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ICC Note: The grand imam of al-Ashar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, was recently welcomed at the Vatican. While this symbolized a huge step forward in the religious world, hard conversations ensued during the meeting. Chief among these topics, was the targeting of Christians by Muslim radicals. Yes, all suffer from ISIS, but Christians in Egypt, for example, are at a constant battle for equality and safety. It is terribly important that leaders like el-Tayeb discourage these attitudes, for the sake of Islam even.

05/29/2016 Egypt (Catholic Herald): The grand imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar Mosque, Ahmed el-Tayeb, who is reckoned to be one of the chief authorities in the Sunni Muslim world, was recently received in the Vatican. This is surely good news, as we all want inter-religious dialogue, but, as John Allen of Cruxreports, there are one or two matters that must give us pause.

First of all, this visit marks the resumption of dialogue after a five-year pause. Why the pause, you may ask? Well, dialogue was broken off by the Egyptian Muslim authorities in 2011, when Pope Benedict spoke out about the persecution of Christians in Egypt. Why they chose to do this is beyond me. To condemn the persecution of Christians is hardly to be anti-Islamic: if it were, think of the implications for Islam.

Moreover, this time, the grand imam had this to say on the same topic:

“Here I would like to say that the issue must not be presented as persecution of Christians in the East,” el-Tayeb said, “but on the contrary there are more Muslim than Christian victims, and we all suffer this catastrophe together.”

He has a point. ISIS has certainly killed more Muslims than Christians, and for one simple reason: there are far more Muslims to kill than Christians in the Middle East. Again, the political convulsions in Egypt have affected everyone, regardless of religion. However, this should not and must not obscure the fact that there are strains in Islam which see the persecution of Christians as either excusable, or even to be encouraged; one cannot and must not use the fact that Muslims are suffering as somehow relativising the suffering of Christians, the strategy that is often called “universalise to minimise”.

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