FaithWorld

Guestview: The emerging role of religion in Egypt

(Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam in Cairo, December 7, 2013/Dar al-Ifta)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Shawky Allam is the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

By Grand Mufti Shawky Allam

As Egypt moves ahead along its roadmap after the new draft constitution was brought to fruition, it is only natural to expect more changes in the near future.

But how Egypt will change? What will it develop into? One of the most important questions is what role religion and religious forces will play in the still emerging political scene. Because Egyptian society remains a profoundly religious, the burning question is who can adequately represent the religious interests of the masses and direct them towards peaceful and productive democratic ends?

These are critical questions that underscore the very large challenges ahead of Egypt. What I want to do as an Egyptian is assure the world that Egypt will indeed transform itself into a self-sufficient, democratic member of the community of nations. The events of the past few months, though they have presented their own challenges, are reasons for optimism and hope. And indeed every good believer must remain hopeful, and maintain an attitude of optimism towards both humanity and the Divine.

To achieve this, we must confront the problems we encounter with purpose and determination. The institution of the Dar al-Ifta and my office of Grand Mufti feel a responsibility towards articulating the place of religion in Egypt in the face of the new developments.  This has become especially important as we have witnessed in the past few months flare-ups of sectarian sentiment and indeed violence, both of which are deeply regrettable.  They run counter to the very notion of Egyptian unity and religious cooperation that both the Muslim and Christian faith encourage, uphold and indeed mandate.

Guestview: Gay marriage and U.S. evangelicals: conciliatory tone, traditional doctrine

(Same-sex couple plastic figurines are displayed during a gay wedding fair in Paris April 27, 2013. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes )

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer and columnist in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania

By Elizabeth E. Evans

Gay marriage has been gaining support among the American public, most dramatically among the young.  Many evangelicals have been vocal on social justice issues like sex trafficking, poverty and climate change. Will these traditionally conservative Christians, particularly younger ones among them, end up adapting to the idea — if not the principle — of same-sex marriage?

Guestview: Negotiating change in the Islamic religious establishment

(Muslims attend Friday prayers at Al Azhar mosque in Cairo December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Ali Gomaa will soon step down from the position of Grand Mufti of Egypt that he has held since 2003.

By Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa

It has been said by many that Egypt is going through difficult and trying times. Today, however, I would like to share with you my true feelings of optimism and hope for our country and our people.

Guestview: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is dead – long live the Freedom & Justice Party

(Supporters of presidential candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Khairat al-Shater, hold a banner of him in Cairo April 5, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih )

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone.  H.A. Hellyer (@hahellyer) is a geo-strategic expert on the MENA region and Europe, with experience at Gallup, the Brookings Institution and Warwick University.

By H.A. Hellyer

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), until after the Egyptian revolution began in 2011, was a civil society movement. It wasn’t founded as a militant movement for martial resistance, nor was it founded as a political movement in order to take power. It was founded out of a civil impulse to reform society, in an age when colonialisation had radically altered society in Egypt. As the decades ensued, the MB went through various phases, and produced many offshoots – but in the main, the MB remained a civic-based organisation in Egypt.

After the 25th of January, the MB leadership had a choice: transform the movement into a political party – or remain as a movement. The choice had not been possible before due to political repression – but the consequences of that decision has repercussions not only for the MB. That movement’s influence has spread far beyond its members, and even Egypt.

Will the Arab Spring bring U.S.-style “culture wars” to the Middle East?

(From left: Olivier Roy, Cardinal Angelo Scola and Martino Diez of the Oasis Foundation at the conference on San Servolo island, Venice, June 20, 2011/Giorgia Dalle Ore/Oasis)

Where is the Arab Spring leading the Middle East? What will be the longer-term outcome of the popular protests that have shaken the region since the beginning of this year? Of course, it’s still too early to say with any certainty, even in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that succeeded in toppling their authoritarian regimes. Some trends have emerged, however, and they’re on the agenda at a conference in Venice I’m attending entitled “Medio Oriente verso dove?” (Where is the Middle East heading?). The host is the Oasis Foundation, a group chaired by Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Roman Catholic patriarch of this historic city, and guests include Christian and Muslim religious leaders and academics from the Middle East and Europe.

In one of the most interesting — and hotly debated — presentations, the French Islam specialist Olivier Roy described the Arab Spring as “a break with the culture and ideologies that dominated the Arab world from the 1950s until recently.” It marks a clear change in the demographic, political and religious paradigms operating there, he said. The old dichotomy of the authoritarian regime or the Islamist state has broken down, he argued, and Islam is taking on a new role in the political process. In the end, the region — or at least the states where the Arab Spring brings real change — could see democratic politics marked not by major efforts to establish an Islamic state but by Muslim “culture war” controversies not unlike the way hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage emerge in U.S. political debates.

Guestview: How Catholic should a Catholic charity be?

(Homeless Egyptian children enjoy a meal in Kafr El Sisi Center for Children at Risk in the Giza neighbourhood of Cairo March 12, 2007. The street children are fed, taught vocational skills, given health care and counselled at the center run by Caritas/Goran Tomasevic)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Abigail Frymann is Online Editor of the British Catholic weekly The Tablet, where this first appeared.

By Abigail Frymann

How Catholic should a Catholic charity be? The confederation of Catholic charities Caritas Internationalis  elected a new secretary general, Michel Roy, last week after the re-appointment of the previous incumbent, Lesley-Anne Knight, was blocked, apparently because the Vatican wanted a stronger Catholic identity.

Guestview: “Trifecta” of bad news launched Catholics4Change blog

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(Protesters near the courthouse before a hearing on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 14, 2011/Tim Shaffer)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Honey Brook, Pennsylvania.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

Three seemingly unrelated events – and Susan Matthews found herself at a crossroads.

Guestview: Why “militant Islam” is a dangerous myth

koran kalashnikov

(A Palestinian gunman marches with a Koran and his rifle during a protest in Deir al-Balah September 25, 2002/Magnus Johansson )

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Dalia Mogahed is Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. mogahed

(Dalia Mogahed/ Gallup)

By Dalia Mogahed

Right-wing pundits in the U.S. and Europe sometimes argue that it is misguided to avoid religious language when describing terrorists. They point out that members of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates call themselves “jihadists”, a derivative of the Arabic noun “jihad” meaning a struggle for God. They explain that it is therefore accurate and fair to refer to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates by the same term.

Guestview: Unrest in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

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(Protesters at a demonstration in Cairo January 29, 2011/Asmaa Waguih)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone.  Jonathan Wright is a longtime Reuters correspondent in the Middle East who is now a translator and blogger based in Cairo.

By Jonathan Wright

As in the case of Tunisia, a succession of commentators have remarked on the small role the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have played in the unrest in Egypt. One of the latest I have seen came from Michael Collins Dunn, the editor of the Middle East Institute“Do you see any beards? Well, maybe a few beard-and-mustache looks of some young hipsters, but not the beard-without-mustache ‘uniform’ we associate with the Muslim Brothers,” he writes.

I think Dunn is mistaken here on several counts. For a start, Muslim Brothers come in many guises, and the ‘beard-without-mustache’ look is hardly a Brotherhood uniform. He may be confusing Muslim Brothers with salafis, while the two groups are quite distinct, though with some overlap. From my own experience on the streets (see my earlier reports on my blog), I believe people are underestimating the level of participation by members of the Brotherhood, though I will readily concede that they have not taken part at full strength and at a level which reflects their demographic weight.

Guestview: Editorial independence and an ecumenical news agency

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone.  Peter Kenny is the former editor-in-chief of ENInews.
eninews1By Peter Kenny

Maintaining editorial integrity at ENInews, a Geneva-based world-wide news agency run by Ecumenical News International that covers global Christianity and other religions, is hard work. Although church groupings and their partner organizations founded ENInews, editorial independence is often linked to that which is the root of all evil — money. (Photo: Financial freeze puts squeeze on ENInews at Geneva Ecumenical Centre/Peter Kenny)

And that was one of the root causes of ENInews being forced to suspend production for a time at the beginning of the year. It has resumed services and now has an interim editor and is looking for an editor/manager for a one-year term, who will have no office. In 2011 it will also likely face another big cut from its biggest sponsor.