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Peace and Security

Forum in Vienna on the Radical Changes in Egypt

Vienna, Austria - More than 70 guests attended a panel discussion on "Radical Change in Egypt: Future Prospects in the Land of the Pharaohs" organized by UPF-Austria on Feb. 15, 2011, just a few days after the fall of the Mubarak regime.

“On Tahrira square there was a real peaceful atmosphere. There were young people and also the old people, rich and poor people and all sang and danced together. And they also prayed. It was a real peaceful demonstration in order to have real freedom,” said the first speaker, Karim Rihan from Austrian Services Abroad, who had just returned from Egypt two days before. He had witnessed directly all the ups and downs of the protesters in Cairo on Tahrira square, having been there himself for the final week which led to the peaceful victory of the demonstrators. Everyone enjoyed the immediacy of the stories he had to tell.

The revolution in Egypt has united Copts and Muslims in his home country and it has been exposed that theagitation among the religions had been incited by the Mubarak regime, the president of the association "Integration of Coptic and Austrian Friends" Kamal Abd El Nour explained at the forum.

"For three days in Egypt, there were no police and no interior minister, and not a single church got a scratch. There we saw that the spreading hatred had been instigated by the regime," Abd El Nour stated. The attack of "alleged terrorists" against the Coptic Al-Qiddissine Church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve had been planned by the Interior Minister, said the representative of the Copts: "For 30 years we've had this hatred spreading against each other, but on January 25th we realized that Christians and Muslims are one and that we can love each other." Therefore, the Tahrir square, where Christians and Muslims started their protest together from this day on, will remain as an unforgettable memory, said Abd El Nour.

This new realization of a real brotherhood of religions was confirmed in the statement of the President of the Egyptian community in Austria, Soleiman Ali. Muslims protected the Copts from being beaten by the police during their prayers at Tahrir Square and vice versa. This makes this revolution so unique, said Ali.

The risk of another authoritarian regime is still there, Ali continued: "I see it as a civil engineer when I look at a house. With Mubarak the roof is gone, but the remaining components of the building are all still there." He is, however, full of hope, because the Egyptian youth have shown to everyone that a democratic future is possible, said the President of the Egyptian community.

The head of the Institute for Intercultural Islamic Research from the central mosque in Vienna located near the UN building, Prof. Elsayed Elshahed, said he was pleased with the extremely peaceful revolution: "I am particularly proud of our youth and our children, because they have done what we the old generation did not accomplish during the past 30 years. The older generation has done a lot of injustice towards our youth by underestimating them while we had already given up," said the Islamic scholar. Also Pope Chenuda III said that the Coptic Church bows before the Egyptian youth.

Prof. Elsayed Elshahed tried to calm fears concerning the Muslim Brotherhood and their role in a new government. Already Sadat and Mubarak played their role well in presenting themselves as guarantors against Islamism. “During Sadat’s time people were put in prison just for having a beard. I was living in Germany then and before traveling to Egypt I shaved my beard in order to have no problems.”

The discussion with many interventions from a mixed Austrian and Middle Eastern audience brought up many questions concerning the Muslim Brotherhood and future scenarios of governments which have to include an opposition that did not even have a chance to exist in any real form for decades. But this regained dignity and pride of the Egyptian people created an atmosphere of hope and confidence for everyone present.

A report of the event was carried by the department of religion of the Austrian National TV and radio on the website and on various radio programs.

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