Pope Shenouda III is said to be angry about questions recently posed by Father Bishoy, secretary of the Coptic Church's Holy Synod, concerning certain Quranic verses, a source from the Coptic Orthodox Church said.
The source added that the pope has contacted several political and Islamic figures in order to ease the tension caused by Bishoy’s remarks and to preserve the strong ties between the Coptic Church and Al-Azhar. The source also said that the Church is awaiting the response of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, which will convene on Saturday to discuss the issue.
In a speech in Fayoum on Wednesday, Bishoy suggested that certain verses of the Holy Quran had not been recited by the Prophet Mohammad but rather inserted later during the era of Caliph Uthman bin Affan. He also called for a thorough study of the verses in question, contending that “dialogue and clarification makes one delve into the mind and abolish those verses that label us infidels.”
Meanwhile, the Islamic Lawyers Association has said it plans to file a lawsuit before the Supreme Administrative Court in the next few days to demand the defrocking of Father Bishoy whom they accuse of “intentionally insulting the Islamic religion”.
From his side, Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badeea has also denounced Bishoy's statements. Badeea said on Thursday, in his weekly letter to the Brotherhood published on the organization’s website, “We must respond to whoever slanders the book of God or the Prophet, (peace be upon him), by turning towards the book of God, preserving it in our hearts and making it evident in our morals, resolute for our homes and families.
Badeea, leader of the largest Islamic political group in Egypt, added that “The Holy Quran is preserved in our hearts and minds and work.” He provided several Quranic verses and historical facts to prove that the Quran had been preserved from any distortion since the moment it was handed down to the Prophet Mohamed, and preserved in one book at the time of the caliphate of the third righteous caliph Uthman bin Afan.
Badeea also called in his weekly letter for all articles in the constitution which contradict Islamic tenets to be deleted, “Every article in the constitution that is not in accordance with Islam and that is not provisioned by its laws must be deleted, until there is no contradiction in the founding laws of the country.”
The Egyptian constitution dictates in its second article that Islamic Sharia is the principle source of legislation in the state. However the constitution also includes passages that stress the necessity of respecting freedom of opinion and expression, and this is the article most often criticized by Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood is preparing to put up a strong showing in the Parliamentary elections scheduled for November.
Some observers are concerned that the Brotherhood could resort to mobilization on the basis of sectarian and religious divisions taking advantage of the environment of current tensions in the country. It is believed by some that they it was the Brotherhood who organized the angry protests in Alexandria in October 2005, just weeks before the parliamentary elections, against what they described as theatrical degradation of the prophet in pictures in one of the churches.
In a related development, approximately 1500 people staged a protest on Friday in front of al-Qaed Ibrahim mosque in Alexandria to express their anger with “the church’s suppression of Christian converts to Islam.”
The protesters were calling for the release of Kamilia Shehata, the wife of a bishop in Minya, whom they allege has converted to Islam and is being kept hidden by the Church. The church has denied her conversion.
Protesters carried banners, including one that read “I’m an Egyptian woman who has freely embraced Islam. I’m now being held in one of Shenouda’s churches”. The banner depicted a virtual picture of Shehata wearing the Islamic veil.
The protesters also distributed a statement demanding that the constitution be upheld, in respect of freedom of belief. The statement also called for the trial of the pope on a charge of “detaining Shehata” and that of Father Bishoy for his remarks on the Quran.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.