THE COPTIC Christian Christmas passed peacefully in Egypt on Thursday night and Friday, thanks in part to the efforts of the country's moderate Muslims. Thousands turned out to help protect churches following the horrific New Year's Day suicide bombing at a Mass in Alexandria that killed at least 23 people. Prominent Muslims, including President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, attended Christmas Eve services; the country's most senior Muslim leader, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, has led the way in condemning the attack and calling for tolerance.
True, as the rest of the article goes on to point out, the Egyptian government's record for religious tolerance on the whole is sorry and getting worse. This is the same regime that declared Nasr Abu Zayd an apostate and effectively ran him out of the country for daring to study the Koran as a historical text rather than as the unchanging, perfect, revealed word of God. It's the same regime that enforces religious laws that discriminate against non-Muslims in innumerable ways.
But I think the Washington Post was wrong when they snarkily reported this story under the headline "Egypt's Show of Tolerance." Never mind government policies: thousands of individual human beings voluntarily turned out to put their bodies between worshippers of a different faith and suicide bombers. That's brave and decent and good. I don't know if I'd have the courage to do that. Can't we honor these individuals without condoning the government they're stuck with?