Friday, January 7, 2011


It's been a while since I've posted here; I'm hoping to get back onto a regular posting schedule again in this new year.

I'm sure you've already seen this, but it's worth sharing:
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.”

Often times, the proponents of torture will use language that demonizes all Muslim people, as will, indeed, others caught up in propaganda. I have seen and heard the words "Muslim" or "Islamic" used as synonyms for "terrorist," sometimes by people who should know better. But not only is this unjust to the sort of Muslims described above, it has the effect of placing a whole category of people into a sort of "nonperson" or depersonalized status.

Just as proponents of abortion often refer to "fetuses" or "embryos" or even "zygotes" as if these terms clearly denote someone who is less than human, so too do people at various times in history tend to depersonalize whole cultures and societies with whom they might be at war. During World War II, for instance, epithets like "Huns" and "Japs" were used to refer not only to enemy soldiers, but to everyone who had the misfortune of living in Germany or Japan; from there it was a short step to the view that there was really no such thing as a noncombatant, and that everyone within the enemy countries' borders was "fair game" for acts of war.

The brave Muslims who attended Mass with their Christian neighbors as a rebuke to the terrorists have demonstrated three important things: the kind of solidarity that all human beings should strive for with each other, the courage to reject evils being done in the name of the religion they practice, and the committment to peaceful and civil relations with all the people in their nation. We should at least have the similar courage to correct anyone who says that "the Muslims" are the problem in regard to modern-day peace efforts; the terrorists are the problem, but many Muslims are tired of being associated with the intolerant and irrational thuggery and violence that terrorists create.


  1. That is a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it (I had not heard it before). The media is so often full of bad news--especially about the Middle East--that is easy to forget the millions of charitable and selfless acts that take place in the world. Thanks for the reminder.

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  3. @love the girls -

    But there is no rule that states "Muslim = terrorist," and Muslims who do not commit acts of terrorism far outnumber those who do.

    In other words, these Muslims are not exceptional because they did something contrary to a rule of Islamic theory or practice; they are exceptional because they acted above and beyond the normal human instincts of self-preservation.

  4. Lest it be lost, the point that Red makes here is that no ethnic, religious, or even moral category removes the image and likeness of God in which all human persons are created.

    As long as we are dealing with a human person, whether a just-conceived zygote or a hardened psychopathic murderer, whether a suicide bomber or a talk-show pundit, whether a politician or a banker or a migrant laborer, we owe them the respect due to a child of God.

    If we do not treat them with this respect, then we set ourselves in God's place as judge of souls. Jesus explicitly warns us of judging beyond our competency: the measure we use will be measured back to us.

    Therefore, we should measure with his measure, and love one another as he has loved us.

  5. Very well said, Robert. Thanks for making that point clear.

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  7. @love the girls -

    I simply do not understand your comment. What do dark alleys in Chicago have to do with Red's post or my comment? And where do I condemn anyone? And, for that matter, what do you mean that I have "no responsibility to anyone but [my]self"?

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  9. @love the girls-

    I condemn no one for their prudential judgments. I don't even condemn anyone for their moral faults. That's not my job. It is not a condemnation to state a moral principle, which is what I did.

    No time to write a further reply, but I will try to respond to your other points later today.

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  12. @love the girls -

    There is a real difference. Condemnation regards a person, removing that person from a state of grace. Correction regards an idea or an action, leading to a resolution.

    This may be the root of the misunderstanding here. Our duty toward others is to love them, that is, to seek their good. The good of a criminal, or a terrorist, of someone in error, is to be led to justice and truth. We cannot lead someone to justice by means that are unjust; we cannot lead someone to truth by means that are false.

    Our duty toward ourselves is to love ourselves, that is, to seek the good. The good that we seek is not simply our own in some exclusive way. "My good" is not something opposed to "your good." Rather, to seek my own good is to seek to be good myself, that is, to fulfill my human nature, that is, to embody the image and likeness of God, that is, to find union with Christ.

    In other words, whether regarding myself or my neighbor, my moral obligation is to seek the good.

    There are times when I can make a judgment about someone's actions. I can say, "That act was wrong" or "criminal" or "unjustified" if I happen to have a great deal of certainty about the facts at my disposal. Many times, all I can say is, "That looks wrong," or "I wouldn't have done that." This is why we have courts: so that as many facts can be gathered and clarified as possible.

    There is no time, ever, under any circumstances, when I may make a judgment about a person. I cannot judge the state of a mass murderer's soul, even after the trial has convicted him without a doubt. Even less can I judge the state of someone's soul based on their garb or ethnic background or religious affiliation. This is because God alone is competent to judge a person as a whole.

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