Egypt has suspended Salem Abdel Gelil, a deputy minister of its (Islamic) Endowments Ministry, and Egypt is charging Abel Gelil with “contempt of religion,” as reported by Mada Masr.
The reason? Abdel Gelil, a Muslim, said that Christianity is not true.
It is bizarre for the Egyptian government to suspend a Muslim leader for saying this because mainstream Islam, like most other religions, makes distinct truth claims, so by definition a Muslim would believe that some of Christianity’s core teachings are not true. This move by the Egyptian government is not only bizarre, it is also a threat to peaceful coexistence in Egypt.
In this case it is the government of Egypt, not Abdel Gelil, that is engaged in “contempt of religion.” Forbidding religious believers from discussing basic tenets of their belief belongs to the very definition of “contempt of religion.”
According to a variety of mainstream definitions of Christianity, Christians believe Jesus is God, their understanding of the one God is trinitarian, and they do not believe Muhammad is a prophet. According to any definition of Islam I have ever seen, Muslims would view these statements as untrue.
Therefore I would only expect a Muslim talking about about Christians, to say as Abdel Gelil did, “Yes, they believe in Jesus and Moses, but they disbelieve in Muhammad (كفروا بمحمد). Whenever we remind them of Muhammad, they say “No, no, no. We’re fine the way we are.”” Abdel Gelil further stated, “…what you believe is corrupt. Go back to God.” Granted, he could perhaps have chosen a gentler word than “corrupt,” but in looking at Christian beliefs from a Muslim perspective, some core Christian beliefs are in fact untenable.
The Endowments Ministry of Egypt issued a statement asserting that Abdel Gelil’s remarks “do not help the establishment of the foundations of citizenship, peaceful coexistence and societal peace that we work toward achieving in reality.”
In this the Endowments Ministry errs. Disagreement does not prevent peaceful coexistence. Quite to the contrary acknowledging difference is a foundational element of peaceful coexistence.
Abdel Gelil also said to Christians, “You are kind, and you are our brothers and sisters in humanity, not only inside our own country.” Indeed we can be “brothers and sisters in humanity” and disagree about deep matters at the very same time.
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