Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 42: Brigadier General Nagwa Al-Haggar

So I'm 42 days into Lent and nearing the end, and I've finally discovered it makes more sense to veer off AMMPARO Bible verses instead of trying to force-fit them into my own personal crazy "voices on the margins" Lenten challenge! So today I'm choosing a verse from the Quran, which seems to fit far better than the Hebrew scriptures.

Have you heard about Brigadier General Nagwa Al-Haggar? During the terrorist attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday, police officer Al-Haggar died in the line of duty when she rushed to the aid of her male colleagues to prevent a suicide bomber from entering the Church of St. Mark’s in Alexandria. The attacker detonated his bomb, killing at least 44 people died, including seven police officers (two other females: police sergeants Asmaa Hussein and Omneya Roshdy), and injuring more than 100. These three women may be the first female officers in Egypt’s police force to be killed in the line of duty.

Al-Haggar was inspecting people entering the church to maintain the security of worshipers arriving on Palm Sunday when she saw Major Al-Rakaybi and other officers struggling with a man trying to break into the church. Al-Haggar ran to assist when the terrorist detonated his bomb, killing all Al-Haggar, Al-Rakaybi, and other officers. Al-Haggar did not back down when she became aware of the danger.

Al-Haggar is just one of many Muslim women shattering stereotypes throughout history, going back to the first wife of Muhammad, Khadīja b. Khuwaylid. When they married, he was 25 and she was 40, and she was a successful merchant and one of the elite figures of Mecca. She played a central role in supporting and propagating Islam and was the first Muslim. In fact, I would venture to say that Islam has far more stories of strong women in its history than Christianity does.

Al-Haggar was protecting Christians' rights to worship and pray when she died, so she was an interfaith hero. “I say to our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters. Do not be sad,” her nephew Islam Fathi said. “Muslims and Christians are one. It’s not about Muslim attacking Christians. No. My aunt was a Muslim. She was a believer...She was protecting Christians who were also praying in the church.”

One of the things I've loved about my Lenten practice is learning about many Muslim badasses like Al-Haggar, Linda Sarsour, African Muslim writers, Mohamed Bezeek, Muslims standing up for justice in London, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Ilhan Omar, and Rabi'a Keeble.

Read all my Lenten challenge posts here

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