Wednesday, May 6, 2009

003. Egypt: pig cull inflames religious tensions

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 003 | Wed 06 May 2009


Although Egypt has no recorded cases of 'Swine Flu' (influenza A [H1N1]), Egyptian authorities have begun to cull all of Egypt's estimated 300,000 pigs. The cull was initially launched as 'Swine Flu' prevention, but after the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN condemned it as 'totally unnecessary', Egyptian authorities said the cull was actually part of a general health measure. Health Ministry spokesman Abdelrahman Shahine explained (AFP 3 May): 'The authorities took advantage of the situation to resolve the question of disorderly pig rearing in Egypt.' Pig owners have been promised what is a totally inadequate compensation. However, some are reporting they have lost their sties and entire herds and received nothing in return. Faced with the loss of their livelihood, pig owners have rioted against the police who have been responding with force.

This issue has a strong religious element. Egypt's pigs belong almost exclusively to Egypt's indigenous Coptic Christian community. According to Islam, pigs are 'unclean' so observant Muslims do not eat or touch pigs. Christians, however, being under no such restriction, are free to enjoy pork, bacon, ham and suchlike in their diet. The Islamic social order renders Jews and Christians as 'dhimmis': subjugated, second-class citizens. Hence Egypt's indigenous Copts, who remained Christian after the Islamic conquest, are crippled by dhimmitude's systematic religious discrimination (a condition very similar to that of 'untouchability'). Most of Cairo's Copts live in slums and work as garbage collectors (Arabic: 'zabaleen'). Their pigs consume the organic waste and are slaughtered for meat. Egyptian human rights lawyer Nadia Tawfiq told Compass Direct the pig slaughter was doubtless a form of attack on Christians. Whether it is the case or not, the Copts view the pig cull as an act of aggressive forced Islamisation. Religious tensions are soaring.

According to the Qur'an (which also associates Jews with pigs), on the Day of Resurrection Jesus will bear witness against those who say Christ was crucified (Sura 4:156-159). The nature of this judgment is expanded in the Hadith -- the sayings of Muhammad -- which says that when Jesus (Isa) returns he will destroy all crosses, kill all pigs, and abolish the jizya/protection 'tax' (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 43, Number 656). Thus, according to Muhammad, Jesus will remove the 'heresy' of Christians, the food of Christians, and the protection of Christians. According to the Islam Web Fatwa Centre it is always absolutely impermissible to domesticate or benefit from pigs in any way. Some Islamic scholars say killing pigs is merely permissible but others regard it as a Muslim obligation (Wajib).

Associated Press (AP) reports that pigs are banned entirely in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Libya. According to Voice of the Copts, Egypt's Parliament has been debating a plan to eliminate pigs from Egypt for the past three years. The decision to cull was passed on 28 April 2009 only hours after the Muslim Brotherhood -- controlling the largest opposition bloc in the parliament -- declared 'swine flu' to be 'more serious than the hydrogen bomb' (Deutsche Presse Agentur, 30 April). Sheikh al-Sayed Askar told a Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored symposium on the virus: 'It is God's grace in his Islamic Sharia to permit all that is good for us and to ban what is bad. . . . eventually time proves the truth of God's words to us.'


* God to give all Egypt's Coptic and Christian leaders great wisdom and authority in leading a threatened, persecuted and fearful people.

* a spirit of calm to descend on Cairo's Copts; may all Egypt's persecuted Christians be drawn, not to anger or despair, but to prayer as cross-bearing disciples of Jesus Christ.

* God to intervene on behalf of his people in answer to the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:11); may advocates rise up and the Egyptian authorities relent.

'Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.' (Proverbs 31:8,9 ESV)



Islam deems pigs unclean so observant Muslims do not touch or eat pigs. Many Islamic states ban pigs altogether and Islamic scholars differ only on whether killing pigs is permissible or obligatory. Egypt's pigs are kept by Egypt's Coptic Christian community. Due to Islamic systematic religious discrimination, most of Cairo's Copts live in slums and work as garbage collectors. Their pigs consume the organic waste and are slaughtered for meat. For three years the Egyptian parliament has been debating eliminating pigs, and the outbreak of 'Swine Flu' in North America has provided an opportunity. A cull has begun which will cripple the livelihoods of numerous Coptic Christian families who regard it as forced Islamisation. Tensions are rising. Please pray for Egypt's persecuted Christians.