9 August 2009
Our reading in the Cairo press this month takes us to the tragic incident of Marwa al-Shirbini, the 32-year-old veiled Egyptian woman who was killed in a courtroom in Dresden, Germany, by an anti-Islamic German. We strongly condemn this racist incident as we condemn all hate crimes. The incident spurred a harsh backlash against the “terrorist, racist, Crusader West” by both State-owned and independent papers in Egypt, doubtless to gratify an impassioned public. Amid this vociferous attack there arose a few sedate voices that advised the public to calm down and reassess the entire situation quietly and wisely.
The difficult questions
Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of the daily independent al-Dustour wrote denouncing the public’s over-reaction to the incident, to the extent of branding it a “western attack against Islam”.
“Marwa is not the victim of the veil” was the title of a commentary by Wa’el Lutfi in the weekly State-owned Rose al-Youssef. Lutfi’s article was by far the boldest yet written on the incident, since he possessed the courage to extend hate crimes to include those committed by fanatic Muslims against Copts in Egypt. “We should possess the vision and courage to analyse our wrath and determine the reason behind our rage against the killer. Is it because the killer is a ‘mean racist’, an enemy of mankind? Or is it because he killed one of our own? If we are angry because the killer is a racist who resents ‘the other’, we will find ourselves automatically condemning—and feeling ashamed of—similar crimes committed in our country against Copts. If we are sufficiently honest to catch ourselves red-handed as we commit racist crimes against the Copts, we should ask ourselves why fanatics are allowed to get away with such crimes, why children in our alleys are allowed to derogate Christians and why some Copts respond with counter racism? But these are difficult questions; answering them candidly is the difficult choice.”
The pages of the independent daily al-Masry al-Youm carried articles by two young Muslim women, the Saudi writer Nadine al-Bedeir and the Egyptian Sahar al-Gaara, who wrote casting serious doubts over the validity of linking the veil to Islamic faith. Fiqis (Islamic scholars) are themselves divided over the issue, Bedeir and Gaara pointed out.
One in 400
Discrimination against Copts in the field of sports was the subject of a special report printed by al-Dustour. The report revealed that, among the 400 football players in the teams of the national football league, there is only one Christian. I can only say that the years of Coptic exclusion are bound to bring on a dire future for Egypt.
Back to Rose al-Youssef where Ismail Hosny, an expert on Islamic movements, wrote commenting on an article in the weekly al-Ahaly, the mouthpiece of the leftist Tagamuu party, by none other than Speaker of Egypt’s Parliament Fathy Sorour. Sorour described Islam as a creed and legislation, a religion and a State. The description, Hosny remarks, would not be surprising if it came from the Muslim Brothers—it is, after all, vintage Islamist—but that it should come from the head of the country’s legislative authority was veritably alarming. How can equality and citizenship rights be implemented then, Hosny asks. How can Islam be a creed and legislation at the same time? Faith is constant, he stresses, while legislation is variable. How can Islam represent a religion and a State? Religion is all about the ‘absolute’ while the State represents all that is relative. Upon what basis did Sorour found his arguments? Hosny asks.
Hosny counters Sorour’s claim that Christianity lacks formal legislation to regulate social practices and dealings by arguing that the teachings of Christianity are capable of regulating all aspects of life. Hosny called upon Sorour to issue an explanation for his article, since it could be used by proponents of political Islam to terrorise Egyptians who believe that Egypt is a civic State.