In my dialogues with Noha, my daughter, she keeps repeating that one of the greatest achievements accomplished by the President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood from power. I replied that 6 January 2019 will be included in the list of great achievements. Noha responded by saying that in order to ensure these positive results, education is the guarantor.
The president took the burden of reclaiming the Egyptian identity from the first moment when Egyptians saw him at the helm and heard him repeat "long live Egypt," not once, but thrice. Egyptians embraced this cheer after having lost it in the flood of names our country was called during different political eras where the name “Egypt” was absent. Egyptians have embraced the cheer out of love for the homeland.
For the sake of Egypt, the president has not relented in calling for reforming religious discourse in the country. El-Sisi has been clear on his keenness for justice that does not discriminate between Egyptians on the basis religion or any other reason. The president has kept his promise; not letting any occasion pass without asserting the importance of reforming religious discourse. The recent inauguration of the Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque and the Nativity of the Christ Cathedral, which was marked with bitter cold in the Egyptian desert on Christmas day, had an absolutely significant symbolic value.
Amid the euphoria of the great achievement, the president did not forget to remind everybody that “we want to preserve the tree of love which we have planted together today, because strife does not end.”
We cannot let the president struggle alone, because the state’s institutions, civil society, and every Egyptian, whether male or female, must carry out their duty to invest in this historical moment, which reminds us of the 1919 Revolution, the centenary of which we now celebrate.
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II entered the Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque on Christmas Eve to deliver a fantastic speech, the strength of which emanates from being brief, sincere and eloquent, even though it was improvised. The speech was logical and profound.
“Today we are recording a new page in the book of Egypt’s ancient civilisation. We see the Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque's minarets embracing the Nativity of the Christ Cathedral's belfries,” the pope said.
“We see in the symbolic inauguration that Egypt cares about its soft power. The mosque and the cathedral were built simultaneously and in record time with the money and donations of Egyptians.
“President El-Sisi was the first to donate to the project, and the efforts and creativity of Egyptians followed. As an Egyptian citizen I stand in the mosque and I am glad on this happy occasion, which is recorded in the history of Egypt.”
To complete the picture, from the Nativity of the Christ Cathedral, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb made a speech saying: “This is an exceptional event, and is perhaps a first in the history of Christianity and Islam.”
The Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque and the Nativity of the Christ Cathedral will address all the attempts to destabilise the homeland and incite sectarian strife.
“In Islam, the state is the protector of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues. This is a Sharia rule based on a verse in the Holy Quran that commands Muslims to fight to defend the places of worship of Jews, Christians and Muslims,” El-Tayeb said.
We bear the responsibility of building upon this historical moment and meeting the president's call in all sincerity and honesty, away from affectation and resonant phrases. We want to protect churches and mosques through love and respect, not through fences.
I hope that every governmental authority, scientific, educational, civil and media institution devises a clear plan with specific objectives and allocates the necessary human and financial resources within a specific timetable. This plan should aim at objectively revising, according to scientific bases, the curriculum in all educational stages in order to remove any form of discrimination, superiority, bigotry or incitement of hatred.
I hope that a real civil education system is put into place to preserve the security and unity of Egypt and which translates the right of citizenship into a living reality. I salute the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, who has begun revising Al-Azhar's curriculum. I hope that he will find sincere assistance in order to advance education at Al-Azhar to serve the needs of man and the homeland.
We do not want Muslims to protect churches out of religious duty, but we want to protect them through education, respect and love, because these are the places of worshiping God that the Christian, Muslim and Jew depend upon. What we need is to regain the genuine Egyptian culture based on respecting and celebrating pluralism.
We have to remember that education does not stop at the school gates, but should be extended to all state institutions and service providers for different segments of society. The local media, private and public, should bear their responsibility as true partners in implementing the national plan to eradicate all forms of discrimination. It is important to be committed to an objective scientific approach that focuses on essence and sets its sights on the homeland’s interests and stay away from resonant phrases and formalities.
We have to meet the president's call to take a long-awaited serious step, and I believe that we need it now in order to maintain this progress and build upon it; setting up an independent commission to eradicate all forms of discrimination by implementing the constitution’s Article 53. The article stipulates that all citizens are equal before the law; they are equal in their rights and freedoms without discrimination based on religion, ideology, race, or any other reason.
We want to enact laws to implement the second paragraph in the same article, which stipulates that discrimination and inciting hatred is a crime punishable by law.
Among the tasks assigned to this commission is drafting a national plan for the eradication of all forms of discrimination, coordinating the efforts between all national authorities to implement the plan, and raising the awareness of its significance in eradicating all discrimination that hinders the enjoyment of Egyptians, females and males, of their rights of citizenship.
One of the most important roles assigned to the commission is to coordinate national efforts to recover the appreciation of the facets of religious and cultural pluralism which have enriched the Egyptian character and instilled in it strength and fortitude throughout the ages. The commission will also observe the progress achieved in the respective fields and overcome obstacles that hinder implementation.
We want the president’s wishes to come true as they were pronounced by Pope Tawadros II when he said that may God sustain His love. We want to see the minarets and belfries embrace in all parts of Egypt, and that our celebration of Christmas this year will be the model for what is to come. And long live Egypt.