Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Egypt protesters contain a mix of Christian and Muslim

The protests in Egypt have crossed lines dividing religion as Christians and Muslims are protesting in Tahrir Square together. This reality runs counter to what a many in the U.S. press are saying.

From the Inter Press Service, writers Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa Al-Omrani describe the protests that are unifying the two faiths.

The demonstrations were initially organized by online activist groups of no particular religious affiliation, such as the 6 April protest movement and the Youth Movement for Freedom and Justice. Nevertheless, some commentators have attempted to paint the uprising as a would-be "Iran-style" Islamic revolution.

In statements that would later be parroted by much of the western media, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Jan. 31: "Our real fear is of a situation that could develop and which has already developed in several countries including Iran itself - repressive regimes of radical Islam."

But according to protesters arrayed in Tahrir Square, which on Tuesday was home to hundreds of thousands of protesters, Muslim-Christian unity remains a central feature of the almost daily rallies.

"There's an overwhelming sense of solidarity here between Muslims and Christians," 32-year-old Muslim protester Ahmed al-Assy told IPS. "Practically all of the protesters' rallying cries, and all the sermons led by Muslim sheikhs, stress the importance of national unity."

Violent clashes between police and protesters that took place nationwide in the first week of the uprising were accompanied by particularly moving displays of interfaith camaraderie. On several occasions, Christian demonstrators shielded their Muslim compatriots - who had paused to pray in the midst of the conflict - from attacks by aggressive police.

"During the fiercest clashes on January 28, I found a guy about my age guarding my back, who I later found out was a Christian," Yahia Roumi, a 24- year-old protester from Cairo, told IPS. "Now we're best friends; we never go to the demonstrations without one another."

Rami Kamel, a member of Egypt's Coptic Youth Movement, was quoted as saying in independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm on February 4: "From the beginning, we've been participating in the demonstrations to call for the ouster of the ruling regime, which we blame for the country's economic and social decline."

"The regime is responsible for the sectarian problems suffered by Copts," Kamel was quoted as saying. "Proof of this is that no church was attacked during the unprecedented absence of security (following the police withdrawal)."

No comments: