LOVE wins, but that “does not mean you become naïve”, the Bishop of Egypt and North Africa, Dr Mouneer Anis, said last week, in the wake of deadly Islamist attacks in Egypt and the UK.
In an interview exploring how best to tackle terrorism, he suggested that not enough preventative work was under way, and that there was too much interfaith dialogue taking place between those who already held tolerant views.
“Terrorism is a war using ideology,” he said. “The person who kills himself for the sake of doing this, they have a very strong belief that this is jihad, and if they die doing jihad they will immediately go to heaven. And I don’t see enough work to deal with the ideology of terrorists. Most of the dealing is more searching, more observing, more police measures, and it’s all dealing with terrorism by force.”
He was doubtful about the effectiveness of some interfaith approaches. “Dialogue is wonderful, but usually people who accept to sit and talk with each other in interfaith dialogue are those who are tolerant, and those who are not militant,” he said. “Moderate Muslims need to have a dialogue with those jihadists. It’s much easier than having a dialogue between Christians and jihadists, which is very difficult.”
He was not blaming his Muslim friends, he emphasised. “I want to include myself. We — Christian and Muslim — do not do much in the area of prophylaxis, in the area of prevention: we only meet and talk when a disaster happens. But what we need is to really be proactive.”
There were also questions for European societies about integration, he said. “Many are living like in islands.They are living inside society, but not part of the society.” Jihadism gave those who needed “to have a radical purpose in life” a “good reason for life.”
One solution was to have “more engagement”, he suggested: areas where Christians and Muslims could work alongside one another. It was also important for all children to be taught an “agreed curriculum”, with religious instruction an optional addition. “To have separate education is very dangerous: it will not help in bringing harmony into the society.”
Actions taken by the Egyptian government in recent months have been criticised by human-rights groups. A letter signed by several civil-society organisations, including Human Rights Watch, this month described a new law regulating NGOs as introducing “unprecedented levels of repression”. The response to attacks has included air strikes against targets in Libya.
Dr Anis argued that the government was “doing exactly like the British government: they are intensifying the measures against terrorists. They are trying to fight them and suspicious groups, which is, again, not 100-per-cent curative, because it deals with the thing after it happens.”
In the wake of the attack in Manchester last month, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, re-
peatedly testified that “Love wins.” Asked whether he agreed, Dr Anis answered in the affirmative, but with a caveat.
“I do,” he said. “Love wins; but to love does not mean you become naïve. You need also to be careful, and to see where these terrorists graduated from, where they spend primary school. . . Because [with] love, also you need to protect people. It’s out of love.”
The attacks in Egypt had not affected attendance at churches, he said. “We know very well our history. The Church is actually built on the blood of the saints over the first two centuries. . . To witness to the love of God requires presence, and we are determined to continue to be present in the Middle East in order to continue to be witnessing.”