The ten point swift and serious response to the brutal suicide terrorism in Alexandria that President Mubarak and the Egyptian Government should adopt immediately should look something like this:
1. Public recognition of the existence of a sectarian problem, society splitting up, lots of hate, suspicion and desire for isolation on both sides. No problem can be solved when we deny its existence, so the first point must be to be honest about the deterioration that has taken place in the last four decades.
2. Removal of religious affiliation from birth certificates and ID cards. It is absurd to treat faith as if it were an ethnic or tribal affiliation.
3. Adopting civil law for marriage, divorce, inheritance and the like. Individuals can opt to follow religious law if they so wish, but a Muslim must have the right to leave a valid will that does not get disputed on religious grounds following her/ his death, to adopt children if he or she so chooses and a Copt must have the right to divorce and remarry if he / she so wishes. The civil law can allow for and regulate polygamy too and grant easy divorce rights, so the civil law need not “western” style, but needs to be uniform and addresses the most glaring injustices against women that continue to go on in Egypt.
4. Establish common laws for zoning, construction, renovations for houses of worship be they churches or mosques including shia'a mosques.
5. Introduce world's religions as a mandatory subject in all schools. Ensure that all children receive education about what Copts, Catholic, Jews, Shia’a Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists as well as Sunni Muslim really believe, not what is wrong or missing in other faiths. While we are at the education part, perhaps fund few TV programs to teach people why Copts reject to be labeled a “minority”; it is not that they claim to be a majority, but they as a whole view this word to mean non Egyptian going back to the colonial days when foreign “minorities” had their own Laws and were tried under a separate justice system. This is why Copts hate to be labeled a minority, not because they want to take over the country as some Friday prayer Imams regularly allege.
6. Introduce new Law dealing with discrimination allowing for stiff civil penalties for victims. Perhaps a successful professor of gynecology would be more deterred if he had to cough up few hundred thousands Egyptian Pounds for a pattern of discrimination in grades against Coptic students. (Mr. President: perhaps you would also consider the same for torture while you are at if not too much trouble / distraction).
7. Introduce new laws and enforce existing laws dealing with hate and incitement. Set example of adoption of these laws and start with someone like Qardawi who condones the killing of Israeli civilians. This is where the slippery slope starts and the Anti Jewish hysteria and hate moves across to all who may be different.
8. Instigate an independent (for real) investigation to find and remove any judges, police or prosecutors who show leniency or discriminate in the application of Laws when the accused is a Muslim and the victim is a Copt. While you are at it, get the Mufti and Sheikh Al Azhar to reaffirm equal application of the Law including the death penalty on a Muslim for killing a non Muslim. Mr. President: while this is blatantly obvious to you and many others, it is not to a large number of people and our Coptic brothers and sisters need to hear this from you and others.
9. The President, ministers, governors, deputies from Parliament and Shoura must be visible attending events in churches on regular basis. Mr. President, we need as a society to reassure all Copts that their houses of worship are safe and that Egypt is their country.
10. Last but not least, Egypt should be in an official State of Mourning when a massacre of the nature of what happened in Alexandria occurs; this is what a national State of Mourning is for, it is not just for the death of Government officials or heads of neighboring countries.
May the victims of the tragic massacre rest in peace, may the loss of their lives cause a Government and a nation to wake up. I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wish them all the strength and patience to deal with the horrible loss. I wish the injured physically and emotionally quick healing and finally to the extent possible, I wish all Coptic Christians a good Christmas full of healing, strength and hope for better times soon.
Ayman S. Ashour
January 3, 2011