Is the New President of Egypt an Adventist?
by Adventist Today News Team
The answer is a definite no! But the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood's official Web site quoted the allegation as a way of discrediting newly-installed President Adly Mansour does indicate something about the context within which the relatively small Adventist community in Egypt lives and works.
The statement that Mansour is "considered to be a Seventh Day Adventist, which is a Jewish sect," appeared briefly on the Muslim Brotherhood Web site as an item from "an alleged Facebook page of dubious credibility," according to The Washington Post and other major news media. Journalists immediately identified the Adventist Church as Protestant. Al-Jazerra television, the most reliable news source in the Arabic language, has confirmed that Mansour is Muslim, as is the majority of the population in Egypt.
There are less than a thousand Adventists in Egypt out of total population of 120 million. This is the same membership that was reported in 1965, although by 1974 the report was nearly 2,500 members. "Statistics for the Adventist Church in Egypt are … unreliable and fluctuate extremely," Dr. Borge Schantz, a former missionary in the region now retired as a pastor in his native Denmark, told Adventist Today. It was first organized in 1901 and at the end of the first decade had only 18 members. Today it operates two schools, one secondary and one primary school.
Galal Doss, a former church member who heads a popular food and cosmetics company in Egypt, has for the past couple of years aggressively distributed materials among Christians featuring his approach to propagating the Adventist faith because he felt that denomination was not doing enough. This has resulted in "a lot of animosity from the [dominate] Coptic Church," Schantz reported. "The Coptic Church claims about ten percent of the population, however Muslims put that number around six to eight percent."
Adventists "have never really been on good terms with the Coptic Church," Schantz said, although the official name of the denomination in Egyptian can be translated "the Seventh-day Adventist Coptic Denomination." Over the years "there were situations where Adventists were better treated by the Muslim government than by the Coptic Church."
"The ousting of President Morsi is a great gain for all Christians in Egypt [and] the present Army rule will no doubt be a welcome benefit" for them. Schantz, who was the founding director of the Adventist center specializing in the study of Islam, explained that there are five kinds of Muslims in Egypt.
(1) "Ethnic Muslims born in a Muslim society and carries the name of the tradition, but is personally independent of the culture, religion and activities of the brand of Islam he was born into. (2) Cultural Muslims who are socialized into the Muslim cultural tradition, its attitudes and beliefs, and experiences life through these traditions. (3) Secular Muslims who favor a life separated from religion in both politics and practice, but are not necessarily hostile to Allah, Mohammed and the Koran."
The three groups above often experience tension with two other groups. (4) "Religious Muslims who profess a specific set of beliefs, participate in certain religious practices and consider personal piety to be essential to their personal lifestyle. (5) Political Muslims who view Islam primarily as a socio-political framework and have specific ideas about the place, role and function of religion in society. They tend to view Islam as a total way of life, not only for individuals, but also for society."
The Sunni Muslims, the majority of Islam worldwide, "are able to live more peacefully with people of other faiths and the secular Muslims," Schantz pointed out. The Shiite Muslims are more fundamentalist and "about four to eight percent of people in all religions, political parties and ideologies have fundamentalist genes and tendencies."
"Muslims have never in any Islamic republic, kingdom or chiefdom experienced democracy. Perhaps the main reason for the Egyptian Army to take such strong measures is that they have observed how the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood president slowly began to … introduce provisions in accord with Islamic law. Over time … he could [have] become an Islamic dictator." After all, "Hitler was also democratically elected in 1933."
Asked if the Muslim Brotherhood understands any concept of religious liberty, Shantz explained that "conversion to Islam is simple, but Muslims are forbidden to convert from Islam to another religion." Some Muslim-majority countries have restrictions on religious freedom which favor Muslim citizens over non-Muslim citizens, while other Muslim countries "tend to be more liberal" and some "are secular and do not regulate religious belief" at all. This is a turning-point for Egypt.