Misunderstanding the Victims of the Sinai Massacre

lead_960What are Sufis? This was a question many were asking after at least 305Egyptians were massacred on Friday in the Sinai. They were killed in an assault by Islamist militants (likely from the local Islamic State affiliate, although the group has not yet made a claim of responsibility) on Al Rawdah mosque, which is commonly described as a “Sufi mosque.” The implication is that its congregants observed a more “mystical” version of Islam, one that, for example, venerates saints. While such a description is not necessarily inaccurate—it is common to refer to mosques by their apparent ideological or spiritual orientation—like most things related to Islam, it’s a bit more complicated. Many Sufis do not self-define as Sufis, since for them, this is just how Muslims practice—and have always practiced—Islam.

For most of Islamic history, Sufism wasn’t considered as something apart. That it is today has much to do with the rise of Islamism, which is generally perceived as anti-Sufi. (Indeed, many contemporary Islamists, particularly ultra-conservative Salafis, are precisely that.) Yet, none other than Hassan al-Banna, perhaps the most preeminent Islamist of the twentieth century, was initiated into the Sufi Hasafiyya order in 1923, just five years before he founded the Muslim Brotherhood. (Banna, for a time, would regularly visit the tomb of Sheikh Hasanayn al-Hasafi, the order’s namesake.) Similarly, Abdessalam Yassine, the late founder and leader of Adl Wal Ihsane, Morocco’s largest Islamist movement, was a member of the Boutchichiyya order.

To describe Sufis as “tolerant” and “pluralistic” may also be true, but doing so presupposes that non-Sufi Muslims aren’t tolerant or pluralistic. On the other hand, describing Sufis as heterodox, permissive, or otherwise less interested in ritual or Islamic law is misleading. In 2005, I lived down the street from an area of Amman called Kharabsheh, where the followers of the American convert Sheikh Nuh Keller, of the Shadhili order, lived. Here, I met some of the most strict, orthodox Muslims I’ve ever met. If, for instance, female followers of Sheikh Nuh wanted to live in Kharabsheh and take part in the community, they were required to wear the niqab, or face veil, which I initially found quite odd. Perhaps the most well-known Sufi-influenced traditionalist imam in the United States is another convert, Hamza Yusuf, who is nothing if not orthodox.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

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Churches’ bells ring out for Al-Rawda mosque attack victims

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The Coptic Orthodox Church announced that the churches bells ring out today at 12:00 o’clock Cairo local time، in solidarity with the brothers in the homeland، Extra News said.

The church offered condolences to the families of the victims.

Al-Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed in Al Arish was targeted during Friday prayers when a number of militants set off a bomb and opened fire on people attending prayers at a mosque in the country’s north Sinai region on Friday. the attack left 305 killed and 128 injured.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SADA AL BALAD

Muslims are Often the First Victims of Muslim Fanatics

EGYPT-UNREST-SINAIThe terror in Egypt on Friday is only the latest grim reminder that Muslims are often the first victims of Muslim fanatics.

 The massacre of at least 235 people attending a Sufi mosque in Bir al-Abd on the Sinai coast is being attributed to a local affiliate of the Islamic State, known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. This slaughter was particularly venal. Gunmen waited for ambulances and first responders to come to the mosque after an initial detonation and sprayed bullets into the survivors and those dispatched to save them.

An anonymous Muslim cleric told the New York Times that he was shocked the killers would attack a mosque. Prior targets for the terrorists in the Sinai included Coptic Christian churches and a Russian airliner in 2013.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BLOOMBERG

This Film Screening Wants to Repair Muslim-Christian Relationships in Egypt

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In a first-of-its-kind event last Thursday, Al-Ahram Weekly screened Alexander Kronemer’s award-winning The Sultan and the Saint at Al-Ahram’s Naguib Mahfouz Hall. One of several docudramas intended to promote interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, the film tells the story of the encounter between Saint Francis of Assisi and the Ayyubid Sultan Al-Kamel Mohamed, which took place near Damietta in 1219 during the Fifth Crusade. Narrated by Jeremy Irons and featuring Alexander McPherson and Zack Beyer as the saint and the sultan, respectively, it is produced and promoted by the California-based non-profit Unity Productions Foundation.

The Al-Ahram screening, its Egypt premiere, was made possible thanks to the Baltimore-Luxor-Alexandria Sister City initiative headed by Egyptian-American businessman Tharwat Abu Raya, who coordinated with the Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief Ezzat Ibrahim. The event drew in a large crowd of cultural and media figures. Spotted in the nearly full house were, among many others, the Provincial Minister of the Franciscan Brothers in Egypt Father Kamal Labib, the Armenian Catholic Bishop Krikor Okostinos Coussan, the wife of the Weekly’s late founding editor Hosny Guindy Moushira Abdel-Malik, the celebrated actress and Weekly columnist Lubna Abdel-Aziz, the veteran writer Yacoub Al-Sharouni, the filmmaker Sandra Nashaat, the well-known security expert Brigadier-General Khaled Okasha and the Sawt Al-Azhar magazine Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Al-Sawi.

Tensions ease between Coptic Christians and Muslims after clashes in Upper Egypt village

coptsTensions between Coptic Christians and Muslims in an Upper Egyptian village eased this week following weekend clashes after the Christians were prevented from holding a Mass at a private home because they had no permit.

According to World Watch Monitor (WWM), local Muslims in the village of Ezbat Al-Forn, part of the Minya governorate, complained to the authorities over plans by the Copts to meet in the home on Sunday, leading to the clashes.

But on Monday, the Copts processed peacefully through the streets of the village to celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary and calm prevailed, the Egypt Independent reported.

According to the newspaper, the local bishop, Anba Macarius, ‘said that Muslims in the village have never objected to the prayers of the Coptic Christians in any place in Ezbat al-Forn…He added that the relations between the people are kind and neighbourly, contrary to media reports that say Muslims object to Christian prayers … [And] that prayers were held in the streets in peace and security, with no protest.’

Now, the local authorities are reportedly ‘considering’ the Christians’ request for a licence to hold religious services at the residential property, while also searching for suspects involved in Sunday’s clashes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Egyptian Christians, Muslims share Ramadan meals despite Islamist violence

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CAIRO (Reuters) – In a display of communal solidarity defying the sectarian violence of Islamist militants, Egyptian Christians in Cairo organize daily meals for Muslim neighbors who must fast from dawn to dusk during their holy month of Ramadan.

Such intercommunal meals are held every year in Egypt, whose Copts are the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they took on more resonance this year after a spate of Islamic State attacks on Copts meant to stoke sectarian divisions.

Dawoud Riyad, a middle-aged Christian man, set up tables in a street near his Cairo home last week, serving free home-cooked meals to hungry passersby when it was time for them to break their fast for the Iftar evening meal.

“They invited me and my kids, and I was surprised. They laid the table out on the street with no difference between sheikhs, Christians or Muslims – they pulled everyone to the table to break their fast,” said Tarek Ali, a Muslim resident.

Several Christian families in Riyad’s area pitch in daily to provide the food and drink in what he calls an effort to unite people of different faiths during a holy time of year. Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 92 million people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BUSINESS INSIDER 

Balancing act for pope in Egypt with Muslims and Christians

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Pope Francis departed from his prepared remarks at a special prayer service honoring Christian martyrs in Rome last weekend to tell the story of a Muslim man who watched Islamist terrorists cut the throat of his Christian wife because she refused to discard her Crucifix.

“He, Muslim, had this cross of pain that he bore without rancor,” the pope said, his voice filled with emotion. “He sought refuge in the love of his wife, graced by martyrdom.”

That anecdote — balancing the murder of a Christian by Islamist militants with a Muslim’s love for his wife — serves as a preview of the pope’s message when he visits Egypt on Friday.

Francis is expected to highlight the plight of Christians amid recent violence in Egypt, while continuing his mission to reach out to Muslims. Even for a politically savvy pope, that is a delicate balancing act, on top of obvious security concerns in a country recently attacked by the Islamic State group (ISIS).

Egypt is still recovering from coordinated Palm Sunday bombings of two Christian churches that killed more than 40 people, nearly killed the head of the Coptic Church and prompted President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to declare a three-month state of emergency.

Francis will lend his support to the roughly 250,000 Roman Catholics in Egypt and insist on the protection of minority rights, including those of its nearly 10 million Coptic Christians, in a meeting Friday with el-Sissi, according to Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian-born Jesuit priest who has seen the pope’s prepared remarks.

He will also meet with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar mosque — Sunni Islam’s most influential training center of imams — and speak at a peace conference organized by the mosque. The pope is scheduled to finish the day by meeting his Coptic Christian counterpart, Pope Tawadros II, who barely escaped the bombings on Palm Sunday.

 “It’s an encounter of consolation, promotion and communion with the small Catholic community,” said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, who is expected to join Francis on the trip. “But it’s of great importance from an ecumenical point of view. And, of course, it is very important for dialogue with Islam, for the meeting with the sheikh of Al-Ahzar.”