Having made a declaration on the future of Egypt last June, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmad at-Tayyeb once again speaks about Egyptian current affairs, this time as the President of the ‘Egyptian Family House’, commenting in a communiqué on the events of 9 October 2011 during which 22 Copts and 3 soldiers (according to official sources) were killed. Even though somewhat cautious, the document is of interest owing to at least two aspects: above all because it urges the authorities ‘to take the necessary practical measures to strengthen the constitutional provisions of the principle of citizenship for all Egyptians’. In this way the juridical equality between Muslims and Christians, often unheeded in the past, is confirmed without any wavering to the point of highlighting its immediate practical implication: the need to promulgate the law disciplining the construction of churches, until today left to the discretion of powers that be. The use of the word ‘martyrs’ must then be stressed, in reference to those killed at Maspero, an expression that lessens the reserves of the text on the responsibilities for the incidents and the violence used (only one implicit criticism is to be found in the media), since it in fact recognises the innocence of the victims: this is not sufficient to render them justice, but it is a starting point to reconstruct a real unity between Egyptian Muslims and Christians.
When the sun of the peaceful Egyptian revolution rose from Piazza Tahrîr on 25 January this year, all the Egyptians felt with joy that a new spirit had been born: in its first days the events of the revolution in fact constituted an incarnation of national unity in its highest meanings. For this reason the terrible events that took place yesterday were a shock to the whole national conscience and hurt the feelings of every Egyptian.
Gathered at an emergency sitting under the presidency of the Grand Imam the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the Council of the Egyptian Family House, in the Muslim and Christian figures representing it, states as follows:
1. Experience shows that the superficial treatment of and the conciliatory solutions to episodes of crisis over the past decades have brought no results, but instead have led to an ever increasing number of incidents, unknown in the past and which are unacceptable. This means that serious dangers jeopardise the country.
2. The plain speaking, free investigation and transparency that must govern the search for the deep causes of today’s problem at its roots represent an absolute need, particularly in the light of the country’s present conditions.
3. The Family House urges the Supreme Council of the armed forces and the Council of Ministers to quickly promulgate the law regulating the construction of churches, resolving the problems connected to it from which regrettable incidents like this one originate. The Family House urges them to take the necessary practical measures to strengthen the constitutional provisions of the principle of citizenship for all Egyptians.
4. The Family House Council expresses its appreciation towards the Egyptian magistrature, which boasts a long-standing history of the defence of rights and freedom and the rule of law. Fully aware of the huge task of the Egyptian magistrature in the delicate circumstances that the country is going through, it is urged to give the issues of confessional violence the necessary priority in order to oppose this phenomenon, which is both alarming and exceptional for our fatherland after centuries of communal life and national unity.
5. The Family House, which appreciates the important role of today’s media, while confirming its full support of the freedom of expression through its different instruments, nonetheless spurs the media to be up to national responsibility in this decisive phase of our modern history.
6. The Egyptian army has been and will remain the expression of the principle of citizenship, a principle that we all keep to in order to conserve the unity of our social fabric and to realise its Revival (Nahda) and Progress. Therefore, the Family House, expressing its respect for the noble history of our armed forces and their important role in the consolidation and protection of the revolution, considers that the continuation of such role and the defence of the prestige of the state represent an insurmountable red zone, whatever the circumstances may be.
The Family House, presenting its sincere condolences to the families of the martyrs, and its wishes to the injured for a speedy recovery, expresses its great sorrow and shock following these sad events which are alien to the Egyptian people.
May God protect the Land of the Kinâna [=Egypt] and destroy all those who hate it.
10 October 2011
The president of the Council of the Egyptian Family
The Sheikh of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmad Muhammad at-Tayyeb