Having been in Cairo since just before the uprising began I’ve witnessed the tensions between Muslims and Christians erupt into violence over the past week, which has resulted in a church being attacked, and fighting between Egyptian citizens. The response of the country was unanimous, and I saw it play out on Friday, the first after this outbreak. Friday has become the day of prayer and protest in Egypt every week – and they do go hand in hand here.
The sermons across the mosques are calling for national unity, and are castigating any Muslim who might think that Islam permits any action against Christians. The sermons are clear: Christians have as much right to be in Egypt as Muslims, and they stand together against the forces of counter-revolution.
And following the sermons of the Friday congregational prayer of the Muslims, Muslims and Christians gather in Tahrir Square, the birth-place of the revolution that saw Muslims and Christians protecting each other and standing over each other in prayer. And in that square, as all over Egypt, they are calling for unity among Muslims and Christians and to stand firm against extremists from all quarters.
This is why Egyptians and non-Egyptians alike are launching in the coming days a new initiative called ‘TahrirSquared.Net’, that aims to increase common civil society actions in Egypt and the region – wherever the Tahrir Square effect of joining hands against disunity and injustice has been multiplied.
It was multiplied in the ‘Today, I am a Muslim too’ rally that took place in New York city, on March 6th. I saw reports of that rally from Cairo, and I saw the same imperative there on my screen, as I saw in person in Tahrir Square, where people of different religions stood together out of a belief in their common humanity.
We have serious problems in Egypt – as we do in the US. It’s important that we face those problems, head-on, without allowing ourselves to become complacent; but to face those problems with any degree of seriousness, we have to face them together. Otherwise, we might as well admit defeat, and send out an official message to al-Qa’eda and their friends entitled “You’ve won.” Because that disunity is what they’ve been aiming to achieve all along. Egyptians and Americans have got a better message than that.