13 March 2011
It was the Islamist figure Sheikh Muhammad Hassaan—famous for his ultra-conservative views and his negative attitude towards Christians—who dominated the scene in Sole, Etfeeh, last Wednesday, in an attempt to bring peace to the village.
On the Egyptian TV talk show Masr Ennaharda (Egypt Today) last Wednesday evening Sheikh Hassaan talked about the initiative he took to meet the people of Etfeeh. The move, he said, had been approved by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar.
In a large meeting attended by several Islamic clerics as well as the Coptic figures Rami Lakah of the Wafd political party and George Ishaq of Kifaya activist movement, Sheikh Hassaan, who is widely popular especially with the young, addressed a large number of the Sole villagers of all ages.
Words of Allah
“I wish to highlight,” Sheikh Hassaan said on TV, “that the only way to pacify the young villagers was through the words of Allah and His Prophet Muhammad. This was the only means to get through to them and calm them down, since they were in a fury that could have led them to burn down the whole place.
“I told them,” Sheikh Hassaan said, “that Islam does not sanction the establishment of a mosque or holding prayers on usurped land. The Prophet himself had once said that ‘whoever seized land or demolished a building, or usurped anything without right, I will be against him on the Last Day’. Who wants to be against the Prophet Muhammad?”
He reminded the crowd of a story that goes back to the early days of Islam when the military leader Amr Ibn al-Aas wished to expand the mosque he had built onto a land that belonged to a Christian woman, but the Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab ordered Ibn al-Aas to demolish the extension and give back the land to its owner.
Sheikh Hassaan reiterated a claim made by the Muslim villagers that, when they broke into the church, they found lists with the names of all the Muslims in the village. “I saw them with my own eyes,” he said. The villagers believe that these lists were used in acts of witchcraft against them. This is why, they claim, they had pulled down what remained of the church after they torched it.
Wednesday’s initiative, however, was not the end of the hostilities, according to Sheikh Hassaan. “I will back within 48 hours,” he said, for another meeting with the villagers. The military have promised, he stressed, that not a single brick will be laid to rebuild the demolished church until then. “I would also like to sit with a group of wise Christians,” he said, “to reach an agreement that satisfies all parties.”