Archive | May 12, 2011

Egypt: Protecting the Right to Practice One’s Faith

Protecting the Right to Practice One’s Faith

Hwaa Irfan

This is one liberty that is increasingly amiss in the West, and replicated by some individuals and institutions in the Middle East and Africa. The 25 January Egyptian Youth Revolution took the lid of 30 years of not speaking one’s mind. As such, all voices have been speaking ever since that day, and sometimes with great ferocity. That ferocity has led to many clashes religious, secular, and otherwise, the most pronounced in the minds of the West being that between Christians and Muslims, or more specifically Salafis.

The Salafis of Egypt became a growing visible entity during the protests of the Revolution, and actively desecrating the sacred sites of the Sufis. Before the week that a Coptic Church was burnt down, the Salafis were actively gate crashing the dhikrs of practicing Sufis in the area of Giza near the great pyramids.

With the disappearance of Abeer Talaat, 500 Salafis were active again this time at the Coptic church of Saint Mina, under the belief that Talaat, a Christian who converted to Islam, was being held there. With heated emotions the protest turned into an atrocity that led to the burning of two churches (Marmina and St. Mary), 12 deaths, and 186 wounded, and a growing number of arrests.

The severity of this incident touched most Egyptians, both Muslims and Christians, breaking whatever ice had been resetting, as many Muslims joined forces with Christians to protest against anything that tries to separate them further, yet the underlying tension, the fear that counter-revolutionary tactics were and are at play as it is with great disbelief that Egyptians could do such a thing without great influence. That influence is believed to be Saudi in origin.

Many women frightened in case they are attacked in some way. During those tensions, Abeer Talaat came to light, as she came out of hiding and handed herself over to the Egyptian Armed Forces. Talaat was from the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut where she had converted to Islam in September 2010. Before she left Assiut. She filed for divorce and then disappeared in Cairo. To outsiders this would seem strange, but this is in fact a common practice amongst Coptics who convert to Islam for their own safety.

In Cairo, Talaat met a Muslim man, and agreed to marry him once her divorce was in effect, but she was reported to the church and then taken captive. According to Talaat, she was held in captivity in different Coptic owned sites before she ended up in Embaba where Marmina Church is located. Priests and nuns were trying to convince her to return to Christianity and to return to her physically abusive husband as it is only recent that a Coptic could get a divorce. Talaat was aware of the above incident, but present in a nearby house with a nun, and unable to see outside. The kafuffle led the nun to let Talaat go.

“I want to live my life and raise my children. Enough bloodshed – who cares if I am Muslim or Christian?”

This incident was a shock to most Egyptians, and it resulted in yet another decree from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The fact finding committee of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) found the “thugs” identified as Salafis by observers were thugs organized into two groups, with intent to burn churches, that such mentality was a product of the slum area of Embaba, with high unemployment, and a product of the previous regime; and that the aim was to defame the Revolution.

As the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issue a decree to assure the rights of Christians, and Coptics alongside Muslims, may the message of Unity in God be realized by all.

Related Topic:

What Did You Plant Today?

Christian By Name and Religious By Nature

Egypt’s Lotus Revolution