Young Egyptians Campaign for Religious Harmony, Tolerance

In the wake of recent elections that have stirred fear over the potential for the establishment of an increasingly oppressive Egyptian state, a young Egyptian group is calling for religious harmony to become a staple of the country’s new order.

The group, known as Salafyo Costa, is using social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube to reach out to followers to call for an end to “media driven” stereotypes against Egypt's diverging political and religious groups.

Salafyo Costa, named after a coffee shop that the founders frequent, was originally created by three friends in the wake of Hosni Mubarak’s fall last spring. The group emerged with an aim to end misperceptions about the various religious groups in the country and began its movement with a call to end popular misperceptions about Salafism.

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Salafism is an ultra-conservative literalist branch of Islam that contends that the only real version of Islam is the one practiced by the original followers of Mohammad.

Salafist parties won 25 percent of votes in Egypt’s first round of elections this November.

“We wanted to do something to unite us not divide us,” Essat Tolba, who aided in the creation of the group, told CNN.

With nearly 14,000 members, uniting the various groups in Egypt is exactly what Salafyo Costa is doing.

Since May, the group has uploaded dozens of videos on YouTube with young activists sharing information about Salafi practices and discussing politics and religious tolerance.

The videos have managed to resonate with people throughout the country, bridging religious and political divides. Members of the Facebook group include Christians, liberals, secularists, and Muslims of other traditions.

Although Egyptians are bonding through the group promoting religious tolerance, building an inclusive and democratic society in Egypt has not come without problems.

With Mubarak’s ousting, the country witnessed an increase in sectarian violence, a wave in church burnings, and the ruling military also participated in direct targeting and killing Coptic Christians.

Furthermore, the many analysts have expressed fear for the future of the minority groups such as Coptic Christians, with the recent political gains captured by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist al-Nour Party.

The fear is not unfounded, as even within the young progressive group a number of conservative members discourage open dialog with non-Salafi groups.

However, the group’s founders hold that many Salafis do not want to dictate how the various groups in Egypt live their lives.

“My personal view is that sheikhs do not want to oblige someone to do something they are not comfortable with,” co-founder Mohamed Tolba told the Egpyitan newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Others agree.

“Copts live among us. They are Egyptian citizens just like us,” Dr. Kamel Abdul Gawad, Secretary general of the Salafist al-Nour Party told CNN.

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