While pondering what the new year might hold, one story caught my attention. A bomb killed at least 21 people outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria early on New Year's Day in what appears to be an attack by a suicide bomber. The bombing could be an attempt by a group to create disharmony between the Muslim and Christian populations in Egypt. A statement on an Islamist website posted about two weeks before the blast called for attacks on Egypt's churches, listing among them the one hit.
"The first and most likely possibility is that a sleeper cell of al Qaeda group carried out this operation and this would mean that al Qaeda has penetrated the Islamic political movement in Egypt," said analyst Nabil Abdel-Fattah.
Considering this is the tenth anniversary of 9/11 the bombing holds some ominous implications. The US invasion of Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11 caused many in the Islamic world to wonder if the US was restarting the Crusades. It did not help that the rhetoric that followed in the US equated terrorism with radical Islam. It is the stuff of ratings for the talking heads on TV and radio to incite patriotic feelings focused on radical Muslims.
The Crusades all started because a Byzantine emperor got the snot kicked out of him by the Turks. He went sniveling to Pope Urban II for help who saw in this request an opportunity to seize back the city of Jerusalem from the Muslims. In total, nine crusades were fought and some interesting alliances were formed. Saladin was a Kurdish Muslim who recaptures Palestine but he allowed Christian pilgrims safe passage to the city. He won the respect of many of them, including Richard the Lionheart; rather than becoming a hated figure in Europe, he became a celebrated example of the principles of chivalry.
The United States has had quite a history with the Muslim world as well. "Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States, in 1787, and it has been a steadfast friend and security partner," remarked Defense Secretary William Cohen in 1987. Founded by the Berbers, Morocco's history spans 8,000 years and during the 18th Century it was most assuredly Muslim.
Then there is Article 11 of Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, ratified in 1797, that states: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries"
Apparently Article 11 didn't stop President Reagan from launching Operation El Dorado Canyon against Libya in 1986.
My point in bringing up Morocco and the Tripoli Treaty is to show the US has not always had destabilized relationship with the Muslim world. Events since 9/11 has rekindled tensions between the Christian and Muslim world. We need to be aware that there are other groups out there that will seek to continue to fuel hatred and violence between Christians and Muslims.