Moderate Muslims Defend Coptic Christians January 10, 2011

Moderate Muslims Defend Coptic Christians

If we support freedom from religion, we must also support freedom of religion.

Coptic Christians (Christians living in Egypt) have been under attack from Muslim radicals lately — 21 Christians in Alexandria were killed in a church attack on New Year’s Eve — there was danger involved in simply attending Christmas mass.

But there was a group of people ready to defend them:

From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular Muslim televangelist and preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

That’s pretty damn awesome, being able to put aside religious differences to support another group’s right to attend their church.

That level of religious intolerance — where your life is in danger for what you believe — isn’t seen in America. But I would hope that when religious people are truly being discriminated against in America — whether on a college campus or just locally — atheists would be among the first groups of people coming to their defense. And I hope the religious groups would do the same for us, though they haven’t done a very good job of that in the past.

(Thanks to Martine for the link)

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  • Philbert

    I would really like to believe this, but it seems the entire internet is reporting from the same single source, which I’ve never heard of. Has anyone found any corroboration of this?

  • Jeff Ritter

    If this is true it is awesome. I also would like to think that should things deteriorate to that level here we would all be able to stand side by side to defend the freedoms of everyone. Currently though my hope is bated. Just look at the kind of fights we have, in the Court system. How many times has the ACLU, touted by the right as being evil and godless, taken up the case of a religious individual? How many times has the ACLJ, the right’s “answer” to the ACLU taken up the case of an atheist? Truth be told, things change and so do people when lives start ending. I unfortunately know this first hand, I can say however, that in those moments the only thing that mattered was whether or not they were on your side. Not your religion or lack thereof, sexual preference, skin color, accent, alma matter, favorite sports team or any of the many other divisive things in our lives. Hell, even being a bad shot didn’t matter as long as you had lead going towards the enemy keeping their heads, and guns, down.

  • fiddler

    This is exactly what I have in mind when I ask “Where are the moderates when tragedy is carried out.” If this is true, hats off to all who were involved. I hope that this catches on and that we can see this from members of ALL communities in the face of violence and intolerance.

  • Richard P.

    If we support freedom from religion, we must also support tolerate freedom of religion.

    I would hope atheists would be among the first groups of people coming to their anyones defense if they are truly being discriminated against regardless of whether or not it involved religion, simply because it is the right thing to do.

  • If we support freedom from religion, we must also support freedom of religion.

    Actually, no.

    http://bit.ly/fwaqZR

    “A culture and legal system that respects freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of conscience, and that doesn’t interfere with what people are doing so long as they are not harming others, will necessarily be a culture and legal system in which people are free to worship as they want”. Period.

    We can spare freedom of religion. That’s just a benefit some people adhere to in order to be able to break the law and get free unpunished.

  • Richard P.

    what happened to the strike through? sheesh.. showed up in the preview.

  • bob

    I bet Sam Harris will ignore this and still say moderate Muslims never speak out against fundamentalists.

  • Sean

    This is cool. I would very much like to see more of this. Whatever fantasies we might have about stopping militant Islam, we need the support of tolerant citizens of these theocracies to make them real.

  • how does freedom from religion equate to freedom of religion? I wish we didn’t have religion, and this whole “we must support other’s right to believe in superstitious dangerous garbage” is ridiculous. I’d defend a theist from physical harm merely on a humanist level, but if it were up to me they’d have no church to attend mass at in the first place.

  • some people are stupid. this is and always will be true. some people will always believe in unicorns and leprechauns. i can’t change that, and as a humanist and freethinker i believe in the right to be whatever you want to be, including, ignorant and biased. it’s really nice when the superstitious get together and are peaceful, because you know, there are a lot of them. i hope they spend more time holding hands and singing and talking about mythology that centers around peace. that would be ok.

  • DA

    “I bet Sam Harris will ignore this and still say moderate Muslims never speak out against fundamentalists.”

    Or he’ll point out the obvious, that for every one of these guys there are more perpetrating the violence, and even more excusing it.

    There are a relatively small group of Muslims you could really call moderates; and most are defacto apostates who have no credibility in the larger Muslim community. People like Tarek Fatah, Asra Nomani, and even Tariq Ramadan (who believes we should put a “moratorium” on stonings) are disliked and without credibility in the orthodox Sunni and Shia communities.

    Incidentally, I do know a handful of Christians, Atheists, and Jews who have volunteered to help protect mosques and the like after 9/11 and during certain events. I commend the people on both sides; and I look forward to the day when people drop all this crap and it’s no longer necessary.

  • Mr Z

    Thank you. One of my very good friends is one of those Coptic Christians in Cairo. He and his family are built of the best that humanity has to offer us. Having him live in MY home tells me that he is not the kind of Christian that is offensive to me. It PAINS me to know that people would hate him or attack him simply because of his beliefs. He lived in MY house for months. Damn these violent believers. Damn them to their hell. I’m completely sick with the bullshit people claim in the name of their god against people who believe in the very same god. I can think of not one thing more sickening than this. He is a good man, he does not try to save anyone. He simply has a belief, yet there are these complete assholes who wish to kill him because he does not hold the same belief in ‘god’ as they do. Moments like this remind me that I do actually hate things and people. I hate the people that would kill him for his belief, no matter how stupid I think it is. I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM

    If there is a ‘god’ please come and take these assholes away from us.

    I hate that I cannot help him. I hate that there are people who would kill him. I hate that humans would act this way. It is the believers that make me feel there is no point to this life… not the lack of a creator god.

    I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM There can be no compassionate god that allows this, only an evil piece of shit. If there is a god, I will kill it.

  • Noel

    Whoa. Step back from the cool aid and think.

    If by ‘support’ you mean agree in the principle of being free to believe whatever they want, sure. If, however, you mean use myself as a human shield for them, no. My life is my ultimate value, just as your life is yours.

    Moderate muslims helping out christians – feel-good kumbaya moment. They’re welcome to indulge in it, but if they start dying, they asked for it.

  • DA

    Let’s remember; under Egyptian law, you’re either a Copt, or a Muslim. You can convert (well, from the Coptic Church to Islam, anyway), but there’s no way to just be “nothing”. As I’ve mentioned before, a Coptic woman needs to convert to Islam to even get a divorce. So since neutrality as such is legally impossible and being an outspoken atheist or even a lukewarm religionist can be dangerous, I have tremendous respect for these people. They would not be “asking for it” anymore than anyone who refuses to just walk by and say ‘fuck everyone else’ is asking for it. Abstractly “supporting” peoples’ rights is well and good; being willing to commit to it through action is far more important.

    I am SO glad Mubarak is willing to fight dirty. Egypt is simply not ready for democracy and if he needs to rig elections to keep the Ikwhan from taking the place over, so be it. It may suck now but just wait and see what would happen if the disciples of Qutb overrun the place. Remember, Qutb wanted to destroy Western Civilization because he saw people getting a little too frisky at a CHURCH DANCE in the 1950s.

  • Lai

    THIS is the kind of story I’ve been waiting for, for a very long time. I sincerely hope it’s true.

  • RJ

    moderates still enable fundamentalits. I wouldn’t expect this to mean much in the grand scheme of things over there. But it may get some of those moderate muslims killed by their fundie brethren.

  • If by ‘support’ you mean agree in the principle of being free to believe whatever they want, sure. If, however, you mean use myself as a human shield for them, no. My life is my ultimate value, just as your life is yours.

    My life is not my ultimate value. It is very, very high on the value scale, but there are things worth dying for. At some point, we all have to ask ourselves, “Would I rather live in a world where X, Y, and Z evils go unchallenged, or would I rather die in an attempt to rid the world of them for others?” We all have our personal thresholds for making that decision. A short life is not necessarily less valuable than a long one.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

  • L.Long

    Ya this is cool and at least they did something, so what!
    It would be similar to doing that here.
    There is no government LAW stating if you do this you will be killed.
    Lets see the moderates surround Sherry in Pakistan and tell the fanatics there not to kill her as they have done to the other guy.
    Then I will be impressed.

  • Kevin S.

    Sloganeering genius, or Lost fan? :-p Either way, this is a positive.

  • valdemar

    This may be a deeply idiotic suggestion, but might there be a link between this display of basic human decency and the fact that Egyptians are considered to have the best sense of humour among the various Arab nations? My authority for this is Frank Gardner, the veteran BBC correspondent who was shot by Saudi militants. He mentions having a laugh with Egyptians here:
    http://www.nouse.co.uk/2010/06/22/frank-gardner/

    Is a sense of humour linked to having a sense of proportion where things like religion are concerned? I’d like to think it might be. Religious bigots are notoriously humourless, though of course they do smile a lot…

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Looks like good sign to me, bravo freedom marchers.

  • Josh

    Its about goddamn time. I’ve been telling people around here for a long time that not all muslims hate christians but I literally didn’t have even one recent mass action of this kind. After all the easiest way to get christians on your side is to defend their right to be crazy.

    Would I have done this? Possibly. With the right equipment to minimize my risk, probably. I certainly wouldn’t jump at the chance, but then again I don’t claim to have supreme moral authority either.

  • Nordog

    This may be a deeply idiotic suggestion, but might there be a link between this display of basic human decency and the fact that Egyptians are considered to have the best sense of humour among the various Arab nations?

    Isn’t that like saying County Cork has the best boiled food in Ireland?

    A low bar to set, indeed.

  • DA

    In my experience, Arabs in general have a pretty good sense of humor. It’s earthy and often soemwhat insulting, but it’s there. Of course this is a generalization, but then so were the preceding statements.

    RJ
    True in the grand scheme of things but again, dropping out of religion is simply not a realistic prospect for most individual Egyptians. What they CAN do is try to minimize sectarian strife, and work towards making the fundies less of a threat. Or do you really think if you were in Egypt you’d be an outspoken atheist? There are a couple, granted, they’re in jail or dead usually…

  • Ben Finney

    We definitely need more like this. Islam would cease to be an urgent problem if Islamist violence were reliably resisted by other Muslims in non-violent actions.

    I see little evidence of it, but if true, this is a promising sign.

  • @Noel,
    “Moderate muslims helping out christians – feel-good kumbaya moment. They’re welcome to indulge in it, but if they start dying, they asked for it.”
    Rather harsh. Luckily for you, the odds are incredibly high you’ll never find yourself in circumstances similar to what those unfortunate Copts are dealing with.
    Maybe this is just a simple instance of people looking past labels and protecting other human beings because it’s the right thing to do.

  • Michael

    Ah… I posted this in the forums abck on the 9th…

    Just kidding, glad this made it to the front page, as it were.

  • Siobhan

    “That level of religious intolerance — where your life is in danger for what you believe — isn’t seen in America.”

    Just being a bit niggly here but:

    Tell that to the various abortion providers in this country who have been murdered for their beliefs by christians.

  • DA

    Siobahn
    While the killers were Christians, inspired to do so by their beliefs, the victims weren’t killed for what they believe, but because the killers honestly believed that fetuses are human lives. I find that belief ridiculous of course, but if I didn’t I’d have to applaud the killers myself. I mean, if you truly believe a guy is lining up and murdering infants everyday, and you weren’t willing to use violence, that would seem odd to me. That’s why I think most pro-lifers KNOW their whole viewpoint is bullshit, because they condemn people like Tiller’s assassin. Either way though, it’s not really a comparable situation to the religious strife and oppression in the Muslim world.

  • Siobhan

    @DA, most of the doctors who perform abortions believe that terminating pregnancy is not murder. They believe it is good health care. They believe they are providing an important service to the women who might otherwise be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. They -have- to have strong beliefs in order to continue to work openly these days. I find it hard to imagine that many of them don’t actually have religious convictions (or lack thereof) that support them.

    They sure are being killed for their beliefs.

    Oh, and I didn’t SAY it was precisely the same thing. I did own that it was -niggly-.