For a long time, the Copts have been demanding their rights to build new churches and their restoration. It’s true that the legislative reform in this regard has not yet been achieved, but it is clear that soon it will be. This should be part of the history as the Copts have realized that claiming their rights is misused by Islamic currents that separated the Copts from the community and treated them as guests or even slaves in their own homeland. They announced that no churches should be built or restored in an Islamic country.
Such sick reality and fatwas proved to be wrong. Therefore, we needed to replace such Coptic claims by citizenship rights before which all Egyptians should be treated the same without discrimination based on origin, sex, color, religion, creed or political affiliation.
This had to be made clear before getting into the recent fatwa issued by Al-Azhar. Although it is so generous fatwa, it should not distract us away from citizenship rights and equality granted by the Constitution.
The Board of State Commissioners in Alexandria received a request to issue fatwa about the legality of demolishing churches and use their lands for other purposes. However, fatwa committee said that non-Muslims should have many rights in the Islamic countries as long as they don’t fight the Muslims. Peaceful coexistence is required between Muslims and non-Muslims in most cases, which are referred to as dhimmis.
“Dhimmis enjoy freedom of belief, and Islamic governors have to protect their souls, properties, money and churches. Furthermore, Omar bin Abdul Aziz ordered that no churches or synagogues should be demolished when he was governor of Egypt. The Hanafi school supported the same idea to protect Christian houses of worship”.
Fatwa explained that Islam ordered that churches should not be destroyed, but to be allowed to be rebuilt and restored. The fatwas was generous enough to say that those who attack churches of dhimmis or demolish them are vicious and traitors to God, Prophet Mohamed and Islam.
I receive this fatwa with all appreciation and gratitude, but I’m looking forward to hearing the word citizens instead of dhimmis when talking about rights of Coptic Christians. Instead of saying Muslims have to protect the churches, it should be stated that the state has to protect and respect all houses of worship.