Our reading in the Cairo press this month takes us to the issue of the media’s stark neglect of citizenship rights as they translate in the daily dealings of Egyptians. Mohamed Hamdy tackled this issue in his column al-Mowatin Misry (The Citizen is Egyptian) in the daily, State-owned Rose al-Youssef. Hamdy commented on a public contest organised by the daily talk show al-Beit-Beitak, aired by Egyptian TV both on its local and satellite channels. Instead of tackling points of interest which concern all Egyptians, the contest focuses solely on issues or characters in the Qur’an and Sunna. “And where do Copts stand on these contests which evidently differentiate between Egyptians?” wondered Hamdy in his column. Obviously these contests are diametrically opposed to citizenship concepts. But to this day al-Beit-Beitak persists in holding ‘Islamic’ contests.
The daily independent al-Masry al-Youm highlighted in one of its recent issues the press conference organised in Cairo by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Council of Eastern Churches in the Vatican, where he talked about the grievances of Arab Christians, especially Iraqis. Christians in the region, he said, face hardships first because of their faith and second because of the prevalent poverty. The Church, the Cardinal said, tries to support its people and help ease its members’ livelihood burdens. According to al-Masry al-Youm, Cardinal Sandri spent one week in Cairo and was not able to meet with neither the grand Imam of al-Azhar who was away nor with Pope Shenouda III who had too tight a schedule.
Back to Rose al-Youssef; in his weekly column Hany Labib wrote, under the title “Suspicious sectarian relation”, a piece on the relationship of Henein Abdel-Messih and Abu-Islam Ahmed Abdallah, commonly known as Abu-Islam. Henein was once a volunteer worker in a Cairo church before leaving and publishing his series Ebadat al-Asnam fil kaneessa al-Orthodoxiya (Paganism in the Orthodox Church), Bedaat al-Rahbana, (The Heresy of Monasticism) and Bedaat al-Kahanout al-Ekliros, (The Heresy of Priesthood). An unprecedented media campaign about the series and its author escorted the publication of the books. Abu-Islam is the head of the Islamic enlightenment centre and the Islamic academy for comparison between religions to fight conversion to Christianity and the Freemasons. Abu-Islam has written articles under such titles as “The Church dogs [meaning officials] are wild; does the security [apparatus] fear them more than God?” and “Shenouda and his vulgar kids”.
What could two such figures have in common? The answer, according to Labib is simple enough: Abdel-Messih teaches in Abu-Islam’s academy. Each of them exploits the other to his own end. Through Abdel-Messih, Abu-Islam effortlessly attacks Christianity, while Abdel-Messih on his part is guaranteed funding for his books. Labib, however, questions Henein Abdel-Messih’s qualifications to tackle such topics as Christ’s divinity and complicated studies of the Holy Bible. He draws attention to Abdel-Messih’s book Fi Rihab Abu-Islam … Lahout al-Massih (In the World of Abu-Islam … The Divinity of Christ), which explains his true relation with Abu-Islam, and which inexplicably disappeared from the market. Labib’s article reveals that both Muslim and Christian extremists abuse their respective religions and employ their knowledge to achieve their own ends which more than often go against the benefit of the community.