Special to The Globe and Mail
On late Saturday, Pope Tawadros II led his first Easter Mass as head of the ancient Coptic Christian Church in Egypt by praying for security and prosperity in the country. It was the most important event of the year for Egypt’s Christian minority. Many Muslims attended the service, including various figures from the opposition parties. However, President Mohamed Morsi and Prime Minister Hesham Qandil were conspicuously absent; their Muslim Brotherhood government effectively snubbed the mass by sending sent a low-level token representative – the country’s housing minister.
Many voices in Egypt had pressured the President to attend the mass as a gesture of support to the Copts, particularly after the recent violent attack on the main Coptic Cathedral , the first such atrocity in the history of Egypt. Sadly he decided to snub Egypt’ s Coptic Christians, who make up 10 per cent of the country’s 90 million people.
To greet or not to greet Copts – that is the current debate among Islamists in Egypt. It may seem a trivial issue, a courteous gesture that should not be sullied by theology. But in Egypt, the rise of political Islam into power has pushed theology onto the fault line of politics and inflamed the already growing sectarianism in a society that was once known for its harmony and tolerance.
Although Islam reveres Jesus, it does not acknowledge his divinity, crucifixion, and resurrection. So even though a feast in celebration of Easter contradicts Islamic beliefs, for most Muslims (including the Egyptian Mufti), greeting Christians and sharing in their joy and festivities is a customary and welcome gestures of brotherhood and partnership. This view is vehemently disputed by many Islamists.