5 September 2010
Our reading of the Cairo papers this week takes us to the Cairo daily al-Wafd, the mouthpiece of the Wafd political party. The Wafd, which was established in the 1920s, has so far had a solid reputation for being a liberal party which calls for national unity and a secular State, and boasts many Copts among its members.
Since al-Sayed al-Badawi was elected to head the party a few months ago, however, the Wafd appears to be steadily leaning towards Islamism. Badawi himself is an overtly Islamist businessman. Once he was elected to the top post in the party, Suad Saleh, Professor of Religious Fundamentals at the Islamic al-Azhar University, joined the Wafd. In a talk-show aired by On-TV satellite channel, Dr Saleh declared that, according to Islam, Christians are considered apostates. The party offered no explanation as to whether this was the party’s official line or Dr Saleh’s personal position; it merely said that Dr Saleh “didn’t mean it”. The activist Coptic lawyer Kamal Zakher, who was until then a Wafd member, promptly resigned his membership from the party and formed a group on Facebook against joining Wafd. But other Coptic members held their ground.
There has been talk that al-Wafd, which prints a weekly page that focuses on the Coptic community, under the name Quddass al-Ahad (Sunday Mass), is in the process of cancelling the page. Since Cairo papers normally allocate space to Islamic-related material all through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, al-Wafd being no exception, Quddass al-Ahad (Sunday Mass) has allegedly been halted to provide space for the Islamic material. Some senior officials in the party, however, do not believe that the Christian-community-oriented page will be resumed after Ramadan, since there are streams within the Wafd party which disapprove of the page. But it remains to be seen whether this is true or a mere rumour.
Emad Bastouros is the son of Father Bastouros, deputy to the bishop of the Port-Said. Mr Batouros is a trader who works in the import and export business. He lately imported a shipment which was held by the authorities at Port Said port. The website www.almesryoon.com printed news that Mr Bastouros had imported weapons and missiles from Israel, which the port authorities of Port Said had confiscated. Other websites and papers quickly grabbed the news and propagated it. Given that the importation of weapons is tightly regulated, and trading with Israel is severely looked down upon as an attempt to normalise relations with Israel—a strict no-no on the public level, Mr Bastouros was not to be envied.
The daily State-owned al-Akhbar, however, printed the true story. The shipment Mr Bastouros had imported included no ‘missiles’, but comprised children’s firework toys imported from China. The shipment was held because Mr Bastouros had not obtained prior permit to import them, which is a precondition for their importation, on grounds that they may be hazardous.
Was the furore concocted because the importer happened to be the son of a Coptic cleric? The question begs an answer.
Abu-Islam Ahmed Abdullah is the head of the Islamic Tanweer (enlightenment) centre and a former journalist with Islamist papers. Commonly known as Abu-Islam, he has made it his business to assault the Christian faith, under the pretext of defending Islam against what he terms evangelisation. His latest brainchild is a book The False Bible in which he attempts to prove that the Holy Bible is false and fictitious. He builds up upon the fact that there are various translations for the Bible, and that the Protestant Church has rejected some books in the Bible as non-canonical. The Egyptian Union for Human Rights has filed a claim with the public prosecutor against the book and its writer on grounds of derision of Christianity. Father Abdel-Messih Basseet of the Coptic Clerical College was asked for his expert opinion regarding Abu-Islam’s book. He explained that there are more than 2000 manuscripts of the Bible in Greek and Coptic alone. He said it was very normal to have some mix up in translation and that this did not implicitly imply the Bible was fictitious. Fr Basseet said that he was in the process of publishing a book to refute Abu-Islam’s allegations.