered in huge numbers around a Coptic church in Imbaba, Giza. They attacked the Copts there, as a result 12 were killed, hundreds were injured, a church was vandalized, and another church was burnt down. The casualties included Muslims this time, which means that the Copts are fed up and will defend themselves from now on, even if they have to resort to violence.

So, the million-dollar question: will the Copts and Muslims ever be able to live together happily?

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. Do you?!

However, from what I see:

  • Obviously, a decent number of the Muslim population want the Christians either dead or at least out of Egypt.
  • Again many are either indifferent or absent minded with regard to the Copts’ sufferings.
  • I dare to say that the majority of the Muslim society act in a patronizing and condescending manner towards the Copts. Talking about dhimmitude, Muslims being the majority, and Muslims protecting the Copts are clear examples.
  • Prevailing ignorance cannot go unnoticed, and in my experience ignorance begets intolerance.
  • Official reaction from authorities is just disappointing, and in many cases I’d say that authorities are an accomplice in the organized discrimination against Copts.
  • In sake of neutrality, intellects shallowly denounce intolerance in both sides, without honestly assessing the real threat of Islamic intolerance.
  • When Muslims blindly base their judgment on Christians according to one verse in the Qur’an saying: “لَن تَرۡضَىٰ عَنكَ ٱلۡيَہُودُ وَلَا ٱلنَّصَـٰرَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَتَّبِعَ مِلَّتَہُمۡ‌ ” “Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion”. I guess it’s easy to expect the prejudices against Christians if Muslims act solely based on this verse and not on actual experience. Frankly, there are many similar verses that encourage prejudices against Christians, but it’s not the proper place to cite them here.
  • Practically, there is no freedom of religion in Islam, A Muslim who converts is an apostate and should be killed.
  • Many Muslims have the tendency to believe rumors, and act blindly in response to these rumors, for examples (weapons in churches, women abduction, church magic, and the church secret plans)
  • Religious and theological differences between the two camps actually built a gap that is not easy to bridge, especially when the Copts hear their beliefs mocked in mosques and in mass media.
  • Copts have always felt abused, and discriminated against. They have emotional scars that do not heal by time.
  • Copts are not fully integrated in the society, or at least not fruitfully specially in politics.
  • Copts generally see religious Muslims as radicals, which is not true in many cases.
  • Copts look at their ancestors’ glorious history and feel heartbroken and helpless.
  • When criminals go unpunished incident after incident, a sense of resentment keeps piling in the Copts’ hearts, and more importantly a rejection to the cruel society they are living in.

All of these issues are huge obstacles in front of healthy coexistence, and it’s apparent from my observations that this is a complicated issue, and won’t be solved easily, specially if the whole society is not earnestly seeking genuine coexistence based on equality and acceptance. We will be on the right track if we started handling these issues and work hard on alleviating their effect.

One last thing, a living example of the problems I mentioned above can be found in this video:





Naga’ Hammadi Martyrs

16 01 2010

I felt overwhelmed last week by the amount of tragic events that happened, and I could have written about my feelings earlier. However, I thought it was wise to wait, for two reasons: First, I said that I should wait and see how people will deal with these events, and the reaction of the government. Second, I was really steamed with anger and maybe I would have written some harsh words that I might regret afterwards. But, now it is time for me to write and declare my sorrow for what happened, and also write about how I feel towards my people and towards my country and its corrupted system.
The Facts:

  • It was the Christmas eve according to the Coptic calender. In Nagaa Hammadi, a small city in upper Egypt, some young men celebrated the Holy Communion on this night and were heading home for a hearty meal after 43 days of fasting, they were wearing new clothes as a symbol of festivity and celebration. A car approached these youths and sprayed fire from machine guns towards them. That resulted in killing 8 of them and wounding another  10. I knew about this just 3 hours after it happened. I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept thinking about those who got killed, about their families, and about the feast the next day that turned into a day of great grief and pain.
  • The news spread insanely, Every body in Egypt and abroad knew about it, some newspapers even published them in their early editions the next day. The feast was dull, people followed the news updates, some of them managed to attend the funeral that took place on the next day. protests were a common scene in Nagaa Hammadi, police forces scattered everywhere in this small city, to subdue the protests and demonstrations. Simply Nagga Hammadi was on fire. I did nothing on the feast day other than following news websites and channels, I couldn’t even greet my friends, we all were in great grief.
  • In the after noon, some of the Muslims living in Nagaa Hammadi set fire in Christian’s homes and shops. Violence also affected another near by village called Bahgora. And an old Christian woman suffocated in her house that was burnt by some of the violent and aggressive residents in Bahgora(!!)
  • The protests from both sides lasted for two days, and ended finally by arresting a number of Christians, and a SMALLER number of Muslims!!

Media Reaction:

  • The governmental newspapers in the beginning didn’t give the incident much attention, I think that they thought that this incident would pass calmly as the previous similar incidents. But when the incident got the attention of private media they started also to cover it in their own shallow way to serve their purposes.
  • The first mention to this incident in “اليوم السابع” news paper also showed how biased there were. The title of the article was “clashes between Christians and Muslims, led to the killing of 6”. How this attack is considered “clashes”??! Innocent people were going out of a church and got killed and they called it clashes!!
  • The only one Muslim who got killed in this incident was called a “martyr of duty” in many newspapers, claiming that he got shot while guarding the church. However, the truth is he wasn’t guarding anything. He wasn’t even on duty. He just was unlucky enough to be mistakenly considered a Christian by the killers, so they killed him with other two Christians who were with him. Meanwhile, none of the killed Christians was called a martyr of any kind.

Public Reaction:

  • “This is an individual attack and has nothing to do with sectarian violence!” that was the government comment on this terrible attack, they simply ignored the huge and increasing  number of hate crimes against Christians. They just didn’t want to say the truth, they were burying their heads in the sands. What did they think? that we are going to accept their weak justification, and claim that everything is alright?! NO!! We WILL NOT!! EVERYTHING IS NOT ALRIGHT.
  • Another stupid justification, found on the tongues of people who don’t want to think, is that this incident happened as a revenge to the prior incident of a Christian man raped a Muslim girl two months ago in another city! That is really nonsense. Why didn’t they attack the Christians in that city? Why do they avenge from people who are not related by any means to the rapist? Those criminals have no values or morals as they already have criminal records, they just do their crimes for money. Why would they do a crime that won’t benefit them? all these questions need to be answered, if they want to support this stupid claim.
  • The Governor of Qena governorate, who is Christian by the way, and even before the start of investigations, assured the audience in a TV show that this crime has no instigator and is not related to any sectarian violence!! This man lost his credibility in every Coptic heart and mind all over Egypt. This also showed us how authority in Egypt rots every one even the only Christian Governor.
  • Lots of accusations targeted Abd Elreheem Elghoul the Parliament member as the main instigator. when he was faced with this accusations he denied even cooperating with the main criminal in his campaigns. However, there are many videos over the Internet showing them together during his campaigns. Doesn’t this show that he lied to remove himself from the situation? shouldn’t investigators link between his statements and the videos that prove the total opposite? I know that man is an accomplice, based on the statements of many local people their, including the Bishop himself. If they really want to prevent such incidents from happening again, they really should apply the law on everybody without fear.

My thoughts:

  • People can get really blinded, opinionated, and biased!! specially people of authority. Their number one interest is keeping their positions. But justice is just not present in their vocabulary.
  • I was amazed that some Muslims attacked the Christians and their homes and shops after this incident. As if it wasn’t enough for them to mourn their martyrs. They wanted to add to their grief and sorrow, the feeling of fear and injustice. How are these actions justified? I can’t find any plausible cause. Just hatred I guess!
  • No one bothered to dig for the truth. All I have heard was just blaming the criminals, and stressing on the FACT that they are not true Muslims, and Islam disowns them!!
  • A really funny comment I read was one Muslim guy advising his fellow Muslims not to say “May God have mercy on them”, claiming that this statement is not applicable on Christians, it is only for dead Muslims!! Just imagine how this guy deals with other Christians!!
  • Again I stress on saying: Christians in Egypt are not second class citizens, we have equal rights as Muslim co-citizens. ANY ONE who disagrees with this should check his sanity!
  • I have a strong feeling, that this terrible incident will pass just like the previous ones, without one action towards solving the deepened roots of hatred of some Muslims towards Copts. No single lesson will be learnt.
  • A positive point out of this mess: is that Copts from now on, will stand for their rights. no more silence, no more feeling of injustice, no more feeling of inferiority. We are EQUAL citizens in Egypt regardless of one’s  religion.
  • Another shameful act happened during the funeral, some people threw stones, empty bottles, and garbage on the Christians while walking to the graves! Some women were “بيزغردوا” as the funeral passed by them!! does these acts show sympathy?! unity?! solidarity?! or just detestable hatred?! And if people say that who did the attacks are a minority, what about these common people, who were everywhere in Nagaa  Hammadi? Are they also a minority? Does Islam disowns them too? If the answer to the last question is yes, then Islam will disowns lots of its adherents!
  • If Muslims really want to solve the problems, they have to use their minds and not to follow blindly hate speeches against Christians. YES! there are hate speeches against Christians and I will post an example in my next post.
  • My final words are not my own thoughts but a promise from the bible: ” فَيَكُونُ عَلاَمَةً وَشَهَادَةً لِلرَّبِّ الْقَدِيرِ فِي دِيَارِ مِصْرَ، لأَنَّهُمْ يَسْتَغِيثُونَ بِالرَّبِّ مِنْ مُضَايِقِيهِمْ، فَيَبْعَثُ إِلَيْهِمْ مُخَلِّصاً وَمُدَافِعاً يُنْقِذُهُمْ”. ” It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them.” Isaiah(19:20).