"We don’t want to be a tool of war between West and Islam" – Copts
Dialogue at the entrance to a Copt church in Cairo:
“Are you Christian? You are to take off the kerchief.”
“Why? We are not allowed to enter a church without a kerchief.”
“Where are you from?”
“Are you Orthodox? Make the sign”
I made the sign of the cross, in a different way than the Copts. But no one cares about it – only about my kerchief.
“We are Orthodox, too. Our Orthodox women do not wear a kerchief in a church.”
“Paul the Apostle told all Christian women to cover their heads, did he not?”
“But that’s the way we do it. You are to take it off.”
That’s what religious people feel in Europe, when they are made to take off their kerchiefs. It’s very unpleasant I must say.
“Right, but we are still in the street.”
“Why are you wearing a kerchief in the street if you are Orthodox?
“You see, I do not want to sound offensive, but when I do not wear a kerchief walking in the streets of Egypt, every second man proposes to me.”
The situation becomes less tense. Women start laughing.
“And they would not propose to us, though we are not in kerchiefs.”
“Probably it’s because they see you are local and I am foreign.”
“Probably. Do you want to talk to the priest?”
“Of course, I want to.”
They leave for a while and I wait for them outside.
“Can you prove you are a journalist?”
I produce my press ID. They study it, but finding no fault with it, they say with a sigh:
“Unfortunately, the priest cannot meet you. Please, understand, it’s a very difficult time.”
“That’s what I want to talk about – why it has become so difficult.”
“You see, every word is dangerous now.”
And the same conversation happened in a few more churches. But all the same, people need to be heard.
Dozens of people told me the same story with tiny variations of what led the families to fight for domestic reasons a week ago, which was presented by the international media as “the beginning of a religious war” and “clash of civilizations”.
Cherchez la femme
A woman named Abir from a Copt family was married to a Copt. She stopped loving her husband. But Copts cannot be divorced. She wanted to marry another man – a Muslim. To break up with her former husband she turned to Islam.
As they told me, it’s not an unusual situation. Similar stories happen in Egypt every week, but not every such story is turned by the media into a national catastrophe.
“You see, it’s the person’s business. A woman wanted a divorce. That’s it. This issue could have been solved. So many women with the same story are unknown! Why did the international media who have no idea who Copts are, get involved in this?” I was told by Muslims.
They respect the Copts’ right not to allow divorce. But they think that in Islam, women’s rights are less infringed and that the Islamic community is more open. “We do not have such problems. A woman can get divorced.”
“Do you know that according to our Church there are 10-12 million Copts in Egypt? But Mubarak thought we were 6-7 million. That’s what politics is and it has nothing to do with the fate of a woman!” Copts are outraged by the fact that they want to use them as cannon fodder, and that the West does not care if 15 or 1,500 Egyptians die.
Abir’s relatives learnt about her apostasy and took her to church to repent her sins. Her new husband, insulted by the fact that they took his wife from him, gathered his relatives and went to get her back. Word by word the conversation turned into a fight.
The media fueled the conflict so much so that 15 have been killed, and 190 people imprisoned, including the person who was the center of the tragedy, Abir. According to Egyptian legislation, she was a bigamist, which is prohibited. Both her new husband and his family are in prison. Those who threw fiery bottles at the church and the instigators are in prison too.
Neither Copts, nor Muslims can control rumors, which are constantly launched to turn this common home tragedy into a political event. But they both learned to show their unity. The cross and crescent are the symbols of it.
According to some representatives of the Copt community, the security forces of the ousted regime might have had their own input into the escalation of tension between the communities, all the way up to organizing terror acts in churches. The Interior Ministry’s documents found after Mubarak’s regime was toppled have confirmed that explosions in Sharm el-Sheikh were planned by them. This has increased the suspicion that by doing so the authorities intended to split society, which was nearing boiling point.
So now society knows the mechanism for creating artificial conflict between the communities in Egypt. And this story, on the example of 15 tombs, makes people realize that the world might cease to exist if the media attracted as much attention to the desires of all women in the world, by trying to explain their infidelity through wars between civilizations.
In Egypt, Christians and Muslims have come to their senses. On May 13, Copts and Muslims arranged a demonstration in support of Palestine. For over a week, Copts have stood at the television center building demanding they stop being used for instigating war between civilizations which is needed so much by the West in the conditions of the growing crisis.
Copt priests honoring Islam (RT / Kevorkova)
Copts note that foreign youths looking like Wahhabis played an important role in the radicalization of any domestic fights – such people blow a small flash into a fire. Neither the Muslim Brotherhood, nor other religious groups have distaste toward Christians. And only people taught a special kind of fundamentalism are persistently inciting a war of everyone against everyone else instead of making steps to reach common goals together. It’s them who start up conversations saying Copts are not originally local and that they are far too rich and so on.
“Our Muslims are protecting us. But the media hint that Muslims are against Christians. The Muslim Brotherhood keeps especially strong relations with Christians, but the media suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood is the instigator,” I was told near the television center, where Copts had been protesting for a week against the instigation of a religious war on a domestic issue.
When listening to the indignant people I could not get rid of the feeling that I was reading the first chapter of The Histories by Herodotus in which he tells true stories and tales about countries destroyed and wars instigated because of a woman. Only pagans thought that they could not help but follow their fate. And contemporary Egyptians think that dirty political technology is being applied to them.
But who needs such political technology, I ask the Copts.
"What do you mean by 'who needs'?If Egyptian society is united, Egypt will be a strong country and will not allow the use of its name to support the blockade of Gaza and do whatever Mubarak did. And only the enemies need a country where Christians and Muslims kill each other."
Nadezhda Kevorkova, RT