This Picture Says a Lot

There’s been a lot of talk about the appalling and barbaric attacks on Christian churches and homes in Egypt by Muslim thugs, and rightly so. What’s going on there is horrifying. But this picture, of Muslims surrounding a Christian church to protect it, is very powerful to me.

Muslims protecting church

Muslims protecting church

It’s important to remember that every religious group has its fair share of horrible people and wonderful people, of bigots and equality advocates, of violent thugs and kind and decent people. There is no “Islam” there are many Islams, just as there is no Christianity but many Christianities. We can argue that their views are false without demonizing them and we can criticize the terrible people among them and their hateful ideologies without tarring the good people among them.

Just as there are Muslims who seek to impose their barbarism on women and gay people and non-believers, there are Muslims who work for equality and human rights. Just as there are Christians who spend their whole lives fighting to oppress people, there are Christians who march beside us and work with us for a more just and equal society. And these good people putting their bodies on the line to protect those of another faith should be praised. What they are doing is brave and dangerous and moral and decent.

"Sorry, Barbarossa began June 22. 1941. It was a Sunday."

Sanders Refusing to do Press Briefings ..."
"Here's one more parallel. I've been reading Walter Kempowski's "Swan Song" -- a kind of ..."

Sanders Refusing to do Press Briefings ..."
"First you'd have to get rid of Netanyahu and his Likud gang. Till you do ..."

Sanders Refusing to do Press Briefings ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • colnago80

    A couple of years ago when Mubarak was still running Egypt, there were similar attacks on Christian Churches in Egypt and Muslims who surrounded the churches to protect them. It is interesting to note that at one of the churches, Mubarak’s two sons were among the defenders.

  • Moving and inspiring.

  • cry4turtles

    Definitely something I never would’ve imagined. Note to self-seek and destroy my own stereotypical thoughts.

  • lancifer

    However, it speaks to the nature of religious belief (and to be fair tribalism) that such behavior is the exception rather than the rule.

    Once you have decided that your personal variety of religion is the “one true faith” it’s an easy next step to see people of other faiths, and especially no faith, as infidels worthy of at least suspicion if not outright contempt.

  • sbuh

    It’s just so extremely difficult to examine religious beliefs in a vacuum, because they do not separate cleanly from social, political, national, or international factors. The question always comes up as to whether Islam is more troubled than its sister faiths, and I still haven’t found a satisfactory answer.

    Doctrinally, I don’t think it’s worth trying to tally up which of the three Abrahamic faiths is the worst. There’s enough objectionable material in the Scriptures of all three that none can really be made to look better by comparison.

    So the simplistic conclusion to draw is that it’s mostly extra-religious influences in the societies they inhabit that determine how they behave, and there are certainly Christians in socially regressive regions in Africa and elsewhere who can match fundamentalist Muslims cruelty for cruelty. But if the temptation then is to simply try to tame Islam the way Christianity has been tamed by stable societies and the Enlightenment, can this be done? And how much of the forces that resist democritization are cultural, social, or religious?

    Just thinking out loud, and I don’t have any clear conclusions to draw. I really want to think that most people are innately cooperative if a bit tribalistic and that we can appeal to the best in people to work change from within.

  • Wow, what kind of camera is that guy using that captures himself in his own wide angle shot?

  • criticaldragon1177

    Ed Brayton

    I wonder how anti Muslim bigots like Spencer, Geller, Bridgette Gabriel, Chris Logan etc.. will try to explain this away, rather than admit that not all Muslims are evil monsters.

  • criticaldragon1177

    #4 Lancifer

    You wrote,


    However, it speaks to the nature of religious belief (and to be fair tribalism) that such behavior is the exception rather than the rule.

    Once you have decided that your personal variety of religion is the “one true faith” it’s an easy next step to see people of other faiths, and especially no faith, as infidels worthy of at least suspicion if not outright contempt.


    I partly agree with you. The belief that God is on your side, and you have all the answers and everyone else wrong, has been used to justify hatred, intolerance, and even violence in the past, and still is today, and unfortunately we will probably never see the end of it. However, I think stuff like this is far more common than many people realize.

  • alyosha

    Don’t get me wrong, photographs like this remind me that even theists can be pluralist. The Coptics of Egypt will need all the help they can get since they appear to have been scapegoated. We’re not dealing with an Islamic emirate but I would remind people to remember the Christian leaders who denounced Rushdie for daring to ‘blaspheme’ against another faith’s false prophet.

    It is a beautiful gesture but birds of a feather…

  • criticaldragon1177

    #9 Alyosha

    Would you rather they be killing each other, and acting the way people would expect them to behave based on the worst stereotypes people have of people who belong to both faiths?

  • D. C. Sessions

    Thanks, Ed.

  • alyosha

    Oh, of course not. It is, as I’ve said, heartwarming. I imagine my post did not convey my tone properly. It does seem to be a liberal expression of solidarity between human beings who’ve lived in each others pockets for centuries. Egypt ISN’T Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, so we might expect something like this. It almost makes me support the coup, if it weren’t for all the bloodshed.

    My actual point is that the secular buffer zone seems to require and is at the same time damaged by the army. Religious solidarity is fine in theory. In this case it’s genuine. I can’t speak for every motive though, is all Im saying.

  • grumpyoldfart

    But this picture, of Muslims surrounding a Christian church to protect it, is very powerful to me.

    Meanwhile, a little south/west of Egypt, the Muslims are showing their true colors:

    Don’t click on this link if you can’t handle stories about brutality.

  • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Oh for fuck’s sake.

    Meanwhile, a little south/west of Egypt, other Muslims are showing their true colors:


  • beardymcviking

    Thanks Azkyroth, that’s *exactly* the word change that sprung immediately to my mind.

    Muslims, like everyone else are people first, and individuals. As soon as we forget that and treat them only as a monolithic ‘other’, we fail to see them as human.

  • criticaldragon1177

    #12 Alyosha

    Okay than, Sorry about any misunderstanding I may have had.

  • criticaldragon1177

    #13 grumpyoldfart

    Get a life. Why is it that we should think that these Muslims who are actually standing up for a group of non Muslims, even while being the majority, are not showing their true colors, while whenever a group of Muslims acts in a violent, intolerant manner, we should assume they are showing their true colors? As horrible as what those extremists in Nigeria maybe, they do not represent all Muslims, anymore than the KKK represents all Christians, or even all white Christians, and this proves that.

  • Johnny Au Gratin

    For the last two weeks I have volunteered at the Kentucky State Fair for the Kentucky Secular Society, and the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. At the KSS booth we had an extremely realistic life sized statue of Charles Darwin. We had plenty of visitors who were impressed by the statue until they learned who it was. We also had plenty of visitors who didn’t know who it was even after being told. But the highlight was a Muslim family with two boys eight and ten years old who were fascinated by the statue. When asked if they knew who it was, they replied correctly and elaborated with a good summary of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. The parents took the kid’s photo with Charlie, and thanked us for supporting good science education.

    At the KRCRC booth i had a long conversation with a Muslim woman who signed up for the mailing list, signed a petition urging lawmakers to not support legislation limiting abortion access, and asked how to go about volunteering as a Clinic Escort at Louisville’s only abortion clinic, one of only two in the entire state. She works at a local shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

  • meg

    @Johnny #18

    Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the lady, but I remember watching a panel show here in Oz (Q&A) and listening to a Muslim women (an academic I believe) tell an ‘atheist’ member of parliament that she had to support same sex marriage, otherwise, how could her own right to marry, religion etc possibly be guaranteed. There could be no exceptions, otherwise there could be many.

    I also remember reading that this was happening during the original protests that removed Mubarek. On Fridays, Christians would surround praying Muslims, and on Sunday, Muslims would surround praying Christians. It gives me hope.

  • iangould

    Maybe the Coptic pope should’;t have repeatedly endorsed the military coup just days before the new military governmnt massacred thousands of Islamists.

    (Ed hasn;’tsaid Word One abut those massacres yet but given his deep, deep, commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience I’m sure it’s coming any year now.)

    Besides, the people killed were all freedom-hated terrorist-supporting raghead-muj scum so it’s not like they’re any loss. Am I right, Ed?

  • freehand

    This may well be tribalism at work. Liberals around the globe largely see themselves as members of one group, with the barbarians beyond the pale as The Other. The US founding fathers designed a system of representation which was based on the working assumption that people’s interests would be largely geographical, when it very quickly (because of our diverse origins, uncommon mobility, and the start of the industrial age) became apparent that we were identifying ourselves primarily on basis of other values. I certainly feel more kinship with the average science fiction conventioneer than I would any anti-choice activists, no matter what their income, ethnicity, or home town. Liberal Muslims would feel more kinship with (perhaps) urban secular liberals than with Islamist/Taliban types.

    W. B. Yeats did an essay describing two types of Irishmen – the easy going cheerful and generous-hearted fellows, and the dour, joy-hating authoritarian bullies. And they both used the same RCC doctrine to justify their behavior and values.