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Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”

7 January 2011 General 7 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Muslims turned up in droves for the Coptic Christmas mass Thursday night, offering their bodies, and lives, as “shields” to Egypt’s threatened Christian community

by: Yasmine El-Rashidi

Egypt’s majority Muslim population stuck to its word Thursday night. What had been a promise of solidarity to the weary Coptic community, was honoured, when thousands of Muslims showed up at Coptic Christmas eve mass services in churches around the country and at candle light vigils held outside.

From the well-known to the unknown, Muslims had offered their bodies as “human shields” for last night’s mass, making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and towards an Egypt free from sectarian strife.

“We either live together, or we die together,” was the sloganeering genius of Mohamed El-Sawy, a Muslim arts tycoon whose cultural centre distributed flyers at churches in Cairo Thursday night, and who has been credited with first floating the “human shield” idea.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

In the days following the brutal attack on Saints Church in Alexandria, which left 21 dead on New Year’ eve, solidarity between Muslims and Copts has seen an unprecedented peak. Millions of Egyptians changed their Facebook profile pictures to the image of a cross within a crescent – the symbol of an “Egypt for All”. Around the city, banners went up calling for unity, and depicting mosques and churches, crosses and crescents, together as one.

The attack has rocked a nation that is no stranger to acts of terror, against all of Muslims, Jews and Copts. In January of last year, on the eve of Coptic Christmas, a drive-by shooting in the southern town of Nag Hammadi killed eight Copts as they were leaving Church following mass. In 2004 and 2005, bombings in the Red Sea resorts of Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh claimed over 100 lives, and in the late 90’s, Islamic militants executed a series of bombings and massacres that left dozens dead.

This attack though comes after a series of more recent incidents that have left Egyptians feeling left out in the cold by a government meant to protect them.

Last summer, 28-year-old businessman Khaled Said was beaten to death by police, also in Alexandria, causing a local and international uproar. Around his death, there have been numerous other reports of police brutality, random arrests and torture.

Last year was also witness to a brutal parliamentary election process in which the government’s security apparatus and thugs seemed to spiral out of control. The result, aside from injuries and deaths, was a sweeping win by the ruling party thanks to its own carefully-orchestrated campaign that included vote-rigging, corruption and rife brutality. The opposition was essentially annihilated. And just days before the elections, Copts – who make up 10 percent of the population – were once again the subject of persecution, when a government moratorium on construction of a Christian community centre resulted in clashes between police and protestors. Two people were left dead and over 100 were detained, facing sentences of up to life in jail.

The economic woes of a country that favours the rich have only exacerbated the frustration of a population of 80 million whose majority struggle each day to survive. Accounts of thefts, drugs, and violence have surged in recent years, and the chorus of voices of discontent has continued to grow.

The terror attack that struck the country on New Year’s eve is in many ways a final straw – a breaking point, not just for the Coptic community, but for Muslims as well, who too feel marginalized, persecuted, and overlooked, by a government that fails to address their needs. On this Coptic Christmas eve, the solidarity was not just one of religion, but of a desperate and collective plea for a better life and a government with accountability.

Original post: Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”


  1. I am reminded of the hadith:

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

    “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.” The Prophet was asked: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” He replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

    {Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Hadith 624}

  2. Good to know that there are still people in the world who will stand for innocent victims; only good fixes what is wrong. In a world of craziness, sanity is a great virtue.

  3. Thank you for reporting this. I feel so encouraged now whereas prior to this I’ve felt completely hopeless regarding Muslims intentions toward non-Muslims. It’s a debilitating feeling to think there is a huge population wanting to kill us for our beliefs. Perhaps now I can rest my mind and my hurting spirit.

  4. As I am Christian Egyptian Bishop , live in Cairo – Egypt testify that ONLY OUR OLD MUSLIM FRIENDS DID THAT , who shares us our Christian occasions as we share them their Islamic occasions , but in fact some others were in Alexandria celebrating during the accident shouting ALLAHO AKBAR as if the accident was a victory for their thoughts .
    We must not deceive the people by decorating the image for them , We must confess that the radical Islamic groups everywhere in our world are responsible about this Islamophobia symptoms . Dr, Joseph Elmenshaoi

  5. Why you delete my comment although I am Christian Egyptian who can tell the truth about the accident as I saw it ?? I have said ONLY OUR OLD MUSLIM FRIENDS WHO ALREADY SHARE US OUR OCCASIONS as we share them , but there were others , radicals who shout ( ALLAHO AKBAR ) celebrating during the accident as if they won a victory for ISLAM , so the radical groups are responcible about the Islamophobia everywhere.
    by deleting my comments you make me sure that it was a show to persuade the others to decorate your image .
    My comment will be delete as I think .

  6. […] Muslims won't even accept them. Besides, do not fall into prejudices. Not long ago, this happened: Egypt's Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as "human shields" | Islamophobia To… Which still gives us hope. […]

  7. On my web site I am pretty hard on Muslims … when they deserve it.

    I found the story of Egyptian Muslims acting as human shields for Christians to be the most touching, uplifting story I have ever read.
    I am disgusted and ashamed of the American media for burying this amazing story (I guess it didn’t fit in with how they want to portray Muslims).

    On my web page “Neo’s Favorites” I have linked to a video news report of the brave actions taken by the Egyptian Muslims. If we all work to keep these kinds of stories in people’s minds, we may yet be able to change the horrid history of religion into a bright future where all of us either “Live together – or die together.”

    As an atheist I would have held a bible in one hand and a koran in the other. Why? The answer lies in the first amendment. For atheists, you might say that the constitution is our holy book.


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