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Marco Werman: With all the horrific acts committed by ISIS, you’d expect hate, anger, and grief from the people whose communities have been victimized, like coptic Christians in Egypt who saw 21 of their own beheaded in that ISIS video from Libya. But listen to this. That’s the voice of Egyptian singer Anne Alfred. In a video that’s now gone viral, she asks for forgiveness, not hate. Mai Noman, my friend and colleague over at BBC Trending spoke with Anne. Mai joins me now from London. What does Anne say in this video; translate for us, Mai.
Mai Noman: Anne’s message in her video is about forgiving, especially your enemies. She says that forgiving and loving those who are around you and your family is easy, but forgiving those who persecute you and show you hate is actually much more difficult and this is what she believes her religion teaches her, and she wanted to send this message not just to Christians but to all Egyptians.
Werman: Did she explain what forgiveness does? That we’re caught in this seemingly non-stop cycle of revenge?
Noman: For her, when I spoke to her she said that it’s only normal that people would feel hate and anger by the acts of the Islamic State and others towards Egyptians and the Egyptian Christians, and she understands and says it’s completely normal that the families would ask for revenge or seek it for what happened to their children. But she hopes that spreading love and forgiveness would be a stronger message than that of hate because the cycle of hate needs to end somewhere. That’s what she believes.
Werman: It’s a great bumper sticker, but when you get down to the micro level, when you spoke with her did she tell you how she’d convince, for example, the mother of one of the men who was beheaded in Libya to forgive?
Noman: She recognizes that it’s not necessarily realistic to go and ask the families to forgive. She realizes that it’s a lot to ask and that it might happen, it might not happen. Her message is one of hope, that people can just let go of the hatred and move on. But interestingly enough, this video, while it is trending now, she actually made this video back in 2011 right after tensions were high between Christians and Muslims inside Egypt. But what we found interesting was that the messages back then under the video when it trended in 2011, there was more of a debate between Muslims and Christians about who’s right and who’s wrong, and who started these tensions and who’s to be blamed for what’s happening and the sectarian violence that erupted in Egypt after the revolution. But now the messages under the video are mostly messages of support from both Muslims and Christians in Egypt. They’re showing solidarity now that they’ve found a common enemy that hurts both of them.
Werman: How well-known, how popular is Anne Alfred as a singer in Egypt?
Noman: She’s a Christian singer, so she’s quite popular amongst the Christian community in Egypt. She’s 27, she’s quite young, she’s a singer and a performer, she does several of these videos and a lot of them are popular on social media in Egypt.
Werman: The reaction prompted by this video was a reaction to what happened, this mass beheading in Libya. Could it possibly bring together Christians and Muslims in Egypt as a result?
Noman: The relationship between Christians and Muslims in Egypt has always been one of tension. Even before the revolution, there were tensions but they were kept under control to some extent. Now people are seeing a bit more reasoning and more unity. You can’t really say that they’re not both completely united, but now that they feel that they’re under the same threat, they feel that if they stand united they’re stronger that way.
Werman: Mai Noman, my colleague at BBC Trending. Thanks very much for your time.
Noman: Thank you.