Religion's role in the revolution

I spent much of the week on a reporting trip to Sin City. When my wife and 11-year-old daughter picked me up at the Oklahoma City airport Friday, my little girl wanted to talk about the big news of the day.

Regrettably, her first piece of big news did not surprise me: The opening of tween evangelist Justin Bieber's film/documentary "Never Say Never," for which my daughter and a friend had tickets. (Thankfully, my wife -- not me -- endured this cinematic masterpiece with the girls.)

I wasn't expecting my daughter's other big news, however.

"Hey Dad, did you hear that Mubarak stepped down in Egypt?" she said.

As a matter of fact, I had heard that news. But the fact that an international headline broke through "Bieber Fever" testified to its magnitude.

Now, I am no expert on the situation in Egypt. Like many Americans, I have been following the news in the Middle East and trying to make sense of it. I appreciate the high level of understanding that my GetReligion colleagues have helped bring to the recent events.

In reviewing some of the news coverage today, I enjoyed a CNN Belief Blog piece by co-editor Dan Gilgoff headlined Friday prayers helped feed Egyptian revolution:

It was fitting that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak chose to step down on a Friday, hours after Egypt's Muslims had observed afternoon prayers.

For three weeks, Friday afternoon prayers -- the most significant prayers of the week for Muslims -- have served as catalysts for the biggest anti-government demonstrations of the Egyptian uprising.

Known as Juma'ah Salat, Friday prayers are Islam's sole weekly communal prayers. Observant Muslims pray five times a day, but other prayers can be performed individually.

What I like about Gilgoff's post: It takes the big news of the day and -- in simple, precise terms -- explains the role of Friday prayers in what occurred. CNN interviews leading experts and reports a key religion angle that easily could have been missed.

Another story that caught my attention was a Los Angeles Times piece reporting on the reactions of Coptic Christians in Los Angeles to Mubarak's departure. To its credit, that story contains crucial background such as this:

The Coptic Church dates to the time of the Apostles, according to church tradition.

Copts, who make up about 10% to 12% of Egypt's population of more than 80 million, have faced discrimination and rising attacks there in recent years, including a suicide bombing in the northern city of Alexandria last month that killed 24 worshipers and injured scores of others outside a church.

But members of Los Angeles' Coptic community expressed cautious optimism Friday that the popular uprising and military takeover that swept Mubarak from power may bring positive change for Egypt's religious minorities, including Copts.

They pointed to encouraging signs, including the scene this week of Egyptian Muslims and Christians praying alongside one another in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

For readers interested in more detailed, nuanced information concerning Christians in Egypt, Christianity Today has a must-read, 2,000-word report posted Friday from Cairo. In a blog post, USA Today's Cathy Lynn Grossman highlights CT's coverage of the issue:

A Christianity Today guest columnist has a surprising take on Egypt's future and how the nation's Christians might be better off if the Muslim Brotherhood takes a major role in the next government.

That seems unexpected in the same online CT edition that features a different article on Copts, the major Christian group and victims of recent deadly attacks, who are watching developments with fear. Their reporter in Cairo thinks lovely pictures of last week of Copts and Muslims arm in arm are an anomaly.

Another story worth a read is this Christian Science Monitor report from Los Angeles on the concerns and hopes of U.S. Jews watching the events in Egypt. That report was published just before Mubarak's exit.

In the comments section, please feel free to provide links to other stories or point out religion ghosts you're seeing in coverage of Friday's big news.

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