Egyptian Muslims act as “human shields” for Coptic Christmas mass

By Ashley Samelson McGuire Muslims protect and greet Orthodox Christians leaving the church where Saturday’s bomb blast took place in … Continued

By Ashley Samelson McGuire


Muslims protect and greet Orthodox Christians leaving the church where Saturday’s bomb blast took place in Alexandria, January 6, 2011, after the Coptic Christmas mass. Egypt tightened security around churches on Thursday, the eve of Coptic Christmas, after a New Year’s Day bombing killed up to 23 and sparked angry protests by Christians demanding more protection from Muslim militants. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

“I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians.”

Such are the words one expects of great leaders on the battlefield, of politicians preparing a nation for war, of civic leaders rallying people for an inspiring cause.

But these are the words of Cherine Mohamed, a 50-year-old Egyptian housewife.

These words became a slogan of sorts for many brave Egyptian Muslims who chose yesterday to risk their lives in the wake of the New Year’s violence and attend Christmas Masses with their Coptic Christian brethren, serving as human shields against further potential acts of extremist violence on the Christian holy day.

A movement led by Muslim leaders and journalists, the civilian response has the heartening undertones of a civil rights struggle that transcends religious differences. It is furthermore a demonstration that because government officials in Egypt and other Muslim-majority countries have often failed to defend religious freedom, the people are taking matters into their own hands.


Egyptian Coptic Christians attend the Coptic Christmas eve mass in Cairo January 6, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

According to Ahram Online, there were several prominent Muslim figures among the participants:

“Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular 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.”

And the courageous acts belie the notion of an unreasoning and irrational Muslim “street” in Egypt run by religious thugs. Rather it is a reminder to the world that we are all called to be moral agents and stand up for the religious freedom of our neighbor, Jew or Gentile, Copt or Muslim.

When an Egyptian Muslim housewife will leave her spoon in the pot and attend a Christmas Mass to protect the very life of her Coptic neighbor, the cause of religious freedom takes a bold step forward.

Ashley Samelson McGuire is the Director of Programs for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

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  • MikeD10

    Action on behalf of mutual liberation of all peoples is what religion should be leading its faithful to live. This is one of the most profound examples of beauty in religion that the world has seen in awhile. Solidarity…solidarity among Jews, Muslims, Christians, all faiths and no faiths. Each religion should only exist so as to bring each person into being fully human with oneself and with all other peoples and creation. When religion becomes about power over and above others, it is not religion but simply violence.

  • rphansen

    Inspiring story! It gives a moral challenge to U.S. Christians to stand up for their Muslim fellow citizens.

  • Secular

    Inspiring story! It gives a moral challenge to U.S. Christians to stand up for their Muslim fellow citizens.Posted by: rphansen | January 8, 2011 4:45 PMCome on, this is so typical of the Islamic moderates to challenge the west and that of the naive western liberals to offer themselves such stupid challenges. Rphansen, I don’t know if you are the latter or the former but what you are talking is total tripe. In the last 9.5 years how many mosques have been vandalized beyond some dumb graffiti or similar prank? How many muslims have been molested or physically harmed here? So to pose such challenges is stupid and provacative. I am not claiming that there are no bigots among us. The institutions we have built here and the general accommodation that part of the culture ensures that everyone is safe.While the show is impressive and heart warming in face of such tragedy, it is not something that will be sustained. Still there is no call for abolition of blasphemy laws. After the crap vanes all these noble muslims will be back being their moderate self. So please do not insult as all by such inane tripe again.

  • zgystardst

    ‘And the courageous acts belie the notion of an unreasoning and irrational Muslim “street” in Egypt run by religious thugs.’This is a greatly welcome and as far as I know totally unprecedented event. It is a great first step.Be that as it may, one exception doesn’t wipe out that notion. It remains to be seen if this is an isolated event or a real turning point. After all, the BBC reported about the bombing that ‘President Hosni Mubarak said it bore the hallmark of “foreign hands” seeking to destabilise Egypt.’ And ‘the Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, criticised Pope Benedict’s call for world leaders to defend Christians as “unacceptable interference in Egypt’s affairs”‘.The courageous Muslims could become targets themselves.

  • abrahamhab1

    The Egyptians are the inheritors of a great civilization that goes back thousands of years. Pluralism and tolerance as well as mild mannerism and hospitality are among their distinguishing features, as any visitor will attest. The recent wave of tribalism and intolerance that is witnessed these days is new to their culture and introduced and financed by the monolithic neighboring oil rich states.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Photo-ops spring eternal in the human breast. Mubarek and sons has been no friends of either the Copts or the tiny Evangelical Christian community. What occurred a few days ago merely reprises the events of last year but on a grander scale. Moreover, throughout there have been gang attacks on Christian communities, pogroms, etc. Mubarek and Co. merely recognized that a bit of digitalized feel good drama was in order.The anger here at the notion that this is the work of foreign hands has been repeatedly demonstrated by US Coptic Christian spokespersons. Again and again, they have said what they’ve said for years and years: Copts hold very few public offices Egypt and face discrimination in every walk of life, in addition to violence.There is no hiding from the fact that the vile discrimination is decades and decades old. But the number of Coptic web sites with bloggers pleading for help has grown exponentially as Copts are beginning to leave their ancient homeland in recognizable numbers. It may be that we will witness an ethnic cleansing similar to that of Egypt’s five thousand year old Jewish population unless the useless UN and the US, Egypt’s chief funding source, act and act quickly.This will also entail tamping down on the hideous anti-Christian rhetoric in Egypt’s newspapers second only the psychotic gobbledy-gook one finds against Jews. This garbage is circulated throughout the Middle EAst, and works counter to any peace processes human might conceive.The scapegoating that our dear friends the Saudis fund with the encouragement of various dictators like Mubarak has long needed to be re-examined. Since the oily-government complex cares neither about morality nor our lives, we, the people, might want to give the entire matter more thought.

  • markosapostolos

    The so called Muslim Human Shields is a staged act and fake after the Muslims killed and terrorized the Christians. They are sure that their terrorist boys would not do it again at least when they are at the church. This is for photo up purposes and for excusing the Islam faith from the blood all over it everywhere. It is better if the Christians are given their rights and allowed to build their churches get employed in high positions and be treated fairly. It would be nice if the culprits of Naga Hamadi massacre on the eve of last Christmas when they machine gunned Christians in front of the church that they get executed (they will not) because according to the Islamic Sharea (NO MUSLIM GETS DEATH PUNISHMENT FOR KILLING AN INFIDEL). The photo up of human shields is just a cheap acting and temporary defense of the Islam reputation. It is also to prevent outside UN troops from really protecting the Christians from further Muslim massacres. It is made to block any attempt from the Christians to gain any rights from this disaster. This is to prevent the separation of Egyptian Christians from Muslims to form their own country as Southern Sudan did to preserve their lives from slaughter by the blood thirsty cult Islam. Every week thousands of Muslims were protesting in Alexandria with the photo of the coptic pope Shenouda asking for his death and the death of all Christians while hitting his photo with their shose and the police was watching them and guarding them so that they do their business without interruption. The Police left the Church without protection few minutes before the bomb exploded, which shows previous knowledge of the Government of these incidents. The Muslims in the streets chanted ALLAH WE AKBAR AFTER THE BOMB EXPLODED VOICING THEIR REJOICE THAT THEIR CHRISTIAN CITIZENS WERE SLAUGHTERED. Here is what the VICTIMS SAID TO THE PRESS:’THEY HATE US’ Her niece Marina, who was killed in the blast, was due to get married in two weeks. “She had bought everything for her wedding,” said Ms. Fawzy before turning away in tears. Another man said he was wounded fighting for Egypt in the October War, or Yom Kippur War, against Israel. “I brought water to my Muslim comrade who was also wounded,” he said. “And this is how they repay me?” In the hospital next door, a middle-aged man lay on a gurney with a fractured skull and an oxygen mask strapped to his face. He echoed Adel’s complaint, saying his wounds came not from the explosion, but at the hands of the security forces Saturday evening as he attempted to enter the church to help retrieve the bodies for the funeral. “The security forces wouldn’t let me in,” he said. “They beat me.”

  • bloggersvilleusa

    The usual list of Islamophobic suspects are posting their bigoted screeds here (look below). You’ll find these scum polluting almost any WAPO article that relates to Islam. They just can’t stand the fact that their cowardly lowlife posturing can never equal the courage of the Muslim community.

  • moodster4884

    I think the so called ” Muslim Human Shields” is a staged act and fake after the Muslims killed and terrorized the Christians.

  • ivon12

    I believe that this was an act of kindness by the Muslims and because of them a lot of lives might have been saved depending on if there were more attacked. Something that we may never know is if they had different motives but all that matters right now is that lives were saved that day.

  • behdaddotmp3

    I believe that the Islamic “shields” morally believed that what they were doing is right. I don’t think that there are any false motives. As quoted by one of the ‘human shields’ “”I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians.” I don’t find a reason for anyone to lie about something like that. I also don’t believe that they felt forced to have to do this. I felt they did it because they want to try to make religious peers understand that not all Islamic people should be stereo-typed.

  • KassidyWindahm

    I would like to believe that this was an act of kindness and that the Egyptian Muslims that took apart in this did it strictly because they believe that everyone deserves a right to religion. People should not judge their actions and choose to believe this was staged and meant for other reasons unless given a reason too.

  • toliver1

    I agree with “MARKOSAPOSTOLOS”. I believe that this was all an act to lower security the on Christians.I am “Islamaphobic”.

  • ctroiano

    Maybe the Muslims were trying to be good citizens by walking their fellow Christian’s home. But there could be motive for the Muslims to get the Christians to trust them so that the Christian’s would lower their guards. Then when the Christian’s lower their guards, the Muslims can attack. The Muslims an really go either way: Be good citizens and protect their fellow Christian neighbors or trick the Christians into trusting them and basically “stab them in the back” by getting them to lower their guards.

  • mojobojo

    I think that the muslims were trying to show them that they wanted to have peace and show that they wanted to take this step in doing that.

  • bguignon

    I think they were just trying to help by protecting them.

  • gonfroz

    I believe the muslims protected the christians for a good reason. I think that protecting your neighbors, despite their religion, is a truly caring act. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:43-44 NIV

  • cmylar

    This article gives me hope. I definitely don’t think these people were acting under false motives. “I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians.” This woman was obviously had very strong feelings about this. These pople were doing what they knew what was right, whether the government would or not.

  • cmylar

    This article gives me hope. I definitely don’t think these people were acting under false motives. “I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians.” This woman was obviously had very strong feelings about this. These pople were doing what they knew what was right, whether the government would or not.

  • steelsil2

    Love and courage can be found everywhere. The politician recently killed in Pakistan for advocating decriminalizing blasphemy proved how dangerous it is for a Muslim to stand for love and tolerance, against extremists.