Saturday, August 20, 2011

No. 0858 Muslim-Christian Unity

Often, our perceptions of a place are shaped by the headlines that make the front pages of the newspapers. While sectarian tensions are on the rise in Egypt, for every conflict that is publicized there are numerous unsung stories of tolerance and living-side-by-side that don't make the headlines. The education system in Egypt, which segregates religion classes (muslims to the left, christians to the right!), and the overall government system which requires an ID card with one's religion stamped on it do not facilitate tolerance. Yet there is a unity which many Egyptians find in their Egyptian-ness, their love of their common identity as Egyptians (the Coptics in Egypt predate Muslims here) and also their mutual emphasis on "believing", the importance of religion in their daily lives and strong belief in living under the banner of God.

Following the bombing of the Coptic church Alexandria this past New Years (which initially prompted me to write this blog), a number of muslims went to Church with their coptic friends and either stood outside barricading the church or went inside acting as human shields. In Tahrir Square, Christians stood over their Muslim counterparts defending them as they prayed. This sort of solidarity has been expressed by liberal well-educated Egyptians, and has a historical precedent in Egypt which should not be ignored as Egypt works now towards constructing a new future for itself, in which religious freedom and minority rights will hopefully be enshrined (ainsh'allah).