03/15/2010, 00.00
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Muslim leader condemns violence against Christians in Egypt

by Nirmala Carvalho
Asghar Ali Engineer points the finger at "some imams" who foment hatred and sectarian divisions. Analyzing the Koran and the life of Muhammad, he emphasizes the defence of human life and respect for minorities. He adds: Muslims must reflect "on their failures," and return to "values enshrined in the Koran."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "I condemn the attacks against Christians in Egypt in the strongest possible manner". Asghar Ali Engineer, a Muslim Indian and head of the Centre for Studies on Society and Secularism in Mumbai, uses no uncertain terms to condemn the violence against the Coptic community in Egypt. "Human life is sacred – he explains to AsiaNews - and no one can claim the right to attack another human being for any reason. This is unacceptable. "  

On 12 March at Mersa Matrouh in the north-west of Egypt, a crowd of 3 thousand fanatics amassed against the Coptic faithful gathered in prayer. The fundamentalist’s violence, egged on by the local imam, was sparked by the rumour that Christians have begun to build a new church, even though - in reality - it is a hospice.  At the end of the fighting (see photo), which caused 25 injuries, the police arrested about thirty persons, Christians and Muslims.    

In the case of the assault that took place in Egypt, as on many other occasions, the local imam stirred spirits, by launching tirades against Christians and invoking "holy war". "In this world there are religious leaders of all types - highlights Asghar Ali Enginneer – from fundamentalists who incite hatred against minorities, to the imams who have a more liberal view." However, adds the Muslim leader, anyone who warms the hearts of the crowd and incites interfaith hatred "is to be condemned in the strongest terms."  

The Indian scholar states that "Muslims refer to the prophet Mohammed as 'Muhsin-e-Insaniyyat' as a benefactor of mankind, but they rarely ask themselves what this characteristic really means”. He explains: "Muhammad had at heart a sense of justice, a concept dear to all of Islam so that it is" one of the names of Allah (Adil): justice for the weaker fringes of society was of vital importance". Allah, according to the Koran, sits beside the weak and it is precisely "the weakest (mustad'ifin) to lead the world, while the powerful and the arrogant (mustakbirun) are destined to fail."

Analyzing the sacred text of Islam, Asghar Ali Engineer adds that "the Koran declares that it is up to each individual to meet his obligations. A revolutionary statement in those days – he comments - in which the tribal community was everything and the individual had no role in society".   He also clarified that "the Koran outlined reward or punishment based on conduct of the individual, not the tribe. This frees the individual from the constraints dictated by the customs and superstitions of nature ... The tribal community is important, but not to the point of sacrificing the individual. Along with the Koran, Mohammed also gave the human "rights and dignity," joined with a "sense of responsibility." "Human dignity - said the Muslim scholar - is not just a religion, a tribe, ethnic group, but also all the sons of Adam (karramna bani Adam). This is also a revolutionary declaration regarding human rights at least 1400 years before the United Nations Charter. And then, the prophet said that all creation is part of the family of Allah. "     

Asghar Ali Engineer concludes the discussion emphasizing discord between the "spoken praise" of Muhammad and "the behaviours that go in the opposite direction." Many faithful, do not live a "simple life" as that of the prophet, do not respect human rights and dignity, do not protect justice, and do not hold human life in high regard as "sacred because it comes from Allah." "Muslims – he ends - must reflect seriously on their failures and return to the values enshrined in the Koran."

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