Conservative Islamic group Al-Jama'a al-Islamiya promised to begin a new chapter in its relations with Copts, tourists, and police during a conference Thursday night in Abu Haggag Square near the Luxor Temple.
The event went into the early hours of Friday as the group said it welcomed Egypt's guests from all over the world, emphasizing that Islam does not advocate attacking tourists.
Abboud al-Zomor, a member of the group's Shura Council, affirmed the group's renunciation of violence during his speech, which he delivered over the phone. He said the group would not target tourists or Copts. Islam denounces assaults on Copts, their churches and their properties, said the group, calling Copts their brothers in humanity.
Al-Jama'a al-Islamiya called on Copts to cooperate with Muslims to rebuild the country, denying that it had earlier called for the enforcement of Islamic criminal penalties (the hudud).
Islam is against attacking non-Muslims, said Nageh Ibrahim, a leader of the conference. "We should not be concerned with minor matters or turn minor matters into major problems and we have to call people to Islam in a kind manner instead of harming them and calling them infidels," he said.
Ibrahim also told those gathered that they are preachers and not judges with the right to punish sinners.
"We have to be gentler with sinners and we have to treat Muslims and non-Muslims fairly even if they wronged us," he said.
Ibrahim praised Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, saying people want to remove him from his post because he is a virtuous man.
Ibrahim called on Islamic movements to improve their relationship with Al-Azhar because "it is the fortified fort of moderate Islam and it represents intellectual plurality in Islam." He also called on Al-Azhar not to exclude al-Jama'a al-Islamiya because it supports the religious institution.
Sheikh Essam Derbala, another of the group's leaders, said that sectarian clashes threaten to tear the community apart. He called on Copts to help build the country, saying they are "modest and kind." But he also accused Egyptian Copts who live abroad of disturbing national unity by calling for the establishment of a Coptic state and prompting foreign interference ostensibly to prevent discrimination against Copts.
He called on priests and sheikhs to resist "the imbalance within the Coptic and Muslim bodies." He also called on the church to clarify its position on certain issues to reassure the group as it had reassured Copts.
Derbala also said that labor strikes threaten the economy and the 25 January revolution.
But while the group promised not to target tourists or religious minorities, another of its leaders, Sheikh Assem Abdel Maged, made it clear that al-Jama'a al-Islamiya does not want Egypt to become a secular state. Egyptians would not allow any alteration of Article 2 in the Constitution, he said, which states that Islamic Law is the primary source of the nation's legislation.
Al-Zomor said that the group first renounced violence in 1997.
Many tourists attended the conference near the Luxor Temple where the Islamic group raised banners to welcome them.