Egypt Attack: Egyptians on Twitter Call for Religious Tolerance Following Mosque Bombing

ISIS is believed to be behind Friday’s bombing on a Sufi mosque in northern Sinai; Egyptian Twitter is dominated by messages urging understanding, not bloodshed

View of the Rawda mosque in  in Bir al-Abed, west of El-Arish, in Egypt's Sinai, after a gun and bombing attack, November 24, 2017.
STRINGER/AFP

Many Egyptians took to social media on Friday to express their support for religious tolerance following a deadly attack on a mosque in northern Sinai that killed at least 235 people.

Islamic State-affiliated militants are suspected of being behind the bombing and shooting attack in Bir al-Abed, west of El-Arish, which targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis. Friday’s attack broke the recent pattern of churches and other Coptic Christian targets being attacked by ISIS.

After the attack, Egyptian twitter was dominated by discussions regarding the need for increased religious tolerance.

One tweet, by Ahmed Fouad, simply read “Terrorism has no religion .... #Egypt.” A similar tweet stated, “The issue is not about religious background, Muslim or Christian. The issue is about security in Egypt.”

This idea was echoed by another user, who wrote: “No one should say that one specific group is targeted, no one should say that Christians are targeted, no one should say that Muslims are targeted. #Egypt is being targeted, including its Christians and its Muslims,” adding the hashtag #Egypt_Remains.

Mai Shams el-Din, a Cairo-based journalist, noted that the mosque was Sufi (i.e., practicing Islamic mysticism). She tweeted that the “ISIS-affiliated terrorists slaughtered the over-80-year-old Sufi sheikh in El-Arish, who allegedly was ‘spreading blasphemy and delusion.’”

One user blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, saying they “won’t allow religious choice,” and that, because of them, “tolerance, coexistence and inclusion for all religions” won’t be possible. The user added, “Their dream is for #Egypt to rule the East,” adding a hashtag declaring that if members of the Muslim Brotherhood were executed, Egypt would be safe.

Another user, Ayman Albanna, looked to history, writing that during then-President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, terrorists targeted churches and that during President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi’s rule, they are blowing up mosques. He added that this "leads directly to the relocation of the people of El-Arish, both Christians and Muslims, together.” He also added his best wishes for the Egyptian people, especially those in Sinai.

Others expressed confusion about the attackers' motives. “They blow up Christians and Muslims and hideouts and houses and streets and armored vehicles and units and churches and banks and mosques, and they blow themselves up. What exactly do they want?” tweeted one user from northern Sinai.

Many Twitter users cited a koranic quote from Surah 5, Aya 32, including blogger Khawla Chennouf: “He who kills a soul, unless for corruption on the land, it’s as though he killed all people.”