By Ali Gomaa
Grand Mufti of Egypt
A Christian cleric clasps hands with a Muslim sheikh during a rally to demonstrate the unity between Muslims and Christians at Tahrir Square in Cairo March 11, 2011. The rally is taking place after recent sectarian clashes that killed thirteen people. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany
All Egyptians – Christian and Muslim – have a fundamental right to live in safety. Acts of sectarian violence are an affront to the entire nation and must be met with a unified front. The future of Egypt depends on the cooperation and goodwill of all its citizens, and now is the time to work towards good; now is the time to banish sectarianism from our vocabularies once and for all.
As Egypt turns a chapter in its history, it is important to remember that as we cast away injustices of the past, we must never cast away what has made our nation strong and resilient. We should never compromise our national unity and we must honor the sacred duty to remain true to our principles, to insist as the Qur’an teaches us: “to stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it be against your selves.” To do otherwise is to risk losing our rich traditions of tolerance, our social unity and cohesion, indeed “our very selves” to the forces of instability and violence.
The recent tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt are a reminder that much work lies ahead of us. Both faith traditions teach the sanctity of human life and importance of coexistence. The Qur’an teaches that to kill an innocent person is the equivalent of killing all of humanity. Not only are places of worship considered sacred spaces within the confines of Islamic law, but, more importantly, human life is considered sacred. Transgressing these bounds is a grave sin that will only lead to turmoil in this life and the life to come.
The Islam that we were taught in our youth is one that calls for peace and mercy. The first prophetic saying that is taught to a student of Islam is, “Those who show mercy are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those who are on earth and the One in the heavens will show mercy to you.” What we have learned about Islam has been taken from the clear, pristine, and scholarly understanding of the Qur’an, “O people we have created you from a single male and female and divided you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”
This sort of violence cannot be the outcome of any proper understanding of religion. It is rather a manifestation of the immorality of people with cruel hearts, arrogant souls, and warped logic. There is no doubt that such barbarism needs to be denounced in the strongest of terms, and opposed at every turn. Now is not the time for voices of reason to prevail, now is time for the peacemakers to take action.
The sectarian violence must end. Egyptians are sick and tired of using painkillers and bandages to cure the chronic sectarian disease. A solution that addresses the deep roots of the sectarian quagmire is urgently needed as we move into this new era. I believe the solution lies in putting into practice and actualizing the full meaning of citizenship which accords every citizen, regardless of religious affiliation, equal rights and responsibilities before the law. I call upon the Egyptian and international media to take part in promoting a sectarian-free Egypt. I call upon the educators to review the school curricula to make sure they are free from sectarian biases and stereotypes. I call upon all the political, administrative and executive players to facilitate the full participation of all Egyptians to build the new Egypt.
Sheikh Ali Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt – the second highest religious position in the country. He oversees the premier institution in the Muslim world for religious legal direction, Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.