Coptic Christians in Egypt continue to live with discrimination, oppression and persecution from the Islamic majority. Muslim attacks on Christians, random and unprovoked, are based on jihad and often sanctioned by the state. Coptic victims are often hauled off to jail for the crimes committed against them.
In 1,400 years, not one Egyptian Muslim authority – civic, social, or religious – has apologized, denounced, or condemned these actions.
Recently, the grand imam of Al-Azhar University, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, and his diplomatic envoy, Mahmoud Abdel Gawad, requested that the newly installed Catholic head, Pope Francis, issue a public statement declaring that “Islam is a peaceful religion.” We wonder why the Pope would choose to use prescribed words or succumb to urgings for commentary. Will Pope Francis be influenced by the fact that Al-Azhar made their request a necessary condition to resume relations with the Vatican?
Voice of the Copts believes that the Al-Azhar grand imam instead should issue a formal, public statement directed to his followers in the Arabic language conveying an unequivocal message that Muslims attacking Christians in Egypt do not conform to true Islam and will no longer be tolerated. A clear denunciation of Muslim sectarian violence against Christians in Egypt by Sunni religious leaders would be welcomed as Al-Azhar seeks the Pope’s endorsement of Muslim non-violence.
Real peace comes from within
Favorable appraisals of Islam from leaders around the world, whether formulated out of pressure, denial or appeasement, will never repair Islam’s disreputable image -- one earned through a long history of aggression based upon a supremacy doctrine.
Islamic authorities at Al-Azhar must first be willing to acknowledge that progress for Islam begins with their own steps toward equality and peaceful co-existence.
A forced statement elicited from Pope Francis could never change the reality of Islam, but only, at best, cause recognition of Islam as something that in practice it is not.
Dr. Ashraf Ramelah is founder and president of Voice of the Copts, an organization that aims to bring the plight of Egypt's Christians to the wider Christian world.