The provenance of the current wave of anti-Christian sentiment is now a matter that should be dealt with by Egypt’s civilian judiciary. But regardless of the identity of the instigators, the ability of sectarian and bigoted narratives to instigate public unrest should be another reminder of the seriousness of Egypt’s sectarian divide. As the incidents have piled up, it is no longer enough for Egyptians to voice their shock and bewilderment following each successive attack. The current course, taken to its extremes, represents the unthinkable path to civil strife and conflict.
At this moment of hope and opportunity in the Arab world, the example of Egypt remains critical, and the country’s fate will help shape the emerging regional order. The autocrats of the Arab world will no doubt happily use the example of Egypt to justify the continuation of their repressive order if Egypt’s transition now falls prey to the forces of sectarianism and extremism.
Sharia has become the “hope and change” of Egyptian politics — all say they like it, but no one quite knows what it means. As the most powerful man in Egypt and with a bully pulpit to match, Egypt’s first revolutionary president will have a fleeting opportunity to redefine the meaning of Islam in public life.
Libya escaped this fate and still has hope. The new Libya and especially the Libyan people even remain capable of moments of grace. Without virtually any international advice and using their own funds, Misrata and Benghazi pulled together near world-class local elections this spring that were more akin to town-wide wedding feasts than dry exercises of civic duty. These votes set important precedents where former revolutionaries willingly stood down in democratic transitions of power. Political activists now seem to mean it when they say that the most important thing about the upcoming national vote is not who wins, but that people participate fully. A spirit of volunteerism still flourishes at the popular level that seems to cut through the chaos and somehow make things work at the very last-minute.
Prayer is really what gives power, courage, hope. Here is something that can help you in your prayer life – something that you can pray towards.
It is clear that any reform of Islamic extremism is going to have to come from within the Islamic world itself. There are only two hopeful possibilities for this. One is about linguistics, or the hope that certain Arabic words or phrases becomes popular. There is a certain power to words in Arabic, but unfortunately a shortage of words exists that condemn terrorism. Let’s take a look at two:
- irhab (eer-HAB) – this is the Arabic word for terrorism; or at least the closest thing to it, because it technically means “lawlessness” and one can only hope that the Muslim world eventually comes to its senses and starts a war on irhab
- hirabah (hee-RAH-Bah) — this is the Arabic word for war against society, and the closest thing in the Arabic language to a “crime against humanity” but the word also has confusing religious connotations, such as “unholy war” or “unlawful warfare” and hence is the term most commonly thrown out by so-called “moderates” who occasionally do condemn terrorism.