*Note: This article, published in the Huffington Post on October 20th, 2013, is relevant in light of the recent attack by Muslims in Libya, where 20 Coptic Christians were killed because of their religious background. While the article is placed in an Egyptian context, it can easily apply to the situation in Libya.
One issue often discussed on news sites and blogs over the last several days is the many attacks on Egypt’s Christian communities. Several outlets have reported that violence by Mohammad Morsi supporters has left dozens of Christian churches, Coptic-owned businesses and properties burnt. Fears of widespread sectarian strife seem to be growing among Egypt’s Christian minority.
The violence against Egypt’s Christians reminds me of the important symbolism of Muhammad’s letter to Christian monks at St. Catherine’s, Mount Sinai (Egypt) in 628 AD.
In his letter, Muhammad championed universal peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims. Not only did he outline how Christians are to be treated by Muslims, but Muhammad also touched upon human rights, including freedom of conscious, freedom of worship, and the right to protection in war.
Here is an English translation of Muhammad’s letter:
“This is a message from Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens, and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey his prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the last day (end of the world).”
The attacks by some Egyptian Muslims on their fellow Egyptian Christian citizens is deplorable for the simple fact that the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, would have condemned any violence towards Christians and people of non-Muslim faiths.
One has to wonder if the Egyptian Muslims involved in these attacks can even call themselves “Muslims” with any sense of integrity or legitimacy.