From Egypt, an Islamic plea for peace

From Egypt, an Islamic plea for peace

By Ibrahim Negm

Ibrahim Negm is senior advisor to the Grand Mufti of Egypt

One cannot imagine a sadder day for the nation than the one we experienced yesterday. The scenes of violence and dead bodies from all around the country are heart-wrenching and devastating in both their scope and severity. The people of this great nation – dear to all our hearts – have turned one against another in the most dangerous possible way. Egypt is in dire need of the prayers and support of the world, national reconciliation and unity at all costs. These needs are urgent, and we must orient ourselves towards a genuine political resolution to the crisis if we are to avoid further bloodshed.

These events will have far-reaching repercussions on the national fabric of Egyptian society. The Koran says whoever kills a single person unjustly, it is as if he has killed all of humanity. It must be said in no uncertain terms that violence is always regrettable. It will never solve our problems. It will only exacerbate them, and further entrench two already polarized sides. The only thing that will indicate progress is a genuine desire to keep the interests of Egypt, and not of individual interests or ideologies, first and foremost in our minds.

The restoration of law and order cannot be accomplished by resorting to security measures alone. There is an urgent need for national reconciliation among all the country’s orientations and factions that can only be accomplished through transparency and honesty. There is an urgent need for an inclusive and just solution, which takes all grievances seriously.

The Egypt that witnessed scenes of joy and jubilation at images of dead bodies yesterday is not an Egypt to which we should aspire, or with which we should be content. We must be better than this – as we are. Now is not the time to revive old grudges without due regard for the basic value of life. Now is the time to band together to save our country from further deterioration – whether political, economic or moral. God affirms in the Holy Koran that though humans are capable of all sorts of bloodshed, they are also capable of heights of moral excellence and rectitude.

Among Egypt’s provinces, we also witnessed a disturbing rise in sectarian sentiment. Churches were vandalized and attacked. It is unacceptable that in such trying moments, our minority populations should have to bear a disproportionate amount of the burden. Egyptians are all in this together, as the nation belongs to all of us, not to members of one religion, sect, party or organization to the exclusion of all others. We all participate in a social contract, a vow before God to put peace and harmony first. In no circumstances, can we allow trying circumstances to transform us into partisan thugs.

These attack by extremist elements on churches as well as the subsequent clashes between Muslims and Copts cannot be the work of anyone who truly cares for religion or nation, and genuinely seeks to abide by their principles. Rather, this is the handiwork of those who put their interests and ideologies above all else.

Legitimate Muslim scholars like the Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawky Allam have spoken out repeatedly and forcefully that the targeting of places of worship is expressly forbidden. This is the case in times of war, let alone at a time when national unity should be our foremost consideration. Sectarianism is counter to the social harmony that Islam stresses, and anyone inciting sectarian sentiment, or participating in sectarian violence, must understand that he is acting counter to the essence of Islamic teachings. This is the example of the prophet, our greatest model, who was sent as a mercy to all mankind.

It is now upon us to take up this example seriously and refrain from unnecessary division for the sake of our country. Any attempt to sow discord among Egyptian people must be opposed in the strongest terms possible. I have no doubt that forces that seek to divide Egyptians or make them to plunge in civil war will ultimately fail, for Egypt has been a symbol of coexistence for centuries and will continue to be by the grace of God.

Now is the time to fulfill the legitimate aims of all Egyptians for stability, security, dignity, national reconciliation and social justice. Anything less will be a great setback for the nation.

This was published on the website of Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the retired Grand Mufti of Egypt at