Michael Totten Interviews Ramez Atallah on Christians and Muslims in Egypt, Part II
On November 17th, I posted an entry about Michael Totten's interview with Ramez Atallah on "The Christians of Egypt, Part I" (November 15, 2011). Totten has since posted part two: "The Christians of Egypt, Part II" (November 27, 2011). As I noted with my first posting on Ramez Atallah, he is a Protestant Christian and the General Director of the Bible Society of Egypt, and he has some interesting things to say, several of which were counterintuitive to me.
The most surprising thing in part one was his assertion that the West should not focus on human rights specifically for Christians, despite their oppressed condition as second-class cititzens, for Muslims would think that Christians were being favored over Muslims. He also stated that the Christians of Egypt could live with the Muslim Brotherhood, but not with the Salafists, a surprise to me since I figured that both Islamist types were bad for Christians, but Atallah made a distinction. Go read that first interview if you want to know more.
In part two, Atallah also has some interesting things to say. Particularly noteworthy is his remark about the difference between Islam in an Arabic and in a non-Arabic country:
Islam in an Arabic-speaking country is very different from Islam in a non-Arabic country . . . . Like I told you before, Islam is very close to people's identity, like your gender is for you. This is most true in Arabic countries because Islam is Arabic. They are intertwined. The language and the religion are intertwined. Arabic is the only language in the world that has been frozen for 1400 years. If you ask any child here what his hardest subject is in school, invariably he will say Arabic. You as a Westerner may scratch your head and wonder how Arabic can be the hardest subject in school in an Arab country, but it's because the language we speak and read in Egypt is so different from classical Arabic . . . . Exactly. And how many kids did you know who liked Latin in school? . . . And it's only a written language now. That's exactly what kids are doing when they study Arabic. We have this old language that is very far from what we read and speak every day. It is imposed on us. There is this mystique about it, that we have to know it and live it. Arabs are more closely aligned to Islam because their language, their culture, and their faith are all one.Atallah picks up on a point that he made earlier, in part one of Totten's interview, and clarifies that the West should support human rights in Egypt rather than focusing on the rights specifically of persecuted Christian, and he explains why:
My point is, what will the government listen to more? Will America get a better result by pressing for freedom for Christians or freedom for Muslims? If you pressure Egypt only for Christian rights, Muslims here will say, "if they're your people, take them with you." But if Americans care about my Muslim friend's wife, the Muslims will be tongue-tied. They won't know how to argue with you about that.Atallah makes some interesting points, and since he's a Christian Egyptian who's lived in both the West (Canada) and the Islamic world (Egypt), he's a man whose opinion should be carefully considered, particularly when he tells us:
I need you to please understand that Muslims hate it when the West speaks up for Christians. They absolutely despise it and we become the victims.That is a crucial point that would never have occurred to me, and knowing it would make reading this interview worthwhile even if Atallah had said nothing else of importance.
But, of course, he does say other interesting things . . .