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Egyptian Muslims to Act as Human Shields at Coptic Christmas Eve Mass

It is impossible for anyone who is closely watching what’s going on in Egypt right now to conclude that there are no significant forces for tolerance and civilization at work in the contemporary Muslim world. The only way you could come to this conclusion is by steadfastly ignoring the news:

“Although 2011 started tragically, I feel it will be a year of eagerly anticipated change, where Egyptians will stand against sectarianism and unite as one,” Father Rafaeil Sarwat of the Mar-Mina church told Ahram Online. The Coptic priest was commenting on the now widespread call by Muslim intellectuals and activists upon Egyptian Muslims at large to flock to Coptic churches across the country to attend Coptic Christmas Eve mass, to show solidarity with the nation’s Coptic minority, but also to serve as “human shields” against possible attacks by Islamist militants.

Mohamed Abdel Moniem El-Sawy, founder of El-Sawy Culture Wheel was among the promiment Muslim cultural figures who first floated the bold initiative. …

While the reasons they cite for doing so may vary, many Egyptian Muslims are rallying around the idea of acting to protect their fellow citizens.

“I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians,” Cherine Mohamed, a 50 year old house wife said.

For Youssef, Egyptians should attend regardless of their faith as “we all have Christians as part of our family. I am a Muslim but I’m sure my great grandfather was a Christian.”

Think this is just state propaganda? Look on Facebook for the symbol above. It’s everywhere.

  1. John Marzan
    Trace Urdan: This is an inspiring story Claire, but I wonder if you read the post by Stuart Creque in the Member Feed which paints a different picture of secular tolerance for Christians. Is this simply the difference between Egypt and Pakistan? · Jan 5 at 10:35pm

    At least pakistan was able to produce a Benazir Bhutto.

  2. Michael Labeit
    Kenneth

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: By the way–this is the context in which to consider regional nuclear proliferation scenarios. If Iran passes the threshold, Egypt will race to develop its own bomb. At this point, it seems to me the odds of a nuclear war would be higher than at any point in postwar history. There would simply be too many ways it plausibly could happen.  

    Let me ask a crazy question: other than for strictly humanitarian reasons, why should we care if, say, Egypt and Iran engage in a nuclear exchange?  Or India and Pakistan? 

    Never before seen oil prices. Perhaps some environmental damage as well.

  3. Ross C

    You do not often hear about nationalism as a positive force any more, but this seems to be an example where an appeal to nationalism or dare I say patriotism is all for the good.

  4. Jerry Broaddus
    Kenneth

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: By the way–this is the context in which to consider regional nuclear proliferation scenarios. If Iran passes the threshold, Egypt will race to develop its own bomb. At this point, it seems to me the odds of a nuclear war would be higher than at any point in postwar history. There would simply be too many ways it plausibly could happen.  · Jan 5 at 11:12pm

    Let me ask a crazy question: other than for strictly humanitarian reasons, why should we care if, say, Egypt and Iran engage in a nuclear exchange?  Or India and Pakistan?  · Jan 5 at 11:41pm

    Define the boundaries of what constitutes a “humanitarian reason”. Reasons that come to mind include the destruction of irreplaceable historical sites, Americans and American allies who would certainly die in any such conflict, the possibility that such a conflict would spread and of course, the staggering loss of life.

    Even if the conflict is contained, there’s the impact on the economies on nations who do business with any of the belligerents,.

    Maybe you could just give an example of some objection that can’t be traced to some sort of humanitarian motive?

  5. Stuart Creque
    John Marzan

    Trace Urdan: This is an inspiring story Claire, but I wonder if you read the post by Stuart Creque in the Member Feed which paints a different picture of secular tolerance for Christians. Is this simply the difference between Egypt and Pakistan? · Jan 5 at 10:35pm

    At least pakistan was able to produce a Benazir Bhutto. · Jan 6 at 12:38am

    And look what it did with her.

    Of course, it was her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who declared Islam to be Pakistan’s state religion, sowing the seeds of the fundamentalism that killed both him and his daughter.

    And then there’s the fact that Benazir chose to wed “Mr. Ten Percent,” so named for the skimming with which he financed his corrupt rise to power.  His being Benazir’s widower led to his becoming the country’s President.

    The WSJ has an interesting piece today on Pakistan’s descent into madness.

  6. Stuart Creque
    Ross Conatser: You do not often hear about nationalism as a positive force any more, but this seems to be an example where an appeal to nationalism or dare I say patriotism is all for the good. · Jan 6 at 7:09am

    Indeed — that’s a reason that the Muslim Brotherhood represents a powerful potential threat.  If ever pan-Islamism truly replaces national, ethnic and tribal identity as the animating force throughout the Islamic world, it will be a very formidable foe.  But so long as Arabs hate Persians and Egyptians think themselves more worthy Arab than Syrians — never mind the religious dispute between Sunni and Shi’ite and the other Muslim offshoots — the Muslim world will remain fractured and weak.

  7. Douglas Pologe

    1) It will be interesting to see how many people actually follow through and do this.

    2) They say that the intention is to act as “human shields”. I would think that the type of people who would bomb a church would be happy to include Muslims who were willing to attend a Christian mass.

    3) I’m supposed to be going to sleep already.

  8. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Douglas Pologe: 

    2) They say that the intention is to act as “human shields”. I would think that the type of people who would bomb a church would be happy to include Muslims who were willing to attend a Christian mass.

    Indeed they would be. That’s why this is particularly meaningful. 

  9. John Marzan

    The organizers are the types of people who should be encouraged to form an alternative to Mubarak and MB.

  10. Kenneth

    This is certainly a salutary turn of events.  I wish them all well.

  11. Trace

    This is an inspiring story Claire, but I wonder if you read the post by Stuart Creque in the Member Feed which paints a different picture of secular tolerance for Christians. Is this simply the difference between Egypt and Pakistan?

  12. Claire Berlinski
    C

    Here’s an interview with Mohamed Abdel Moniem El-Sawy that’s worth reading in full.

  13. Mike LaRoche

    I wonder if Mubarak’s eventual passing might occasion a civil war in Egypt like the one between the FNL and FIS parties that consumed Algeria during the 1990s.  The Algerian secularists were outnumbered initially but managed to prevail.

  14. Erik Larsen

    I haven’t heard good news for a long time.  Thanks for this.  It’s always nice to hear that there’s hope!

  15. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Trace Urdan: This is an inspiring story Claire, but I wonder if you read the post by Stuart Creque in the Member Feed which paints a different picture of secular tolerance for Christians. Is this simply the difference between Egypt and Pakistan? · Jan 5 at 10:35pm

    Trace, I hesitate to use the word “simply” to describe anything about this, but of course Egypt and Pakistan are not the same. That said, please don’t understand my observations here to mean that I believe there are only moderates in Egypt, or that Egypt is basically a tolerant, moderate place. I don’t. It’s obviously terribly fragile and volatile. 

  16. Stuart Creque
    Trace Urdan: This is an inspiring story Claire, but I wonder if you read the post by Stuart Creque in the Member Feed which paints a different picture of secular tolerance for Christians. Is this simply the difference between Egypt and Pakistan? · Jan 5 at 10:35pm

    Egypt isn’t Pakistan.  For one thing, Egypt has a strong affinity to its pre-Islamic history.  For another, Egypt has a tourist industry that gives it an economic incentive to practice tolerance of non-Muslim Western ways.  For a third, Egypt is an Arab country that still has the idea that it should be the leader of the Arab world.

    On the other hand, Pakistan has nuclear weapons and missiles with which to deliver them, so there’s that.

  17. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Mike LaRoche: I wonder if Mubarak’s eventual passing might occasion a civil war in Egypt like the one between the FNL and FIS parties that consumed Algeria during the 1990s.  The Algerian secularists were outnumbered initially but managed to prevail. · Jan 5 at 10:47pm

    This is the nightmare scenario. (Not the triumph of secularism, of course, but civil war–and there is no guarantee of a triumph of secularism.) 

  18. Claire Berlinski
    C

    By the way–this is the context in which to consider regional nuclear proliferation scenarios. If Iran passes the threshold, Egypt will race to develop its own bomb. At this point, it seems to me the odds of a nuclear war would be higher than at any point in postwar history. There would simply be too many ways it plausibly could happen. 

  19. Stuart Creque
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: By the way–this is the context in which to consider regional nuclear proliferation scenarios. If Iran passes the threshold, Egypt will race to develop its own bomb. At this point, it seems to me the odds of a nuclear war would be higher than at any point in postwar history. There would simply be too many ways it plausibly could happen.  · Jan 5 at 11:12pm

    I wouldn’t worry about nuclear proliferation in the wake of Iran getting the bomb.  As soon as it gets the bomb, Iran will be able to dictate terms to the Arab nations of the Mideast.

    Consider: if you were an Arab ruler and the Iranians told you to fall in line or face a barrage of 1,000 missiles, at least one of which would be nuclear-tipped, would you defy Iran based on the Obama Administration’s promise to protect you with anti-missile defenses?  Or, worse, to avenge the destruction of your cities by guaranteeing a US retaliatory strike against Iran after you got hit?  Easier and safer to drop any notion of an arms race and to follow Iran’s directives in OPEC.

  20. Kenneth
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: By the way–this is the context in which to consider regional nuclear proliferation scenarios. If Iran passes the threshold, Egypt will race to develop its own bomb. At this point, it seems to me the odds of a nuclear war would be higher than at any point in postwar history. There would simply be too many ways it plausibly could happen.  · Jan 5 at 11:12pm

    Let me ask a crazy question: other than for strictly humanitarian reasons, why should we care if, say, Egypt and Iran engage in a nuclear exchange?  Or India and Pakistan?