Segregation By The Nile, When Egypt’s Christians And Muslims Share A Village

People walk on a street in Egypt’s Southern governorate of MinyaIn villages in Minya, Christians and Muslims are confined to separate districts, a condition that feeds into sectarian dynamics.

EZBET AL-FORN — Of the few streets that lie perpendicular to each other in Ezbet al-Forn in Upper Egypt’s Minya Governorate, your surroundings vary depending on which one you choose to walk down.

At the corner of one, a few meters away from a house used as a church where one security guard is stationed, I encounter a number of Coptic women.

“Over here, people are Christian. In the area starting with that colorful building over there, people are Muslim,” one of them tells me, pointing to a house 100 meters away, right next to the church. “We face south; they face north,” she adds.

When tension befell the village in September after security forces prevented Coptic residents from holding religious ceremonies in a house they used as a church, arguing that it was not registered, Copts emphasized that their problem was with security forces and not the Muslims living in the area.

Anba Makarios, the bishop of Minya and Abu Qurqas, confirmed this sentiment, telling Mada Masr that the segregation of houses in the area does not allow for sectarian conflict to occur, in a governorate where there are two million Copts out of approximately 5.6 million people, as per his estimate.

But while it is believed that the spatial segregation contributes to the sense of security and freedom of worship that the Coptic minority enjoys in Upper Egypt, it also maintains a separation where false perceptions can fester, as well as the apprehension internalized by both groups toward each other.

In the village, a funeral tent in an alley connects a Christian-populated street with a Muslim-populated one. Visitors flock to it from both sides, an observation that residents point to as evidence of the peaceful relationship between Copts and Muslims in the area.

We face south; they face north.

“We are one family. We say good morning to them, and they say good morning to us. We do not wrong them, and they do not wrong us,” a Coptic woman tells me.

“This is just how we found things,” she says, pointing to how the spatial arrangement is more inherited than chosen.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WORLD CRUNCH

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When Islam and Christianity clash, and when they don’t

112217islamMore than 50 years have passed since I first encountered Muslims. I was teaching English at a Catholic school in Akure, a provincial capital in southwestern Nigeria, when one of the Muslim students at the school took me into town for one of the two great festivals of the Muslim calendar. In Arabic that festival is called Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Oblation. It occurs at the climax of the annual hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca.

The oblation referred to is the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to offer of his only son, a story told in the Qur’an as well as Genesis. The relevant verses in the Qur’an are from Sura 37:

[Abraham] said: “My son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice you. Look, now, what do you think?” [The son] replied, “Do what you have been commanded. God willing, you will find me among the patient.” When they had both surrendered themselves [to God] and [Abraham] had laid his son face down, We [God] called out to him, “O Abraham, you have proved true to the vision.” Thus do We reward those who do good. (Qur’an 37:102–105)

A particularly important phrase in this passage is “when they had both surrendered themselves.” In Arabic that is only two and a half words: fa-lammā aslamā. Literally it says (in the dual form of the verb from which the verbal noun islamderives) “when [the two] submitted.” The submission or islam of both Abraham and his only son, thought to be a fully grown man in later Jewish tradition and in Islamic tradition as well, is the ideal of faith for all Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY 

A God by Any Other Name: Evangelicals and Allah, Part II

islam-christianity

Profiles with Christian and Islamic symbols

Part II: Medieval &  Reformation Responses to Islam 

Early Christian Responses to the Advent of Islam

            When the armies fueled by Islamic expansionism swept out of the Arabian peninsula into the Eastern realms of the Christian Empire in the middle of the seventh century C.E. Christians in general (even the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox who in some cases welcomed the Arab armies as liberators from a century of deprivations visited on them by the Chalcedonians) reacted with what can best be described as incredulity.  Seventh century Christendom operated with a near monolithic mindset that assumed the triumph of the Christian faith. Islam came in this case as an invasion not only of armies, but ideology, offering an alternative religious vision that Christians found difficult to categorize, particularly those Christians in the western reaches of the Empire who were not in the path of the conquering armies. R.W. Southern labels this initial response of Western Christians to the rise of Islam an “ignorance of confined space.”

This is the kind of ignorance of a man in prison who hears rumors of outside events and attempts to give shape to what he hears, with the help of his preconceived ideas.  Western writers before 1100 were in this situation with regard to Islam.  They knew virtually nothing about Islam as a religion. For them, Islam was only one of a large number of enemies threatening Christendom from every direction, and they had no interest in distinguishing the primitive idolatries of Northmen, Slaves, and Magyars from the monotheism of Islam, or the Manichaean heresy from that of Mahomet.[1]

This remained the situation through much of the early part of the Middle Ages which gave Western Christians a creative license to indulge their fantasies about a religion and culture about which they knew next to nothing.  This was not the case in the East where Christians experienced Islam not only as the faith of an invading army, but within a relatively short span of time the dominant faith of an Empire that would subvert the Christendom paradigm and relegate its Christian residents to dhimmi status.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECCLESIO.COM

Meeting Islam in Interfaith Friendships

amazon-christmas-1024x768In 1993 my husband George Dardess began visiting our local Islamic Center: first to learn Arabic so that he could read the Qur’an, then cementing friendships with his teacher there and with the imam. So when the events of September 11, 2001 hit, George was in a position to join with members of the Center in presenting programs on Islam to the public.

Our Islamic Center’s brave response to 9/11 was to open itself to the larger community—to invite Christians and others to learn about Islam, to observe the communal prayers, to ask questions. At the programs George, as a Christian, would dialogue with a Muslim on a topic like Jesus in the Qur’an, or Mary in the Qur’an, or the real meaning of jihad.

I accompanied George to the programs, which were often preceded by a potluck dinner, and it’s there that I met my first Muslim friend, Yasmin.

Yasmin would sit with me to introduce her friends. In the mosque’s small dining area (exactly like a church basement where dinners are held), the men and women sat at different tables. Though I’m a feminist, I actually enjoyed this segregation. We women could talk about juggling jobs and kids, or about the best public schools, or where to buy shoes.

Yasmin, an immigrant from Bangladesh, was then teaching chemistry at our local university. Her husband, also Bangladeshi, was an engineer. I was struck by Yasmin’s beautiful flowing clothes, her hijab always matching them. Later I learned that she made all her clothes.

Soon Yasmin left teaching to open a dress shop selling clothes she had made—in both Western and Muslim styles. Of course I went there one day to shop. What a surprise when she opened the door—and there she was hijab-less, her long hair lovely on her shoulders! That’s how I learned that Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab don’t wear it at home with their own family or when they’re just with other women.

Yasmin told me that she’d only recently decided to wear a hijab in public. “It’s for modesty,” she said, “and also to celebrate my Muslim identity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS.COM

If Islam Is a Religion of Violence, So Is Christianity

Angel with a gun

Angel with a gun

Speaking after “appreciating the congrats” on the Orlando shootings, Donald Trump again insisted that what mowed people down at Pulse was not an assault rifle but radical Islam, because in Trump Tower, it cannot be both. Trump’s world is binary. It is zero-sum: Either guns kill people or radical Islam kills people. In that world, only one religion can be bad, and so Christianity is good and Islam is bad. Christianity is peaceful and Islam violent. Christianity is tolerant and Islam intolerant. Both are inherently one thing or the other, immutable blueprints etched in stone for the behavior of their respective adherents.

This is a worldview that is shared by people who are Trump supporters and not Trump supporters. In the secular vernacular, we might call this view “Manichean,” that is, a binary between light and darkness, good and evil.

But it’s worth noting that “Manichean” was originally used to describe a religion that spread from Persia to the eastern and northern African parts of the Roman Empire in the third century, one that influenced many early Christians. If the word “Manichean” has negative connotations today, it might be because it was deemed a heresy by the early Catholic Church, one that needed to be ruthlessly rooted out of the Christian universe. And I mean ruthlessly: Adherents of a Manichean-tinged Christianity had their goods confiscated and were put to death, even if they converted to proper Christianity but still kept in touch with their Manichean contacts. Even St. Augustine called for their energetic persecution.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN AFFAIRS 

What Happened When Christian Writers Watched an All-Muslim Movie?

timbuktuHave you seen Timbuktu?

All of this movie’s main characters are Muslims. In fact, the screenplay’s deepest wisdom is spoken in a mosque by a passionate imam. But when I showed it to a room full of Christian writers, what followed was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at the movies.

Last January, at a conference center on Whidbey Island, The Chrysostom Societyretreat organizers asked me to share movies with the group of writers that had gathered together. This year, Timbuktu lifted us from our soggy Pacific Northwest surroundings and set us down at the edge of the Sahara. When the movie was over, we sat in a heavy hush, reflecting on what we had seen.

Consider this: A 99% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes. A Cannes Film Festival Ecumenical Jury prize. An Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Top honors from the Africa Movie Academy Awards.

Yet, like so many world-class films, Timbuktu remains almost unknown to American moviegoers. It’s subtitled, after all. It’s foreign. It doesn’t star familiar names and faces.

In a recent promotional video, a Christian filmmaker declared with confidence that he would give Christians what they want to see:

  • A Christian worldview on the screen (not somebody else’s).
  • Two hours without any risk of being offended.
  • Entertainment!

Christians gave him a lot of money, and his film was widely distributed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY

Egypt: Muslim MP wants to build a church honouring Coptic pope

pope-shenouda-iiiA Muslim MP in Egypt has submitted the first request to build a new church under a controversial law passed last week by the country’s parliament.

The law aimed at liberalising church building and renovation was hotly debated and received Church support only at the last minute amid fears it conceded too much to local opposition forces.

However, the independent MP for the Assiut region in Upper Egypt, El-Badri Ahmed Deif, told reporters on Saturday: “I wanted it recorded in history that a Muslim was the first to submit a request for building a church in Egypt after the passing of the new landmark law.”

According to AhramOnline, he said: “This request aims to build new bridges of confidence between Muslims and Christians and foster national unity in Egypt.”

He said he wanted to build the church in the village of Salam, which translates as ‘Peace’, the birthplace of the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III.

“This great, moderate man was the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church for 41 years, during which he lived in the tumultuous eras of late presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar El-Sadat, as well as former president Hosni Mubarak,” Deif said.

“In spite of his central religious status over these four decades, he never used his influence to build a church in his home village.”

There are more than 5,000 Christians living in the village of Salam and Deif said they need a church.

“I want to build a church in Salam to help these Copts perform their religious duties as well as to immortalise the name of Pope Shenouda, the son of this village,” he said.

The request will be submitted to the governor of the province. The new law says local governors must respond within four months and must provide clear explanations if they reject such requests.

Coptic MP Margaret Azer, deputy chairwoman of parliament’s human rights committee, said: “Deif’s request is a very good initiative from a Muslim MP who belongs to a governorate that includes a large number of Coptic Christians.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY