Egypt’s Top Religious Adviser: ‘Islam Will Have a Place in Egypt’s Democracy’

JEgypt’s top religious adviser recently urged the importance of “inter-religious harmony” as the country “continues to pass through a sensitive period of transition,” adding that he believes the Islamic religion does have a place in Egypt’s democracy.

“Muslims and Christians alike are encouraged to transform sentiments of solidarity into true unity for the sake of the welfare of Egypt, and not in the interests of individual advancement or sectarian gain,” Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, senior adviser for Islamic law, wrote in a recent guest column for Reuters.

“This is crucial so that we may leave to future generations a pluralistic, humane culture at the root of which is true faith, a commitment to justice and love between the peoples of this great land,” Gomaa added.

Gomaa went on to address recent statements made by preacher Hisham el-Ashry, who called for the implementation of “anti-vice police,” or police who would patrol the country to ensure no civilian was breaking a law of Islam.

“Egypt’s religious scholars have long guided the people to act in ways that conform to their religious commitments, but have never thought this required any type of invasive policing,” Gomaa stated.


Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam

early muslim empireArchaeologists are studying the ruins of a buried Christian empire in the highlands of Yemen. The sites have sparked a number of questions about the early history of Islam. Was there once a church in Mecca?

The commandment “Make yourself no graven image” has long been strictly followed in the Arab world. There are very few statues of the caliphs and ancient kings of the region. The pagan gods in the desert were usually worshipped in an “aniconic” way, that is, as beings without form.

Muhammad had a beard, but there are no portraits of him.

But now a narcissistic work of human self-portrayal has turned up in Yemen. It is a figure, chiseled in stone, which apparently stems from the era of the Prophet.

Paul Yule, an archeologist from the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, has studied the relief, which is 1.70 meters (5’7″) tall, in Zafar, some 930 kilometers (581 miles) south of Mecca. It depicts a man with chains of jewelry, curls and spherical eyes. Yule dates the image to the time around 530 AD.


Christians and Muslims Worked Together on Christmas Food Drive

jesus-loves-muslims-too-christian-to-islam-building-bridges-to-the-world-artwork-665x385The London Free Press reports that Larcerte, the volunteer president of the St. Vincent de Paul conference at the church, reached out to the Muslim mosque for the first time this year in an effort to collaborate on community relief.

“We all want the same things: peace and respect, and I see this as a beginning of working together.”

Members of the mosque were overjoyed to be included in the food drive, said Ali D. Chahbar, who helped organize the partnership.

“To us, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of brotherly love, and why wouldn’t we want to be a part of it?”

“It is so nice,” he continued. “People are really different. They are nicer and you notice it. I wanted to get a megaphone and shout ‘Can we keep this going all year, people?’ ”

“We are not Christians and don’t celebrate Christmas but we are engulfed by the spirit and . . . any time there’s a jubilant harmonious feeling, whatever creed it is under, we thrive on it,” he concluded.


On Coptic Christmas, Egyptian Christians voice guarded hope for the Future

copticThe reported failed attack on a church in Rafah on Monday, coinciding with Coptic Christmas, is not the kind of news that Father Mikhail wanted to wake up to. on Monday, coinciding with Coptic Christmas, is not the kind of news that Father Mikhail wanted to wake up to.

“It’s very sad that our church is still under attack and that Coptic families of Rafah are still being threatened by militant extremists,” said Father Mikhail of the Rafah Church. “But we have to be thankful for the good news: the army foiled the attempt.”

This Christmas morning, the Supreme Military Council’s Facebook page announced that army units stationed in Sinai had foiled an attempt to destroy the Rafah Church, which had faced repeated attacks by Islamist extremists within the past two years.

News of the foiled Rafah attack was disturbing for many Copts – even those far from Rafah. On his way to his parents’ house for Christmas lunch, local resident Ayman said he was “really disturbed” by the incident. “It’s a good thing the army is on alert and that it protected the church, but it’s sad that churches are still under threat.”

Attacks on churches have occurred intermitently during the past decade, especially in Alexandria and Upper Egypt. An attack on the Upper Egyptian Nagaa Hamadi Church on Coptic Christmas Eve four years ago left six Copts dead.

However, since ousted president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in early 2011, several churches have been attacked and burned. The most troubling of these were two consecutive attacks on churches in Imbaba, a low-income neighbourhood in Giza with a considerable Coptic presence.

These attacks were aggravated by the 9 October 2011 carnage in which military vehicles ran over and killed Coptic demonstrators protesting repeated attacks on churches and Copts.

“Sad as this attack on the Rafah Church is, and sad as the memories of 9 October and Nagaa Hamadi are, the fact remains that we’re here in our country celebrating Christmas among what I believe is unprecedented sympathy and warmth from Muslim friends and neighbours,” said Ayman.


My Jihad is Autism, Faith and Everything In Between. What’s Yours?

Dilshad and Daanish FBWhat’s your jihad?

Mine is autism awareness and living with autism.

My jihad is my son, Lil D, and helping him (and our family) overcome challenges brought on by his autism, helping him be as healthy as possible and finding out what we can do to make him happy. My jihad is making a place for him in this world, getting this world to accept him, care for him, and help him to succeed the best that he can.

My jihad is my children — raising proud, well-adjusted, Muslim-American children who follow their faith, live as proud Americans and do good for the sake of Allah.

My jihad is to be a faithful Muslim and accept Allah’s will for my son and my family with grace and gratitude, not despair.


2012: Another Hard Year for American Muslims

islamophobia_onpage A woman tells police she shoved a man to his death off a New York subway platform into the path of a train because she hates Muslims and thought he was one.

– A former Marine from Indiana admits that he broke into a mosque in Ohio and set fire to a prayer rug because he wanted revenge for the killings of American troops overseas.

– New York Times says the 9/11 attacks have led to what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims. In this system, the principle of due process is twisted and selectively applied, if it is applied at all.

– In the spirit of interfaith, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a leading civil advocacy group holds its annual convention at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California amid fierce criticism of the church by Islamophobes

These episodes reflect the dilemma of the seven-million strong American Muslim community which remains under siege more than 11 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York Trade Center and Pentagon.

On December 29, the American Muslim community was shocked at the horrendous murder of Sunando Sen, who was pushed by a women to his death on the tracks of a New York subway station because she thought he was Muslim. “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up,” Erika Menendez, 31, told police. She was charged with second degree murder as hate crime. India-born Sunando Sen was raised as Hindu. The murder of Sen at a New York Subway Station of Queens comes only weeks after Pamela Geller placed hate-ads targeting the Arab and Muslim community in subway stations across New York.  One of the ads insinuated that Arab and Muslims are “savages” and another ad has an image of the World Trade Center exploding next to a quote from the Quran.


Dr. Kenneth Cragg: Emmaus Furlong – Bible Study Guides for Christian/Muslim Dialogue

kenneth craggThis past November (2o12)  Dr. Kenneth Cragg passed from this life to the next at the ripe age of 99.  A prolific writer and speaker, Dr. Cragg dedicated his long scholarly career to the development of positive Christian-Muslim relations. Honest and  compassionate,  he left a rich  legacy of deep philosophical and theological reflection on issues that both unite and divide the two faith communities with his copious writings.  He was, said the writer of his obituary in the London Telegraph,  “a distinguished scholar who, more than anyone else in the 20th century, helped Christians to a deeper understanding of, and a wider sympathy for, the religious faiths of Muslims and Jews.”

One of his  favorite tasks was leading studies for expatriate Christians and missionaries who served in the Middle East to help them gain a more sensitive and informed understanding of their Muslim neighbors.  In honor of his memory we offer to you a series of study guides he used for these teaching sessions recognizing that there are few who achieved his ability to find those points of contact that allow for honest dialogue between the two communities.  They can be found by clicking on the tab at the top of this page, or by clicking on this link. 

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”