Peter William tweeted a very interesting tweet after Eastern Christmas on January 7th. His tweet was directed to another fellow tweep who wrote that Muslims should not send good wishes to Christians on their religious holidays. “Thank you for the campaign you did to tell Muslims not to send good wishes to Christians,” William tweeted. “This Christmas I received good wishes more than any other Christmas in my life.”
Peter William was not the only Christian on twitter who said that. I’ve read several tweets commenting on the same observation. One Muslim tweep said that sending good wishes to Christians became a “revolutionary act”. Another said that “Egyptians are so stubborn, Christians were drowned in good wishes this Christmas.”
This observation was not just confined to social media. A friend of my dad told him that he went through his contacts list and called all Christians on his list, even those whom he hasn’t spoken to for a long time. My house maid who lives in a poor Cairo urban neighborhood also had a story. “One of my relatives heard the imam at the mosque advise worshipper not to send good wishes to Christians,” she told me. “He went to every Christian in the neighborhood and wished him/her well.”
This reactionary behavior from certain Egyptians came after a Salafi dominated council issued a fatwa admonishing Muslims not to wish Christians well on their religious occasions. The views of this council is shared by all hardliners in Egypt, and unfortunately by many Egyptians as well. The Muslim Brotherhood’s strongman Khairat el Shater is a member of this council, but to be fair, I’ve to state that nearly all MB leaders, including their General Guide, extended Christmas well wishes to Christians and their Pope. El Shater’s membership seems to be more about politics than religion: to keep these group of radical Salafis close to him. But still, in the light of the total dominion of radicals on the religious discourse in the past 40 years, this view is the norm and not the exception. And this what makes the reaction I stated above very interesting.
There seems to be a wave of rebellion against radical thoughts ever since the Islamists took power last year. Many Muslims woke up to the fact that their religion was hijacked by radicals who are tarnishing the image of one of the world’s greatest religions. This fact became more apparent since political Islamists took power. These Muslims started to see how a group of people, who call themselves Islamists, are willing to do anything, from killing to twisting religious values, to serve their self interests and preserve their political gains after a revolution that was meant to produce freedom and social justice. Many Muslims, especially those who belong to the middle class, feel threatened from the insane rhetoric coming from these fiery clerics and they decided to fight back. Calling a Christian on Christmas day is one form of this fighting back.
This rebellion is still very nascent. It is not supported by the mainstream religious discourse. The current discourse is dominated by a radical interpretation of religion that was almost nonexistent over 60 years ago. I have explained what went wrong with Islamic discourse and how this radical interpretation hijacked Islam in this previous post. So we can say that those who chose to defy the clerics did so out of their own conviction and understanding of what constitutes the real true tenants of religion. I personally expect that this rebellion will increase as long as Islamists are in power.
The picture above explains it all. It is a perfect embodiment of the coming clash of mentalities. This picture was taken on Alexandria’s long picturesque corniche, the most popular meeting place for the city’s young and mostly unmarried couples who sit on these concrete blocks. On the right, someone, most probably a Salafi who belongs to one of Alex’s powerful Salafi groups, wrote these admonishing words: do you accept your sister to do the same? In other words, the admonisher wanted to ask the male partner whether he accepts that his own sister behaves in the same way as his girlfriend. Notice the admonisher was directing his message to the male partner. Now, the words in black on the left embodies the uttermost rebellion we’re hopefully going to witness. The answer to the question did not come from a young man, but from a girl. “Yes I accept, I am free”.
Welcome to our healthy clash of mentalities.