Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 20:02 pm (KSA) 17:02 pm (GMT)

Egypt Islamic preacher has VIP Christmas

Amr Khaled during a TV broadcast (File)
Amr Khaled during a TV broadcast (File)

The most famous Islamic TV preacher, Amr Khaled, was the talk of the town after he attended Christmas celebrations at a Coptic church and was seen sitting beside the president's son Gamal Mubarak in the VIP row.

Khaled told the Egyptian independent daily Al-Dustour that he could not turn down an invitation from Pope Shenouda himself.

"I got the invitation three hours before the celebration and it was right before my departure for London, but I was very happy to go," he told the paper.

But rumor had it that Khaled went to the Church of his own accord to set an example, and put the ideas from his TV program "Call for Coexistence" into action.

In either case, Khaled's attendance boosted his popularity on all sides -- he was given a warm welcome by church youth who rushed to take pictures with him and he was treated like a V.I.P. when he seated in the front row with Gamal Mubarak, who is also General Secretary of the Policy Committee of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

The young preacher was also in the company of 19 members of Congress, the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone, as well the Egyptian Prime Minister and a number of other ministers and high-ranking government officials.

But the move was not welcomed by all, with angry comments appearing on many websites and online forums. One said: "Is it true that Amr Khaled was seen at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo? May God help us!"

Some radical Islamist groups consider sending greetings to Christians on their religious holidays as prohibited by Islam, but days before the Coptic Christmas, prominent Muslim scholar Youssef Al-Qaradawi declared that exchanging greetings with Christians is not against Islam.

Still, Khaled's detractors think he went too far by going to the church to celebrate the Christian feast.

But Khaled stood by his actions: "I would do whatever it takes to protect my country. I will do that through coexistence, and my role model is always the Prophet."

Khaled cited an incident from the year 631 when Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) received 60 Christians from Najran, now in southwestern Saudi Arabia, and allowed them to stay and pray in his mosque in Medina.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

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