A reader on Bikaya Masr said it best: “Why Islam is afraid that if other religions are allowed, people will find the true religion an leave Islam? I think so, Islam has no self confidence in itself.” The reader was referring to the Saudi Grand Mufti’s declaration that all churches should be destroyed or, at the very least, new churches should not be built in the Arab world.
It would certainly seem that the Islamists-or, more specifically, those who are in ‘charge’ of the religion and region-have little confidence in their religion, despite the fact that Islam is the dominant religion across the Middle East, and quite possibly the world, given that it’s as far-flung as Indonesia and Malaysia nowadays. Putting down someone else and ill-treating them is often a sign of personal low-self esteem; think of the traditional schoolyard bully, who mercilessly teases his classmates just to feel better about himself. But again, one asks: why are the Islamists feeling down about themselves? Or are their actions simply the result of fear? And if so, what do they fear?
The Bikaya Masr article discussed how the tiny kingdom of Kuwait was considering following the Grand Mufti’s orders, and would ban the construction of new churches. In one fell swoop, the Kuwaiti government denied personal freedom to worship in public; denied diversity and denied a pluralistic society, thereby ensuring more of an homogenization of Kuwaiti society.
Does it make Muslims more comfortable to live in a country where everyone is Muslim? The religious leaders feel that way, out of both self-esteem and fear that opposition could lead to rioting, or at the very least to questions. After all, an impressionable young Muslim Arab who sees her Christian counterparts living a more free life might start to challenge her religion. But what about the actual citizens of these countries, the citizens of Kuwait, or those in Egypt and Beirut with sizable Christian populations? Do they really want to live in a society where everyone is the same, where differences don’t exist?
Egypt, despite it’s ‘humanitarian crisis’ (really, who can ever forgive the SCAF for shooting the very citizens it’s meant to protect?) has actually extended the olive branch of peace to it’s Coptic Christian citizens in light of the death of Pope Shenouda, who was leader of the Coptic Christian Church for four decades. Bikaya Masr reported that tomorrow, Tuesday the 20th, will be a general “day of mourning” for the deceased pope. This is very encouraging, especially in light of what the Grand Mufti decreed, as it deems the death of this prolific Christian leader as important enough to register on the country’s calendar.
However, all Egyptian Muslims might not be as keen on a pluralistic state. One Muslim I met expressed that he would be concerned about living in a country such as the United States where the population is mixed: he would much rather prefer to live in a predominantly Muslim country, where the people all shared his religion, language and traditions. And the Grand Mufti of Egypt (they seem to all of the same agenda of intolerance, don’t they?) recently said at a youth symposium that Egypt should be a “Muslim state” like Iran or Afghanistan, and that Shia Muslims should not be allowed. Forget Christians-apparently, not even fellow Muslims are good enough for the Grand Mufti!
Living in a country which promotes one way of thinking and one way of living is not healthy, especially in today’s world where we are all hopelessly intertwined. The less exposed you are to other cultures and other ways of thinking, the more narrow-minded one will be; the more fear will instantly root itself in the heart. The Grand Muftis of the Middle East ought to re-read the Koran (which never mentioned destroying churches) and stop harassing the Christians. After all, the only way one becomes better is through competition!
1. “Christians Angry As Saudi Grand Mufti Calls for Churches to Be Destroyed,” http://bikyamasr.com/62210/christians-angry-as-saudi-grand-mufti-calls-for-churches-to-be-destroyed/
2. “Egypt to Have General Mourning Tuesday for Coptic Pope,” http://bikyamasr.com/62661/egypt-to-have-general-mourning-tuesday-for-coptic-pope/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=WordSocial
3. “Egypt’s Grand Mufti Criticized on State at Youth Symposium,” http://bikyamasr.com/54695/egypts-grand-mufti-criticized-on-stage-at-youth-symposium/