G. Willow Wilson poetically describes Tura in her memoir, “The Butterfly Mosque”. In fact, the very name of her memoir is derived from a mosque behind the walls of Tura’s prison.
Shortly after our parents Christmas visit, Jo and I moved out of our expensive apartment in Maadi and into a much smaller one in Tura… Tura is sandwiched between three landmarks: an infamous political prison, a cement factory, and the Nile… I remember it as a harrowing, sunless place, and whenever I say the name aloud a perfectly formed memory surfaces: I am trudging through the filthy dust outside the prison with a bag of fruit in my arms, and when I look up at the dun-colored, wire-topped walls, I am acutely conscious of the journalists, reformists, and dissidents being held inside. Then I see the mosque, a little jewel-like thing that looks far older than the prison itself. Its corniced minaret stretches above the wall like a plea for help; the mosque, like the prisoners,a was trapped there for no other reason that it was in the way.
I began to call it the butterfly mosque, because it reminded me of a butterfly caught in a jar. I would fantasize about freeing it and imprisoning in its place, the modern, ugly, loud mosque that was the focal point of Turan religious activity. [excerpted from The Butterfly Mosque p120-2]
I reflected on the butterfly mosque this morning, as it flutters in Tura’s Prison overseeing the fruits of the Egyptian Revolution. Key corrupted politicians of pre-Jan25 Egypt are now behind its bars including the two sons of Mubarak, who himself is also expected to be transferred there shortly. Perhaps this constitutes the freedom of the butterfly mosque, that it knows Egyptians are liberating themselves from the oppression of the past. Yet in its utter-selflessness, the mosque does not aspire to fly away beyond the walls of the prison, but overlooks, patiently at its new inmates, awaiting them to enter and turn back to their Lord; to shed tears and wash their slates. For the liberation of the butterfly mosque lies in our liberation from the tyranny of our selves… in liberating our hearts from the jars of this world.
Modern, ugly and loud mosques, on the other hand, are such because of their visitors. Let us hope that Jan25 frees them as well.