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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Egypt Unarmed Civil War

There is an underground unarmed civil war between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. The tension and misunderstanding between the 2 communities are increasing at an alarming rate. I have mentioned before that the social fabric of the country has already been torn apart. As Muslims get more religious, Christians reciprocate with the same religiosity leading them to be cocooned within their community and religious establishment.

It’s interesting to note that harmony existed between the 2 communities when they both concentrated their efforts on a common enemy (British colonials and later Israel) and when religious was not such a huge opium as it is today.

Egypt current civil war has manifested itself in the recent issue of what came to be known as “the Islamization of Coptic girls”. There has been a number of cases where Christian girls left their homes and converted to Islam without notifying their parents. A male was involved in most of those cases. Muslims claim that the girls found the “light of Islam” and they applaud the men for “showing them the true religion”. They also call for government protection over these girls that will prevent their handing over to their parents or the church. Christians, on the other hand, claim that there are organized and well financed attempts by some groups to kidnap/coerce/blackmail young Christian girls into marrying Muslim men and thus converting to Islam.

While not ruling out the fact that there might be an organized effort by Muslim groups to convert young girls, the current 2 well known cases involve 3 Christian females who willingly left their home and converted to Islam with the help of their male partners. The latest among those cases involve 2 teenage girls who ran away from their abusive parents two and half years ago. Christine and Marian were 15 and 17 when they converted to Islam and married Muslim men.

The girls’ mother appeared on a TV show claiming that her daughters were kidnapped and coerced into converting. She stated that it is against the law for an underage girl to change her religion and marry without her parents consent. The case of Christine and Marian caused a massive controversy that forced President Mubarak himself to order the search for the 2 girls. When found, the girls announced that they willfully converted and got married. They asked to be left alone and not returned to their parents.

Well, I don’t feel sorry for the girl’s abusive parents but I do feel pity towards the Christian community that lives in the girls’ poor rural town. In these areas, females resemble the family’s and the community’s honor. A girl would bring shame and dishonor to her family if she had sex before marriage or ran away with her lover. Girls in these areas are expected to stay virgins until their first day in bed with their husbands. Many, if not most, newly wed Egyptian girls would freak out if no blood came out on their first marriage day lest their husbands think they took a broken hymen. As a result, the Christians in this areas must be feeling so humiliated, the “other camp” took 2 of their vaginas.

The funniest thing is the way many Muslims are reacting. I talked to a number of my friends about this case. Suddenly, they all turned into fervent believers of the values of liberal democracy. “The girls are free to become Muslims”, “they have the freedom to chose the religion they want to follow”, “they should be protected and not handed over to the monastery. They will torture them in the monastery” they all said.

I took the discussion a little further. “OK, great, well, what if an underage 15 years old Muslim girl ran away with her Christian lover and converted to Christianity? Should she be left alone as well? And why is it so easy for a Christian to become a Muslim and its impossible for the other way round?”.

All what I got were stammering tongues.

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