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The Egyptian Revolution: An Interfaith Movement

What do you think?


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The Egyptian Revolution: An Interfaith Movement

Seeing the Egyptian protests on American media may lead you to believe that this is an Iranian-style revolution, with a probable result being an Islamic regime. However, when you look at the details of what is happening on the ground, this is an interfaith movement.

Since 2006, I have been frequenting Egypt, spending a month or more at a time staying and working with locals in Cairo and Alexandria. It was in Egypt when I got inspired to found World Faith, and it's become a second home for me.

Broken messages from my Egyptian friends spiked an unparalleled mix of awe, fear and excitement. While a popular revolution was only a matter of time, the somewhat minute ignition was surprising to say the least. As we'd say, if Egypt was full of Iranians, they would have revolted 10 years ago.

But it's not, and as my friend Haroon Moghul outlined, it is not Iran nor an Islamic movement. Whether the restrictions put on Christians for interfaith marriages or conversion, or the government's strong crackdown on devout Muslims are an attempt to punish the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood), religion has oftentimes stood as a tool of division in Egypt.

Many assume that the Ikhwan would become the dominant player in the protests, they were slow to formally join, recognizing that their explicit support would damage the movement. They even went so far as to release a statement Saturday explicitly stating that they have no desire to lead an interim government, but would rather participate in a multiparty democratic political system. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mohammed el-Baradei has become the inpromptu voice of the people, who stated that Egypt needs a new government "based on freedom, democracy and social justice."

The protests have demonstrated explicit interfaith components. It was only a few weeks ago that Egyptian Muslims attended Christmas mass with their Christian neighbors and friends as human shields after the deadly attack on a Coptic church. Mohamed El-Sawy, whose cultural center has hosted World Faith Cairo events, said of faith relations in Egypt, "We either live together or we die together." Returning the favor, Christians stood guard at mosques across Egypt while their Muslim friends finished their Friday prayers before the day's protests. When a few demonstrators began chanting "Allahu Akbar," others convinced them to join together: "Muslim, Christian, we're all Egyptian!"

When the police and military withdrew from the streets, many feared that communal violence would fill the void caused by the chaos. This is not far-fetched when you look at the results of the Lebanese Civil War and post-Saddam Iraq. When looters, seemingly armed and sent out by the government, attacked museums, churches, mosques and businesses, demonstrators circled the buildings, taking shifts guarding the buildings and neighborhoods. These are all amazing examples of interfaith collaboration in the face of chaos.

While Egyptians are expressing the universal human right of free assembly, they are faced with rough repression. More than 100 have died, and thousands injured. The insincere and limited elections, brutal repression and widespread incompetence in providing economic opportunity by the government has incensed young Egyptians.

This should be troubling for Americans, as our significant financial and military support is incongruous to our foreign policy of supporting democratic ideals. A relic of the Camp David Accords, the support continues because many American foreign policymakers believe a democratic Egypt would not maintain peace with Israel. While regional peace is and should be a high policy goal, it should not come at the cost of the freedom of 82 million Egyptians.

In the face of the protests, American leaders have dithered, deflected or defended the Egyptian regime and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. It was like watching a game to see how many Democrats could defend a dictator in a 24-hour period. If the protesters are modern-day revolutionaries, in face of these young Jeffersons and Washingtons we are siding with the king of England. This puts us on the wrong side of history, and it will have a deep impact on the relations between the United States and the future democratic Egypt.

Interfaith movements across the world often find inspiration in American religious leaders. This is a core value of the American people, and of our foreign policy. Solidifying both the interfaith aspect to the Egyptian protests, and the American impact on it, when an Al Jazeera reporter asked how an Egyptian would respond if President Mubarak stepped down, he echoed the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, singing "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!"


The Egyptian Revolution

 
pam19

Asked by pam19 at 1:19 PM on Feb. 6, 2011 in Religious Debate

Level 30 (42,186 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (13)
  • I've been avoiding the majority of the Egypt questions because of the assumptions. I'm tired of shouting at the "all Muslims are terrorists" brick wall, and it seems the majority of them, if they don't start out with the chanting, they're about one step away from it.

    As usual, the trend has been to oversimplify and generalize, rather than look at root causes and what was going on there the past few decades. So many people have this mental image of the Middle East, that everyone is either a Sheik or a nomad peasant, with nothing in between. (I'm not generalizing there - I'm referring to comments made in some of these assorted questions).

    I don't question for a second that this is an interfaith, purely social/political revolt. Not sure I buy that this particular one is looking to Americans of any type (religious leaders or not). The simple truth is we're not invited to this party, for any reason.
    NotPanicking

    Answer by NotPanicking at 2:49 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • I haven't really been following the Egyptian protests I couldn't make a real solid opinion on it either way .... BUT .... I'm not one of those Christians who think that every single Muslim out there is a terrorist. I disagree with them vehemently on matters of theology, but I am not convinced that all Muslims hate all Christians and want to kill us all either. IF this is the result of an interfaith movement, I'd find that very encouraging.
    -Eilish-

    Answer by -Eilish- at 5:46 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • IF this is the result of an interfaith movement, I'd find that very encouraging.
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    Today in Egypt, the Egyptian Christians held a mass in Tahrir square while the Muslims watched for trouble. Last Friday , the Egyptian Muslims prayed, and the Christians guarded them from trouble. Another chant being heard at the demonstrations (interpreted for me from a live feed) said " Christians, Muslims, one hand." (The meaning is that they are fingers from the same hand, working together.) This definitely politically based, not some kind of religious overthrow.
    stacymomof2

    Answer by stacymomof2 at 6:04 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • The media is very biased on what is going on in Egypt. I have read several articles from people IN Egypt that are telling us what the media isnt saying or showing. There is more to this than meets the eye.
    Shaneagle777

    Answer by Shaneagle777 at 7:39 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • To oversimplify it to fit here - Israel exists in what is basically a state of cold war with most of its neighbors, including Egypt. Any regime change in any of those countries could potentially lead to war with Israel. If Egypt declares war under a true democratic government, it's a lot harder to go to the UN and play the evil dictator must be stopped card, especially when the UN is traditionally on the side of whichever party isn't Israel in any given conflict.

    If any one of those nations goes after Egypt, you are guaranteed that Iran will join in. Since Iran has recently joined the nuke club, and Israel is already a member, you can see where that gets far scarier than just people wanting a change. Mutually assured destruction only works when all parties involved are rational. When it comes down to Israel vs the world, nobody in that fight is rational.
    NotPanicking

    Answer by NotPanicking at 4:52 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • shaneagle777- yeah i don't realy follow these things, but i do believe the medi only show what it wants. kinda like sex sells.. they only show what will get people in a uproar-imo
    mama2bof2

    Answer by mama2bof2 at 11:20 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • Reading his first paragraph, many of the assumptions I've seen on here (in various sections, but usually the debate ones) came to mind.

    I'm not sure how much we were really an inspiration or how much anyone really looked to us either, but it's possible I suppose. I think there are more examples throughout history, in addition to our history, that could be an inspiration to people who want freedom, independence, equality, etc. and a few have attempted to make these kinds of changes through nonviolent means. It's definitely an interfaith, multicultural revolt IMO too.

    I don't think I understand why some think a Democratic Egypt would not maintain peace with Israel. Maybe I'm missing something there.
    pam19

    Comment by pam19 (original poster) at 4:29 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • If Egypt declares war under a true democratic government, it's a lot harder to go to the UN and play the evil dictator must be stopped card, especially when the UN is traditionally on the side of whichever party isn't Israel in any given conflict.

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    I can see your point on that. I guess I assumed (maybe naively) or HOPED that a Democratic nation would have less reason to go to war, but just because a country attempts Democracy, there's no guarantee that it's a stable one. I sympathize with the people wanting to stand up for themselves and appreciate that many are trying to accomplish change by peaceful means, but I also understand how this makes everyone very concerned about what will happen in that region depending on things turn out. I hope for the the best outcome for all.
    pam19

    Comment by pam19 (original poster) at 6:54 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • Today in Egypt, the Egyptian Christians held a mass in Tahrir square while the Muslims watched for trouble. Last Friday , the Egyptian Muslims prayed, and the Christians guarded them from trouble.

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    That's good to hear. I was also impressed when students banded together to protect some antiquities and museums as well.
    pam19

    Comment by pam19 (original poster) at 6:56 PM on Feb. 6, 2011

  • The media is very biased on what is going on in Egypt. I have read several articles from people IN Egypt that are telling us what the media isnt saying or showing. There is more to this than meets the eye.

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    I also read some criticisms, especially of our media, for focusing more on what this means for US and OUR interests than what it means for the Egyptian people.
    pam19

    Comment by pam19 (original poster) at 11:31 PM on Feb. 6, 2011