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Religious harmony severed in Egypt

The Egyptian blogosphere has been agitated by the events in Alexandria that shook the country. Four died (3 killed by riot poilce), tens wounded and 100 detained after 5000 angry Muslim protesters demonstrated against a play that the protesters considered offensive to Islam. Protesters demanded an official apology from the Pope.

The two highest religious figures in the country, Sheikh Tantawy and Pope Shenouda III, published an official joint statement. Urging both Christians and Muslims not to resort to violence. The play was staged 2 years earlier, but have been released recently on CD.

Sandmonkey notes that the events did have a political impact. The Christian candidate of the ruling National Democratic Party in Alexandria withdraw his candidacy from the parliamentary elections as a result.

Friday events shook the Egyptian blogosphere. Nearly every frequent blogger did have something to say. Some were depressed others were angry, few others were in horror and fear. Everyone was feeling what The Big Pharoh said about the fabric of the society being torn apart.

“What those Muslims have done doesn't belong to the teachings of Islam.” This was mostly the consensus in Arabic blogs. Arabic blogs were also full of analysis. (Most of the following links are to posts in Arabic) But the wide spread response was either horror, fear or sadness.

Few think that what is going on is a normal reaction to the denial by the government to the increased sensitivity by the two groups. Some see that what is happening today is a result of years of increased sensitivity between the relationships between the two for years. Maged emphasizes governmental denial by finding nothing about the events in official newspapers for two days. And blames the government and both parties for what happened. And asks why the church insists on blindly following the government and never opposing it in any matter.

Yet some think that those events were politically motivated. Some think the events were perpetrated to tarnish the powerful Muslim brotherhood candidates in the next parliamentary elections. Spring456 thinks the exact opposite, that these events will make the brotherhood win more votes. Hazem asks why their newly elected president did not issue any public statement till now. He also thinks that the joint statement by the two highest religious figures will be of no impact on the angry crowd. Some ask the angry protesters why they were venting anger on the powerless few while the government is left to oppress its own people.

Alif, among other things, thinks that it is pointless to create any form of creative production that criticises other faiths. Since any faith will consider the other one as mistaken. It has been like that through history all over the world, and it should not be of any importance to the side making the production. And says that Coptic Christians are making the same mistake that Egyptian Muslims made several years ago. R says that it was almost a rule inside the church that it was not allowed to talk about Islam and asks if this play will open a discussion on what Muslims produce that might be offensive to Christianity.

Egyptian Person says “I downloaded and watched the play and I didn't find anything in it that conflicts with what a Christian or non-Muslim person believes in generally about Islam or some of its followers, so I don't see a reason for the astonishment or anger by some people.” And adds “Freedom of belief and expression must be given to everyone, and when people disagree, they can discuss and debate their differences, and at the end, every person follows what they believe.”

Mohammed, despite knowing that the police detains anyone on the streets in events like these. Decided to go to the street, the same day the events happened, after seeing horrifying pictures from Al-Jazeera. He went in the evening and discovered that the clashes with the police were still going on after the midday “Friday” prayer. He stood few hundred meters from the riots while shops where open and house wifes were normally buying food. Yet at the end of the road he can see young men dodging rubber batons and running away from tear gas. Shops near the riots were closed. Mohammed paints an eerie picture of what the atmosphere was like by quoting people who were involved. They were mostly anti-government and hateful.

In response, bloggers decided to take peaceful action and try to bring back peace and reconciliation.

Karim asks his readers to “set up a show of solidarity for the Christian community sometime this week.” While a group of bloggers are finalising, on a wiki, an open official statement in response. The statement is titled “An invitation to reconciliation and admission.” Which invites both Christians and Muslims to admit their own mistakes, apologise and oppose hate.

Even more ideas are appearing in blog comments. Some think that they should ask both Muslims and Christians to fast for a single day together. Others think they should hold banners and signs and stand in the place the events took place. While ikhnaton2 thinks they should hold regular seminars discussing issues and to open a dialogue between Muslims and Christians.

7 comments

  • Amr

    Very well done. lets hope for the best… Thanks, Amr

  • ateya

    The thing that none of those comments have touched on is the individual freedom of expression, of believe, and of assembly; a freedom to be nothing more nothing less, but free human beings; The freedom that none of our governments in the Middle East allow us to have. Unfortunately our governments are not the only identity after our freedom, it is also Those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if he can’t defend Himself, or he did not set a day when all of us Muslims, Christians, Jews, or even, what some call, infidels Will stand before him to give account.
    Only, simple minded, ignorant, and fanatics try to defend their “God” using Violence as a mean, instead of reason and respect. Forgetting that this very God is the one who Lets His Sun Rises On us, All, regardless of what we Believe.

    The crises we have lies deep within our insecurity that generates a blind zeal, are we afraid… afraid that we might be wrong, probably, about the dearest of our convections. Everyone in our land should ask himself/herself which is more important to my Faith being wrong or right, or being free to believe. When we honestly answer this question our beloved Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs, may start the first step towards peace with our selves, neighbors, and the world we live in. We should understand that our security, prosperity, and freedom hinge on nothing, but to do to others, as we would have them do to us.

  • […] Ibn Al-Aziz and Alaa made this site http://egyptnow.blogspot.com/ (Arabic) asking Egyptian bloggers to come together for forgiveness and to open healthy conservation to counter any negative effects of last week incidents. […]

  • […] Egyptian bloggers continue to discuss the events of Alexandria. […]

  • […] The events of the 21st of October did not end in complete peace. A new alarming, yet not directly related, development took place. This time shaking the Egyptian bloggosphere more strongly than ever, as it affected one of its own. For the first time an Egyptian blogger has been detained by security forces. […]

  • wala

    Pope has proved the point perfectly that people of islamic belief need to think with thier brains and not with their emotions. Why do they think that poeple of other belief have no right to criticise them? Is their religion so week that it can not take critisism? If what pope said was not ture than why did people of iran the ‘Farsis’had to leave their home land as they were forced to convert to islam or die that’s why they left thier Homeland and settled in India were they had freedom to practice thier religion freely without the fear of death. If your are true muslim take the critisism and learn from it.Let your religion grow with praise as well as critisism that’s the only way you will be accepted

  • […] he treated at a makeshift hospital in a mosque near Tahrir Square in Cairo.) Mostafa’s first post on Global Voices described rising tensions between Christians and Muslims in the country because of a play that was […]

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