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Arabeyes: Muslim-Coptic Clashes in Egypt

one-home.jpg

Sectarian strife
rocked the quiet Egyptian village of Bahma in Giza on Friday over alleged plans to open a new church. Blogger Nora Younis tells us what happened and why. She also criticises the deafening silence of authorities in the civil war which saw the burning of five shops, 25 homes and an undisclosed number of casualties and provides a solution for the crisis.

What Happened?

قام مواطنون مصريون مسلمون باحراق 5 محال هي مصدر رزق لعائلات بأكملها، كما أحرقوا 25 منزلا وما هي الا ملكية خاصة ومأوى لجيرانهم الأقباط.. قام المسلمون باحراق المحال والمنازل بالكيروسين، ثم تعدوا على أصحابها بالشوم والعصى والحجارة. وفقا لجريدة المصري اليوم هذا هو ما حدث في قرية بمها بالعياط وأسفر عن أحد عشرة مواطن مصري قبطي مصاب بحروق وكسور وكدمات
Muslim Egyptians burned five shops which are the only means of livelihood for complete families. They also burned 25 homes which are the private property and shelter for their Coptic neighbours. The Muslims burned the shops and homes with Kerosene. They then hit their residents with sticks and pelted them with stones. According to the Masri El Youm newspaper, this is what happened in the village of Bahma and resulted in 11 Egyptian Coptics suffering from burns, fractured bones and bruises.

Why did this happen?

السبب؟ أراد 300 قبطي بالقرية تحويل أحد المنازل المملوكة لأحد الأقباط من سكان القرية الى كنيسة فقام أحدهم، ويقال أنه امام الجامع، بتوزيع منشور يطالب فيه المسلمون بالدفاع عن قريتهم الجميلة
The reason for all this? A total of 300 Copts in the village wanted to transfer one of the homes, owned by a Coptic in the village, into a church. One of the villages, who is said to be an Imam (clergyman) of a mosque, distributed leaflets calling upon Muslims to defend their beautiful village.


How did organisations and authorities react?

حسنا، هذه واقعة قد تحدث من قلة قليلة منحرفة في أية دولة على مستوى العالم.. دعونا نتأمل ردود أفعال مؤسسات الدولة المختلفة:
Fine. Such incidents do occur among a few wayward people in any country. Let us reflect upon the different reactions of state institutions:
وزارة الصحة والسكان لم تصدر بيانا بشأن عدد المصابين وطبيعة الاصابات، كما لم ينتقل وزيرها لزيارة المصابين
خلت الجرائد الرسمية للدولة من أية اشارة في صفحتها الأولى واكتفت جريدة الاخبار بالاشارة للواقعة في صفحة الحوادث، وكأن الحريق كان بهدف السرقة أو حدث من تلقاء نفسه
وزارة الداخلية أصدرت بيانا مخالفا لما جاء في وسائل الاعلام المستقلة والرسمية قالت فيه أن عدد المنازل المحترقة ثلاثة وعدد المصابين ثلاثة وأن الاصابات سطحية وطفيفة، كما أشار البيان للمعتدى عليهم ثلاث مرات بعبارة “أبناء الطائفة القبطية” مما يرسخ للطائفية في مقابل المواطنة
بالاضافة الى ذلك فأن وزير الداخلية لم ينتقل الى موقع الحادث، وفي أول رد فعل لها قامت الأجهزة الأمنية بقطع الكهرباء عن القرية بأكملها للسيطرة على الموقف مما أزعم أنه أصاب باقي الأقباط الذين لم يحترقوا بالذع
The Ministry of Health and Population did not issue a statement about the casualties and the nature of their injuries. Its Minister didn't visit the victims.
The country's official newspapers did not cover the incident on their front pages while the Akhbar newspaper was content with mentioning it on their accidents page, as if the fire was started because of theft or was ignited on its own.
The Ministry of Interior issued a statement with information which was different from what appeared in the independent and official media. The statement said that three homes were burnt down and three people were slightly injured. It also referred to the victims as being members of the Coptic community three times – which emphasises sectarianism against citizenship.
In addition to this, the Minister of Interior did not visit the site of the incident. Also, the Security Forces first action was to reaction was to cut off electricity from the entire village to control the situation – which I expect resulted in the remaining Copts who weren't burned feeling terrified.


How did Islamic organisations react?

أما عن موقف المؤسسة الاسلامية فقد أدان شيخ الأزهر محمد سيد طنطاوي الحادث واصفا اياه ب”الفتنة الطائفية” وموضحا أن الشريعة الاسلامية تحترم أصحاب الديانات الأخرى، وتتيح حرية الاعتقاد للآخرين، وأن جميع المواطنين متساوون في الحقوق والواجبات.. ومن الملحوظ أن شيخ الأزهر لم يعلق على حرية ممارسة الشعائر واقامة دور العبادة وهو أصل الموضو
As for the Islamic organisation, Al Azhar leader Mohammed Sayed Tantawi condemned the incident and called it “sectarian sedition”, while stressing that the Islamic Shariah respected those of other religions and allowed others to follow other beliefs. He also said that all citizens are equal in rights and duties. What draws attention is that the Sheikh of Al Azhar did not comment on freedom to follow religious rituals and construct religious centres, which is the main reason for this incident.
وبينما لم يصدر الحزب الوطني الحاكم أية بيانات بهذا الشأن، ولم ينتقل رئيسه لزيارة المصابين والأمر بصرف التعويضات كعادته بعد الحوادث الارهابية، أصدرت جماعة الاخوان المسلمين المحظورة بيانا على موقعها باللغة الانجليزية تدين الحادث وتصفه ب”حادث عنف بين أقباط ومسلمون” كما نشرت تصريح لأحمد عبده، النائب البرلماني الاخواني عن دائرة مزغونة بالجيزة قال فيه “أن الاعتداء يتعارض مع روح المحبة والاخاء التي تسود الأقباط والمسلمون منذ قرون. وأن الاسلام لا يحرم بناء الكنائس ولا يحد من الحريات الدينية. وأضاف أن هذه الممارسات ليست لها جذور شعبية وبالتالي سوف تنتهي بمجرد أن يعرف الناس التعاليم الصحيحة للدين”.. هذا بينما تجاهل موقع الجماعة باللغة العربية الحادث ولم تصدر أية تصريحات عليه من مرشدها العام حتى اللحظة
Meanwhile, the governing National Party did not issue statements regarding the incident and its president did not visit the victims nor order compensations for them, as he had done for the victims of terrorism. The banned Muslim Brotherhood group issued a statement on its English language site, condemning the incident and describing it as “violence that took place .. between Muslims and Christians.” It also published a comment by the Brotherhood's Member of Parliament Ahmed Abdou who said: “The attack goes against the spirit of love and brotherly relations which the Muslims and Copts have enjoyed for centuries. Islam does not forbid the building of churches and does not restrict people's religious freedoms.” He added that such practises don't enjoy popularity and will come to an end once people realise the true teachings of religion. At the same time, the Brotherhood's Arabic site totally ignored the incident and has not yet issued a statement from its spiritual leader.”

The solution

في الحقيقة حينما استعرضت ردود أفعال مؤسسات الدولة المختلفة وجدت تصريح الجماعة المحظورة باللغة الانجليزية هو الأكثر مسئولية بينها جميعا.. وبالتالي أدعوا جماعة الاخوان أن تبدأ حملة اعتذار وتبرعات لبناء كنيسة بمها وأقترح أن يقود الحملة النائب أحمد عبده بصفته ممثل الشعب في موقع الحادث، وألا تكون الحملة موجهة لأعضاء الجماعة فقط، بل أيضا لجموع المسلمين الذين يعرفون الاسلام الصحيح، وأن يساهم المسلمون المعتدلون بسواعدهم في بناء الكنيسة ويحضر النائب أحمد عبده أول قداس ب
In reality when I reviewed the reactions made by the different authorities, I found the banned Brotherhood's English language response to be the most responsible of them all. This is why I call upon the Muslim Brotherhood to initiate a campaign to apologise and also raise funds to built a church in Bahma. I suggest that MP Ahmed Abdou spearheads the campaign since he is a representative of the people in that district and that this campaign is not targeted towards members of the Brotherhood only but for the entire Muslim populace who understand the true Islam. I also suggest that moderate Muslims help build the church with their own hands and that MP Ahmed Abdou attends the first service held in it.

6 comments

  • ramsye

    Comment on terminology! Great post but observation on how ‘loose’ and ‘careless’ we have become with terminology following the US government’s lead! Calling everything a war, a genocide, a terrorist act…just a question to the editors — the lead-in reads ..”She also criticises the deafening silence of authorities in the civil war which saw the burning of five shops, 25 homes…” DOES THIS REALLY CLASSIFY AS A CIVIL WAR?

  • In my post, i said the country is being led towards a civil war. I didnt say civil war is taking place now. It can’t be.. because the christians are not fighting back – yet!

    Nora

  • […] Egyptian blogger Nora Younis continues to update us on the developments in the village of Bahma, which witnessed sectarian strife between Muslims and Copts last week. “I received the following message today saying Egypt’s State Security asked Christian victims of Bamha to change their official testimonies and on-record complaints to accuse under-age Muslim children of violent attacks instead of real adults whom they had identified earlier. I am glad they refused,” she writes. Share This […]

  • ramsye

    Nora, thanks for the clarification! I was referring to the lead-in into the article which does in fact call this a civil war.

  • Nermin

    Noura doesn’t know a thing our Shiekh Azhar now is Dr Ahmed El Taieb El Shiekh Tantawy passed away last year …please check your information before you blog…and do not put big words for your 15 min of fame..

  • Thanks for your comment Nermin. Perhaps you missed the fact that you are commenting on an article from 2007.

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