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Thread: "The Crisis of Christians in Egypt" - Gabriel Said Reynolds

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    "The Crisis of Christians in Egypt" - Gabriel Said Reynolds

    The Crisis of Christians in Egypt

    On Monday, December 12, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi walked alongside the Coptic Pope Tawadros (Theodore) II at the funeral procession for victims of the bombing that had killed at least twenty-five people at the chapel of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo the day before. ... This series of events was strangely similar to what had taken place almost six years ago in another Egyptian city. ... Much has changed in Egypt since 2011. ... Yet with all of these developments, one thing has not changed: Attacks against Christians have continued. ... They should be understood as the most violent manifestations of deeply held views among some segments of the Muslim community about the place of Christians in an Islamic society. ... It is thus no surprise that, through the influence of Saudi Arabia, countries such as Egypt and Pakistan are increasingly hostile to their Christian minorities.
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    It is commendable for people to pray for their Christian "brothers"...hopefully, they will also pray for their non-Christian "brothers" who also suffer violence from this extreme ideology, ....whose property, sacred spaces and lives are also being destroyed.
    ...and might I remind the good and decent folk praying for their "brothers" ---that extreme ideologies are also non-theistic---and many more of our brothers---both Christians and Muslims, have been killed because of it.
    (Arab Christians are present in other places besides Egypt and Iran---places such as Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey etc...)

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    tWebber JB DoulosChristou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by siam View Post
    It is commendable for people to pray for their Christian "brothers"...hopefully, they will also pray for their non-Christian "brothers" who also suffer violence from this extreme ideology, ....whose property, sacred spaces and lives are also being destroyed.
    ...and might I remind the good and decent folk praying for their "brothers" ---that extreme ideologies are also non-theistic---and many more of our brothers---both Christians and Muslims, have been killed because of it.
    (Arab Christians are present in other places besides Egypt and Iran---places such as Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey etc...)
    That's fair. The Under Caesar's Sword documentary alluded to in the article focuses principally on anti-Christian hostility (and Christian responses thereto) in two countries: Turkey and India (though it touches upon situations elsewhere, like Syria and Eritrea). It isn't just in Muslim-majority countries; and you're right that both Christians and Muslims have faced considerable persecution by both extremist takfiri ideologies and extremist atheistic ideologies.

    And you're right to encourage us to pray for both Christians and non-Christians in the face of these sorts of injustice. In the prayer guide I prepare for my church's monthly newsletter, I always try to offer a review of concerns from around the world during the preceding month. So, for instance, this is a segment of our prayer guide from the December newsletter:

    • We pray for those suffering in the wake of natural disasters here and around the world, that God would provide comfort and resources so that they might rebuild. We pray also for those victimized by violence, that the God of all comfort would make his presence manifest to the injured, traumatized, and grieving. We pray in particular for those afflicted this past month by the Pacific typhoon season; by Hurricane Otto in Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica; earthquakes and tsunamis in New Zealand, Japan, and El Salvador; wildfires in Israel; deadly smog in Iran and Pakistan; drought in Bolivia; train derailments in India and England; the train collision in Iran; the fuel tanker explosion in Mozambique; the power station collapse in China; the school bus crash in Tennessee; the plane crash in Colombia; ongoing warfare in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia; the ongoing Rohingya conflict in Myanmar and Kashmir conflict in India and Pakistan; insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, South Thailand, and elsewhere; mass executions in Iraq and Afghanistan; bombings in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Nigeria, and a church in Indonesia; mass shootings in South Sudan; protests, riots, hate crimes, and hoaxes in the United States in the wake of our presidential election; the mass stabbing at Ohio State University; and the ongoing refugee crisis.
    • We pray for the peaceful and healthy resolution of global and national crises, especially the continued violence of the so-called Islamic State and other terroristic movements. We pray for the persecutors and maligners of the church around the world. We pray for the conversion of terrorists into disciples of the Prince of Peace; we pray for the wisdom of God to be made manifest to skeptics and critics; and we pray for the boldness of the Spirit to fill the hearts of all believers to witness to Jesus in life and in death.

    But it does also seem true that Reynolds is right to point to 'ordinary' Wahhabism, as exported by Saudi influence in the Sunni world, as being responsible for the normalization of attacks on Christians in countries like Egypt and Pakistan.

    I know that there's been a debate among Muslim scholars even here in America over that. After ISIS' horrific bombing spree during Ramadan, Hamza Yusuf thoroughly denounced Wahhabism as a key culprit ("a faith-eating plague" spurred by "teachings that focus on hatred, exclusivity, provincialism, and xenophobia" and spreads a "simple-minded, literalist, anti-metaphysical, primitive, and impoverished form of Islam"), but was sternly rebuked by Yasir Qadhi the very next day (for alleged "intolerance and arrogance" against "a segment of Sunnism that goes back over a thousand years," when the real blame lies, in Qadhi's mind, with "Western foreign policy"). So that seems to be a live debate.

    Still, just a week ago, one Muslim scholar told me that he viewed Wahhabism's effects this way: "It's like someone farted a hundred years ago in the Muslim world, and it still stinks today."
    "The Jesus Christ who saves sinners is the same Christ who beckons his followers to serious use of their minds for serious explorations of the world." - Mark Noll

    "It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading." - John Wesley

    "Wherever men are still theological, there is still some chance of their being logical." - G. K. Chesterton

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    impressive prayer guide.

    You are correct to use the label "Takfiri" rather than Wahabi/Salafi....Wahabi ideology does not go back a thousand years...it is a "Modern" ideology that came about in resistance to colonialism. When a groups/society's identity, heritage and pride are threatened or decimated---then such an environment may produce groups that have extremely strong identity-constructs---and one can see this in the West as well where groups are constructing their identity in a binary of us and them. Identity-constructs are necessary for human beings---because we need to know who we are and we need to define who we are. So, Wahabism itself--though unpleasant, is not the problem---the problem is Takfirism (Tribalism) and the idea that there is only one way--and it is their way. This is very "Modern"---ideologies such as Manifest Destiny, White man's Burden, Civilizing Mission---all sought to project the superiority and rightness of "their way"---and much of this was through the use of force and violence...."to spread democracy" ...the phrase used to justify the wars in the Middle East, carries the same paradigm. So, both Yusuf and Qadi are correct---Takfirism (tribalism) is a Modern problem effecting and infecting all of us Muslims and Non-Muslims....
    To condemn Wahabism as a whole is to fall into the trap of takfirism ourselves---it is far better to confront and condemn prejudices using the Quran and Islamic tradition to call for a better way.
    But decent people of all traditions must confront the prejudices and intolerance that is growing around us.

    Human beings have different predispositions, and some need very strong-identity constructs. Societies need to accept that there will always be a few groups who will be counter-culture to the mainstream. Yet at the same time, we also need to discourage the tendency towards hate and violence that such groups can promote. It is a difficult balancing act.
    I am not fond of Wahabism and find it a trial to keep from scapegoating all the "evils" onto it...but in a time of growing Islamophobia---this could lead to more misunderstanding and violence
    Sh Hamza Yusuf does have a point, that shallow ideologies need to construct their identities using us/them---but identity-constructs based on robust and wholistic internal value systems and sacred narratives do not need the "other" but can stand on their own...
    Last edited by siam; 12-17-2016 at 04:01 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by siam View Post
    impressive prayer guide.
    Thank you, siam.

    Quote Originally Posted by siam View Post
    You are correct to use the label "Takfiri" rather than Wahabi/Salafi....Wahabi ideology does not go back a thousand years...it is a "Modern" ideology that came about in resistance to colonialism.
    Yeah, I really don't know why Qadhi used the "thousand years" line - unless he's trying to link Salafism as such with al-salaf al-salih directly and argue for a direct line of unbroken descent, which is odd (even knowing that Qadhi was tutored by al-Tamimi).

    Quote Originally Posted by siam View Post
    When a groups/society's identity, heritage and pride are threatened or decimated---then such an environment may produce groups that have extremely strong identity-constructs---and one can see this in the West as well where groups are constructing their identity in a binary of us and them. Identity-constructs are necessary for human beings---because we need to know who we are and we need to define who we are. So, Wahabism itself--though unpleasant, is not the problem---the problem is Takfirism (Tribalism) and the idea that there is only one way--and it is their way. This is very "Modern"---ideologies such as Manifest Destiny, White man's Burden, Civilizing Mission---all sought to project the superiority and rightness of "their way"---and much of this was through the use of force and violence...."to spread democracy" ...the phrase used to justify the wars in the Middle East, carries the same paradigm. So, both Yusuf and Qadi are correct---Takfirism (tribalism) is a Modern problem effecting and infecting all of us Muslims and Non-Muslims....
    I don't know if takfirism as such is a modern phenomenon. If memory serves me correctly, wasn't flippant takfir one of the problems with the Khawarij?

    Quote Originally Posted by siam View Post
    To condemn Wahabism as a whole is to fall into the trap of takfirism ourselves---it is far better to confront and condemn prejudices using the Quran and Islamic tradition to call for a better way.
    But decent people of all traditions must confront the prejudices and intolerance that is growing around us.

    Human beings have different predispositions, and some need very strong-identity constructs. Societies need to accept that there will always be a few groups who will be counter-culture to the mainstream. Yet at the same time, we also need to discourage the tendency towards hate and violence that such groups can promote. It is a difficult balancing act.
    I am not fond of Wahabism and find it a trial to keep from scapegoating all the "evils" onto it...but in a time of growing Islamophobia---this could lead to more misunderstanding and violence
    Sh Hamza Yusuf does have a point, that shallow ideologies need to construct their identities using us/them---but identity-constructs based on robust and wholistic internal value systems and sacred narratives do not need the "other" but can stand on their own...
    Interesting thoughts. I don't know that "identity constructs" can be reduced to merely sociological or psychological projections; it seems as though some sort of mapping(s) of identity are innate in the way the world is inherently structured. The better question is, which sets of identity maps are relevant to which concerns?

    But we are agreed, if I read you right, that one mark of a healthy society is being able to find space for dissidents - those, in your words, "counter-culture to the mainstream." (One problem with recent secular-progressive ascendancy in the US is a failure to do that in certain respects.) But violence is the right place to draw the line.

    You might know this better than I - are there any Wahhabi thinkers you'd classify as non-takfiri and whose vision for Islam would constitute at least a fairly healthy version of Wahhabism?
    "The Jesus Christ who saves sinners is the same Christ who beckons his followers to serious use of their minds for serious explorations of the world." - Mark Noll

    "It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading." - John Wesley

    "Wherever men are still theological, there is still some chance of their being logical." - G. K. Chesterton

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    Takfirism---Yes, you are correct. Islam arouse in an pre-Islamic environment of extreme tribalism and it was a while before the Quranic notions of inherent Equality were properly understood. Even then, degrees of prejudice and tribalism continued to persist though the labels of the groups changed over time.
    But---the idea of people divided by artificial boundaries into nation-states and/or zones is also tribalism. However, it is not the identity-construct of being a "British" or "French" that is the problem---the actual issue is the prejudice of "other-ing"/dehumanizing those who are not of the particular identity-construct. That is what is takfirism (IMO). So when I said it is "Modern", I meant it is a very common phenomenon today---we just choose to selectively see it in only a few groups---probably to make us feel good about ourselves....

    Identity-constructs---Yes, you bring out an important point. Identity-constructs are not some random labels but spring from particular concerns and/or grievances. Tariq Ramadan observed that human beings have multiple identity-constructs--for example, we may have a national identity, a religious identity, a family identity---etc. Perhaps when we become more comfortable with our own multiple identity-constructs---we will become more tolerant of those to which we do not belong....?.....(I agree with you that the desire for identity is innate and universal.)

    Non-takfiri Wahabism---I am prejudiced against Wahabism because it is an ideology that might destroy Islamic heritage and tradition.(So I am probably the wrong person to ask this to) Yet, I also firmly believe that human beings are inherently good and the potential to do good and right is never closed off. Despite their exclusivism, shallowness, and prejudice, there are bound to be many good people who are "Purists" (I hope) simply because the strong sense of identity and belonging gives structure to their beliefs and their lives. But (IMO) this exclusivism (takfirism) is the very mechanism that promotes the strong identity construct---the two go hand in hand....so I doubt if there are non-takfiri Wahabi?---but there could be those who are peaceful Wahabi/Salafi?....(isolationists, law-abiding, non-political).

    Sufism---Takfirism is not the only mechanism for an identity-construct. One could view Sufism as an identity construct based on extreme spirituality (mysticism). Yet, Sufism is a highly inclusive form of Islam. Its form of identity comes from its principles and strong spiritual discipline not from an us/them construct.


    There is a somewhat contrived and controversial BBC documentary called "Muslims like Us"---which includes the opinions of a range of Muslims from a Homosexual to someone who is probably a Purists....

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