December 14, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6709

Owner Of Egyptian Daily In Response To Recent Cairo Church Bombing: Nothing Justifies Crimes Perpetrated In Name Of Islam; We Must Act Vigorously To Reform Religious Discourse

December 14, 2016
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 6709

In response to the December 11, 2016 bombing of the Coptic church in Cairo's Abbassia neighborhood, in which 25 people were killed and 49 were wounded,[1] businessman Salah Diab, owner of the Al-Masri Al-Yawm daily, wrote that religious extremism and terrorist attacks in the name of Islam tarnished the reputation of this religion. Diab, who writes under the pen name Newton, stressed that nothing could justify attacks like these, including claims about poverty, social injustice or political exclusion. He added that the increase in terrorism and the fear of terrorism around the world were strengthening right-wing elements in the West, and called to take serious measures to reform the religious discourse in Egypt in order to combat religious extremism.[2]

The following are excerpts from his article:[3]


A Coptic nun amid the ruins of the church (image: Al-Masri al-Yawm, Egypt, December 12, 2016)


"This wasn't the first bombing and it won't be the last, for terror known no bounds. But what is painful and frightening is that these blasts occurred on the day we celebrated the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. A bombing at the gates of a cathedral,[4] dozens of dead and wounded, victims of all ages, children and elders, men and women, Muslims and Christians – all of them victims of violence and extremist ideas, innocents [targeted] while on their way to worship God in a house of God. And all this in the name of a monotheistic religion legislated by Allah [i.e., Islam]. That is the greeting they received on the Prophet's birthday.

"What sort of message do we want to convey to the world? How do we want people to regard Islam and its believers on the day of the birth of the Prophet, who brought nothing but compassion to the two worlds [i.e., this world and the next] and for whom tolerance was the true sword [with which he] spread his da'wa?

"Nothing can justify these crimes. Religious extremism has nothing to do with poverty, [the absence of] social justice, or even political exclusion. It is nothing but a program of negating the other by [sowing] death and destruction...

"[This extremism] has caused the entire world to start changing [and] turning towards the radical right – the U.S., Britain, France, Italy and other countries. But it will not end there, because for every action there is a reaction. All the world's peoples are afraid of terror, and this has repercussions that will not end at a cathedral.

"[Therefore,] we must take the issue of renewing the religious discourse very seriously. It is a program for mending the Egyptian hearts that must be taken very seriously indeed..."



[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 12, 2016. The Egyptian Interior Ministry blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the bombing (see Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', Egypt, December 12, 2016), but the Islamic State (ISIS) has since claimed responsibility for it.

[2] It should be noted that, since his election as Egyptian President, 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi has repeatedly called on Egypt's senior clerics, both in the ministry of religious endowments and at Al-Azhar, to act to reform the religious discourse and mend the reputation of Islam. His latest such call came about a week ago, at a December 8 event marking the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, at which he said that Egypt must set out a uniform framework for religious discourse within five years. Al-Watan (Egypt), December 8, 2016. See also MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No.1263, Egypt's Al-Azhar Opposes Ministry Of Religious Endowments Plan For Uniform Friday Sermon, August 4, 2016.

[3] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), December 12, 2016.

[4] The chapel that was targeted is outside the Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo.

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