Friday, 7 January 2011

Is it really that simple?

Shappi Khorsandi
Since catching  Shappi Khorsandi a while back doing standup, I have found and followed her on Twitter and bought her book "A beginners guide to acting English" which I fully recommend.  In one of her tweets today she quoted an article in Ahram Online - English Language Edition which was headlined Egypt Muslims to act as "human shields" at Coptic Christmas Eve Mass.

The article, which I am repeating here verbatim, and trusting that Ahram Online will kindly give retrospective permission for so doing, is as follows:

Coptic Churches around the country expect an influx of Egyptian Muslims to share with the country's Christians their Christmas Eve mass

“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.

“This is it. It is time to change and unite,” asserted journalist Ekram Youssef, another notable sponsor of the intiative, in a telephone interview with Ahram Online. She added that although it is the government’s responsibility to act and find solutions to bring an end to such violations, "it is time for Egyptian citizens to act to revive the true meaning of national unity."
Following last year's Coptic Christmas Eve attack on congregants as they left their church in the Upper Egyptian city of Naga Hamady, Youssef created the crescent and cross logo with the slogan “A nation for all” - that was adopted during the past couple of days by many of Egypt’s 4 million Facebook users as their profile picture.
Mariam Yassin, a 24 year old video editor, will take Thursday off to travel to Alexandria to attend the mass at the Two Saints Church. “I am not going as a representative of any religion. I am supporting all those who died as a result of ignorance.”
Yassin’s friend, Mariam Fekry, was killed along with her mother, sister and aunt in the Two Saints Church attack
“I feel great sympathy for her family’s loss, yet I don’t feel that as a Muslim I should apologize on the behalf of murderers.” Yassin added.

On the other hand, Fatima Mostafa, a 40 year old house wife, will join Copts tomorrow to show that Muslims feel their sorrow. “I want to show the world that Islam is a religion of peace and that such attacks are nothing more than a result of poverty, ignorance and oppression.”

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.”

An engineer who wanted to remain anonymous stated that he was looking forward to tomorrow: “I was a Christian and I’m a Muslim now, I want my kids to go to church to realize that both religions are similar; we have one God, and both holy books stress peace and the welfare of the society at large.”

The goodwill has been well received by the Coptic Church, and Coptic priests have been expressing their pleasure  that Muslims intend to join them at tomorrow’s mass. Some churches have already put up banners welcoming Muslims to their celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Some fear the initiative will be thwarted, however. “I’m filled with happiness, I feel it will become a national celebration, yet I fear that police won’t allow Muslims to attend the mass,” Ashraf Rasmy, a Coptic volunteer worker said.

Nevertheless, Muslims and Copts are looking forward to tomorrow evening with all that it might bring. Amani Ramsis, a volunteer worker, remains defiant: “It is an anticipated celebration for all Egyptians, whether we live or die, we will never stop celebrating the birth of Jesus, and no one can bury our joy and unity.”

"In mourning of Egypt's Two Saints Church martyrs", is among a variety of Facebook profile pictures chosen by Egyptian users, both Muslim and Christian.
Now I am sure that you can all recall the shock and horror when a Coptic Christian Christmas Eve service in Egypt was targetted by a terrorist who had clearly been brainwashed into thinking he was carrying out "The Will of God" by committing mass murder. I watched, appalled, and saw the reactions of Copts in Egypt and thought "here we go again", but in this case something amazing appears to be happening. Instead of action breeding reaction, breeding counter reaction, it appears the true Muslims stopped and reacted as their faith actually demands and decided to reach out to the Coptic brethren and refuse to allow terrorists and extremists to divide them and if that is not one of the most amazing things to have happened this Century, let alone the year and decade that are only a few days old, then I am a virgin!

Now, lets take a leap of faith here people, and dream the impossible for a moment.

What if the schisms between Sunnis and Shiites could be healed in similar fashion so that they stop the eternal tit for tat bombings in places like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?

How about thinking "What if?" the Muslim Community in the UK could join hands with the Jews and Christians and refuse to allow atrocities to be accepted as a cause for celebration when one particular faith has been targetted?

Salman Taseer
Benazir Bhutto
What if, the gentle people of Pakistan could rise up against the supporters of those who killed the Governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer merely for speaking out against the criminal actions of people like a Mullah who put a bounty on the head of an illiterate Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was accused by another woman after an argument over sharing water, to have taken the name of Mohammed in vain.  For this "crime" he received 26 bullets from his bodyguard.  He joins other "moderate Martyrs" such as Benazir Bhutto. It is well past time that the moderates took back their country from the extremists.

Now I am not expecting as all to sit around singing Kumbaya or having warm showers together, just a bit of moral outrage that someone can be blown to pieces just because he or she follows their God in a different manner to another and for that moral outrage to be translated into courageous action where the people say "enough is enough" and "not in my name!".

Or is that too simple?  Let's hope not and let's hope that this is the start of something massive.

Ghenghis 2011

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