When will this monstrous movement, called ISIS, that has sullied Islam by purporting to speak in its name, be deracinated, root and branch, not just from our region, but from the face of the earth?
The Arab world, and along with it the rest of the civilized world, hope and pray it will be sooner rather later.
In December last year, the group “took credit” -- the term by itself is repellent -- for killing at least 25 Egyptian Christian worshippers at Cairo's largest cathedral, where many children were among the dead. Last month, the group was behind the slaughter of 45 and the wounding of 112 Christians in two separate attacks on churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria during Palm Sunday celebrations. The latest outrage -- though not yet, as of this writing, attributed to ISIS -- took place on Friday, when a bus carrying Christians outside the town of Minya, roughly 150 miles south of Cairo, was surrounded by eight to 10 attackers wearing masks.
In the attack 28 were killed, including many children, and dozens were injured. Gut-wrenching footage of the bloody scene showed the bullet-raked bus, its windows smashed, with bodies spread out by the side of the road. Reportedly, only three children survived -- and think of the trauma they have to live with for the rest of their lives.
The massacre took place -- perhaps not so coincidentally, given the perverted minds of the perpetrators -- one day before Ramadan, for Muslims a month of spiritual reflection, abundant compassion and human bonding. As this goes online, it has not been confirmed that ISIS was behind the atrocity, but Egyptian officials appear convinced that in all probability it was indeed the group’s work, forming part of the campaign it pledged last February to launch against Egypt’s Christians, a sizeable minority that makes up at least 10 percent of the population.
Not comforting these days, is it, to belong to a community whose members feel hunted down and marked for death, who fear that their homes, businesses and churches could be burned down at all unguarded moments?
But that is the kind of terror that ISIS militants have instilled in us all, not just in Egypt, but in Mosul and Raqa'a, in Manchester and Paris, in Nice and Brussels, in Madrid and London.
Not comforting these days, is it, to belong to a community whose members feel hunted down and marked for death, who fear that their homes, businesses and churches could be burned down at all unguarded moments? But that is the kind of terror that ISIS militants have instilled in us all, not just in Egypt, but in Mosul and Raqa'a, in Manchester and Paris, in Nice and Brussels, in Madrid and London.Fawaz Turki
Meanwhile, as the group mounts its assaults, we too become its victims, not only physically (92 percent of those victims are Muslim) but intellectually as well, for we often find ourselves squeezing the margins of debate, straining to explain to the rest of the world that these purveyors of nihilistic violence, these gangsters of hate, are divorced from Islam and its tenets, that we are fully aware of how they have made it ever more difficult for the culture of the West to understand the culture of the East.
In effect, a handful of men, with a delusional vision about a putative caliphate conjured up in their imagination, have caused a puncture in the dialectic of the global dialogue of cultures!
Consider this statement issued soon after Friday’s assault by Dar al-Ifta in Cairo, a government-sponsored institution dedicated to Islamic research and to keeping contemporary Muslims in touch with Islam’s principles:
“These traitors violated Islamic principles by spilling blood and terrorizing people, and broke their Islamic vows by targeting our Christian brothers, who are our partners in the homeland.”
And partners they are.
Coptic Christians, of course, are not only indigenous to Egypt, tracing their origins to ancient times, but have been very much part of its political, social and intellectual evolution. Many joined the military to fight in the country’s wars. Many participated in the national struggle for independence. And many, in pre-Nasser Egypt, were prominent ideologues, thinkers and theoreticians who contributed greatly to the country’s intellectual traditions. That includes people like Salama Musa, social critic, writer and pioneer of Arab socialism; Luis Awas, the Princeton-educated poet who introduced free-verse to Egyptian literature; and Makram Obeid, Secretary General of the Wafd Party.
And more recently, there was Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the politician, diplomat and academic who went on to become the sixth Secretary General of the UN from 1992 to 1996, after having served his country as Vice Foreign Minister. That’s to name but a few. Why would anyone -- anyone, that is, not full of malice in heart and ignorance in mind -- want to assault these people, who differ from other Egyptians only in the faith they embrace?
For admit it, Copts in Egypt have had the bad end of the stick. Denial in this case, as Mark Twain would have put it, is not a river in Egypt. Denial, rather, is not to accept that reality is real.
And yes, let us, I say, wipe ISIS, a movement imbued with anti-social passions and a penchant for tyrannizing through contempt of man, off the face of the earth.
Fawaz Turki is a Palestinian-American journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington, DC.