I remember during my teen years in the eighties of the last century, I started to go for prayer at the local mosque close to my family's apartment, at Al-Haram area of Giza. I became disturbed and eventually reluctant to go for prayer after one day, the speach prior to the prayer included criticizing Christian priests for their vow of celibacy!! The Imam went even further and started criticizing Christianity in general and how the original bible was forged.
I didn't have the courage to stop him and ask him to focus on our religion instead of criticizing others! I also didn't know what will the reaction of the other faithful attendants be if I did try to stop him! I imagined myself a thousand times stepping up, and going to this bigot, and telling him to mind his own religion! But that of course never happened.
What hurt me the most was knowing that these speeches could be overheard through loudspeakers in adjacent buildings where there are Christian residents. I imagined how bad that would have felt for them!!! Anyway, I stopped going to that mosque, but discovered that on many occasions, the message of intolerance was still the same, and they didn't even have the decency to hide it by lowering the voice of the loudspeakers.
I was later amazed when the same people who are criticizing other religions day and night, demanded an apology from the Coptic Pope after the circulation of a CD containing a play criticizing Islam performed behind closed doors in a church in Alexandria! A mob surrounded the church, one man stabbed and killed an elderly Christian worshiper, of course the authorities pronounced the man as "mentally ill"!
It is again the same culture that burned the consulates during the famous Danish cartoon protests in Syria, and killed a old nun in Lebanon in protest of the Pope's remarks accusing Islam of violence! These ignorants didn't know that what they really did was to proove his point!
In the same spirit, recently, the Egyptian Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling giving back the right to Egyptian Bahai's to register their religion in their official identification papers. For those of you who don't know what that means, Egyptian citizens are required to register their religion in their Id cards, and birth certificates to name the most important few. Without these papers, they can't get education, health insurance, jobs, bank accounts, and even driving licenses! Basically, they seize to exist! Their situation could now be loosely compared to a US citizen without a social security number. The court ruling declared that the Egyptian constitution only recognizes Moslem, Christian, and Jewish religions, and it is not allowed to document any other religion on official papers.
What is even more serious than the court rulling is the reaction or regular Egyptians which can be seen in many blogs; One blogger went even further and added several entries with titles like "Against Bahai's", and then went further to demand the activation of an Islamic Shariya law calling for the execution of any Moslem who converts to another religion.
Once again, yesterday, I read about a Moslem thinker –Mohamed Emara- who was considered a moderate by some, and who published a book in which he quotes a phrase from an old source saying that Christians are infidels and their blood and woman are fair game. the writer defended himself by saying that he copied that section that older source without realizing their contents, and that this message is already there in publications of books from the same source written 1000 years ago. What is even unacceptable is the fact that the book was published by the ministry of Religious Endowments, and that it was subsided for sale at LE 1 (about US$ 0.15)!!!
The US killed 1-2.5 millions in Vietnam; yet, I haven't seen any citizen of Vietnam flying an airliner into the towers in the US in revenge!
Japan killed 12 million Chinese during its occupation of that country, yet, I haven't seen any Chinese flying a plane into the towers of Tokyo!
However, Vietnamese and Chinese are not indoctrinated day and night by Imams, and media telling them that the others are out to get them and their religion, and that these others are infidels who should be fought.
What we need to do:
I think that there are two things to be done, the first is the come up with a legislation against incitement, and to consider that preaching some of the twisted interpretations of Koran like the works of Ibn Taymiya and Ibn El Qayem will not be tolerated if they encourage murder and violence.
The current national security law and apparatus can be a good tool for enacting monitoring and implementation.
Second, we need a committee headed by enlightened people such Dr. Abdel Moneim El-Saied of the Ahram Center of Strategis Studies and Dr. Refaat El-Saied the famous leftist politician, and including Copts and Women, to embark on a long project to look at what our kids are taught at school, and purge all items that could be considered bigoted interpretations. It is very important that no foreign bodies are involved (or perceived to be) in this committee for its findings to be accepted.
This is the only way we can preserve our public peace and coexistence internally and vis-à-vis the rest of the world.
PS. After writting this entry, I came accross that article written by Nonie Darwish in the Daily Telegraph which resembles very much the ideas I am exposing here. This means that there are many people who think along the same lines. We need to form a front to fight intolerance in Egypt and the Middle-East, but that is probably the subject of a future blog.