Title: Controversial Statistics: Articles from Egyptian Media Dealing with Coptic Representation in Egypt and Coptic Migration Statistic, 1997-2012


http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-48/3-holy-mountain-journey-shadow-byzantium



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http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-48/3-holy-mountain-journey-shadow-byzantium.

The general tendency in the Middle East is one of ongoing decline for Christians.


Egypt is better than it was in many ways now that there is no longer the insurgency with the Gama'at al-Islamiya, but there is still a certain unease about the rise of the Muslim Brothers and their call for an Islamic state. There is also increased polarization, mutual suspicion. Some things are getting better but it is still far from a stable situation. Nonetheless, I think the Christian population in Egypt has probably the longest long-term future of any of these.
Stories about persecution of Christians are counterproductive, creating fear and thus counterproductive. “the most interesting example I have come across is a Christian organization in England, 'The Barnabus Trust,' which uses very lurid accounts of Christian persecution and blames this persecution on Islam. There is never any nuance in it.”


  1. Majdi Khalil, “About the Coptic girls,” Waṭanī al-Dawlī in Arab West Report, Week 47, Art 31, November 19, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-47/31-about-coptic-girls. (The International Report on Religious Freedom 2005: Issued by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, translated by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo)

“Majdī Khalīl discusses the forced disappearance of Coptic girls.


[…], the Egyptian police interfered only when the crimes were already committed, without exerting any effort to arrest the murderers or trial them. This provoked some political analysts to believe that there was an agreement between policemen and the fundamental groups concerning planning and executing such attacks.4
The same scenario of policemen were repeated in the majority of the cases since al-Khānkah in 1972, until Alexandria in 2006, passing by more than 120 violent attacks against Copts where the police needed to interfere, according to the Ibn Khaldūn Center.5 In some attacks a direct police provocation was suspected.
Another report by the U.S. Department of State in 2005 about the freedom of religion mentions that the Egyptian Ministry of Interior stood against Copts to defend the Islamization of Coptic girls. It stated that in 2005 there were 49 cases of Christians who were obliged to embrace Islam and wanted to return to their original religion, and that only eight could do so. The Ministry of Interior appealed two of the sentences.”


4- Nabīl ‘Abd al-Malik, Majallat al-Aqbāt, January 2, 1992.

5- Minorities and Women in the Arab world, Ibn Khaldūn Center, series of Khaldūnian dialogues, January, 2006.






  1. Copts without churches!” Al-Fajr in Arab West Report, Week 47, Art 38, November 20, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-47/38-copts-without-churches.

“The author quoted a Coptic clergyman (Reviewer: The author is referring to Father Marqus ‘Azīz Khalīl. See AWR 2006, 42, art.78) as having claimed that 95% of Egyptian Copts do not have enough churches to pray in. The author noted that no reliable statistics on the number of churches and Copts in Egypt exist. "Some people say that the population of Egyptian Copts is 15 million. Others say it is eight million…The same with churches; while some say that there are 5000 churches in Egypt, others claim that the number does not exceed 3000," the author wrote.”




  1. Khalid Ramadan, “Most of those who convert to Islam are young women,” Al-Dustūr in Arab West Report, Week 48, Art 4, November 22, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-48/4-most-those-who-convert-isl257m-are-young-women.

“Dr. Hamdī Zaqzūq, minister of endowments, asserted through the Islamic Thought Conference that the Azhar receives almost 1000 people annually who want to convert to Islām. However, the official Azhar statistical reports say otherwise. They mention that the Azhar receives over 100 people annually who want to become Muslims, and that this number has gradually been increasing over the past few years.


The reason behind not announcing the figures of those who convert to Islām is attributed to the State’s fear of raising sectarian riots.”


  1. Nabil ‘Abd al-Malik, “The Egyptian constitution and the rights of Copts and Women (2),” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 48, Art 64, November 26, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-48/64-egyptian-constitution-and-rights-copts-and-women-2.

[…] Nabīl ‘Abd al-Malik emphasizes the necessity of establishing a new and precise constitution rather than patching up the current one. Thus, he suggests a number of general principals that the modification has to contain. It very important to end the political neglect toward Copts and women by specifying quotas in parliament and other legislation councils, and resisting all forms of discrimination against women and minorities. In order to ensure political participation of minorities, 15% of the parliamentary and public councils’ seats are provided to Copts through fair public voting.




  1. Muhammad al-Baz, “Mines in Copts’ private life,” Al-Fajr in Arab West Report, Week 48, Art 49, November 27, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-48/49-mines-copts-private-life.

“The author argues that divorce issues pose serious problems in many Copts’ private life and are causing a severe conflict between the state and the Coptic Orthodox Church.


Estimates amount the number of Copts who were divorced by court rulings and want marriage permission to 100,000 people. The church for its parts refuses these court rulings because it prohibits divorce other than in cases of adultery. Therefore, many Copts resorted to converting to another religion or to ‘urfī marriage away from the church’s administrative complications. Others stand outside al-‘Abbāsīyah Cathedral every day, waiting for Bishop Būlā to grant them a divorce that seems they will never be granted.”


  1. Katia Saqqa, “Copts’ political role in Egypt,” Arab West Report, Week 50, Art 55, December 10, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-50/55-copts-political-role-egypt. (http://copts-united.com/)

“Copts’ participation in political life in Egypt. Participants of different perspectives expressed their viewpoints about the matter, and proposed practical steps to stimulate Copts’ participation in political life. The Muslim Brotherhood was also represented. The press review also includes charts representing the average Coptic membership in Egyptian Parliament.”


“[…] nationalism was weakened in favor of religious identity. Following this, Copts were excluded from election lists because of their inability to win. With regard to this, Marqus referred to the stance of the ruling National Party, which nominated only two Copts out of 444 nominees in the 2005 legislative elections.”
“Copts will participate in public and political life and this suggests that Muslim Brotherhood answer the points of Coptic panic openly since they occupy 88 seats in parliament.”
“In Rose al-Yūsuf of December 12, Ayman ‘Abd al-Majīd called for announcing the expected amendments, granting privileges for Copts, and in particular reserving them seven to ten percent of the seats in parliament (Editor: a fixed percentage amounts to nothing but Lebanonization, reserving fixed percentages and fixed functions for particular religious groups in society).”

The article further provides a list over Muslim and Coptic representation in Parliament.




  1. Muhammad Hakim, “Egypt 2006: Jihadists on the alert and angry Copts,” Al-Dustūr in Arab West Report, Week 51, Art 33, December 13, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-51/33-egypt-2006-jihadists-alert-and-angry-copts.

“Egyptian law also protects from bias and from discrimination against women and Copts. The number of women members of parliament has not exceeded 1.2 percent throughout the history of women’s representation, while the representation of Copts has decreased from the 6.1 percent before the 1952 revolution to 0.5 percent currently.”



  1. ‘Atif ‘Abd al-Ghani, “Christians are not a minority and I reject the idea of assigning certain seats for them in the parliament, ‘Abd al-Nur says,” October (Magazine) in Arab West Report, Week 52, Art 25, December 24, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-52/25-christians-are-not-minority-and-i-reject-idea-assigning-certain-seats-them.

“‘Atif ‘Abd al-Ghanī interviews Christian Wafd politician Munīr Fakhrī ‘Abd al-Nūr:


Q. What do think of the idea of appointing Christians in the parliament?
A. The call is not for "appointing." It is a call to keep a fixed 10% of the seats of parliament for Christian candidates for positive distinction purposes.
Q. How? Explain what you mean by "positive distinction."
A. There are many mechanisms followed in order to ensure positive distinction in many countries, whether this distinction is to ensure a true representation of women or minorities. This is done through excluding some electoral regions for these minorities and pre-assigning a certain number of seats in the parliament to be taken by representatives of these minorities.
Q. Do not you think that in doing this we are pushing ourselves to consider Christians in Egypt a minority?
A. I said that this system is followed in many countries. However, I reject applying this idea in Egypt because I do not consider Christians a minority.”


  1. Amira El-Ahl; Daniel Steinvorth, Volkhard Windfuhr, Bernhard Zand, “Schafe unter Wölfen,” Der Spiegel, December 30, 2006. URL: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-50034770.html.

Less than ten percent of the populations of Egypt and Syria are Christian. In all Middle Eastern countries is the proportion of Christians declining. Discrimination of Christians is a major cause.




  1. Melanie Erlebach, “Media Critique: Der Spiegel, issue 1/2007, article: ‘Schafe unter Woelfen’,“ Arab-West Report, Week 53, Art 4, December 31, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/4-media-critique-der-spiegel-issue-12007-article-schafe-unter-woelfen.


Der Spiegel writes that the number of Christians in Egypt is estimated to be ‘less than 10 percent of population.’ Western researchers have examined these statistics and concluded Christians in Egypt represent today approximately 6%of the population, which means that there are four to five million Christians in Egypt. Christians tend to overestimate their own numbers and this is distorting the picture further. Inflating estimates of the numbers of Christians increases the feelings of being underrepresented.
Der Spiegel primarily blames violence against Christians as prime reason for Christian migration but Erlebach argues this is too simplistic. “The main reasons for this decline are the often poor economic situation in many countries of the Middle East, combined with a general lack of political and social freedom and tensions or conflicts.”


  1. Naji Bihman, “Analyzing the alleged forced conversion to Islam of Heidi Hakim Manqarius Salib in: The Theban Legion,” Arab-West Report, Week 53, Art 9, December 31, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/9-analyzing-alleged-forced-conversion-islam-heidi-hak299m-manqarius-sal299b-theban-legion.

“Between 1995 and 1997 two staff members of Arab-West Report investigated over 100 cases of Christians who converted to Islam (mostly teenage girls). More cases were investigated in later years. This work was carried out with help of priests and pastors of these girls and some foreign correspondents in Egypt, including the BBC. None of the cases investigated included any physical kidnap, as is usually claimed by the families of the persons who converted, some Coptic organizations and some human rights activists.”




  1. Rowan Williams, “Forgetting the plight of Arab Christians,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 53, Art 43, December 31, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/43-forgetting-plight-arab-christians.

The Episcopal Archbishop writes about the tragedy of Christian emigration from the Middle East. “One warning often made and systematically ignored in the hectic days before the Iraq War was that Western military action — at that time and in that way — would put Christians in the whole Middle East at risk. They would be seen as supporters of the crusading West. “Western nations had no strategy to handle this.


“Christians can genuinely be part of the solution.”
“Of course Christian communities don’t have a blameless history in the region.” But they are historically important. We should encourage local Christians to remain.


  1. Robier al-Faris, “Copts in the Egyptian press,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 2, Art 34, January 14, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-2/34-copts-egyptian-press.

“The author wonders about the increasing coverage of Coptic affairs in Egyptian press, and points to a number of specific periodicals that have increased their focus on such issues.”


The article comments on various articles on Coptic issues.


  1. Muhammad Muru, “The future of the Coptic Orthodox Church after Pope Shenouda,” Al-Aḥrār in Arab West Report, Week 3, Art 33, January 21, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-3/33-future-coptic-orthodox-church-after-pope-shenouda.

The article highlights the important role Pope Shenoda played for the church and the Coptic community, as well as how hard it will be to replace him:


Muḥammad Mūrá expects a big convulsion in the Coptic Orthodox Church after the death of Pope Shenouda. He argued that it will be very difficult for any clergyman to be the successor of such a strong personality who can impose its authority on everyone. Mūrá mentions that Coptic Christians make up six percent of the Egyptian population; 90 percent of them are orthodox. There are 1983 official (registered) churches in Egypt, in addition to 717 churches currently seeking permission.


  1. Usamah Salamah, “Egypt torn apart by extremist Muslim Brotherhood members and Copts,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab-West Report, Week 4, Art 31, January 27, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-4/31-egypt-torn-apart-extremist-muslim-brotherhood-members-and-copts.

“[…] Bishop Marqus, bishop of Shubrā al-Khaymah and spokesman of the Coptic Orthodox Church, as telling the press that ‘The Copts whose number in Egypt are estimated at 15 to 18 million, are the natives of this country and its possessors.’” Muslim Brothers and Copts “are competing to set Egypt ablaze,” the author states.




  1. John H. Watson, “The Coptophile Column,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 4, Art 44, January 28, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-4/44-coptophile-column.

“For decades, Western scholars have focused upon Christian Egypt, and for even more decades they have failed to discover precise statistics.”


“Focus goes on to say that approximately eighty – three per cent of the population are Muslims while the majority of the remaining seventeen per cent are Christian Orthodox who belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt.”


  1. ‘Adil Fakhri, “Christian population in Egypt throughout history,” Waṭanī in Arab-West Report, Week 4, Art 59, January 28, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-4/59-christian-population-egypt-throughout-history.

Before mentioning the numbers of population during the Middle and Modern Ages in Egypt, some significant incidents that took place in Egypt should be mentioned. In 817-818 AD, most of the monasteries at al-Natrūn Valley, as well as the monastery of Bishop Armiyā in Saqqārah in 750 AD, were looted and destroyed until they were reconstructed in 866 AD. This is in addition to the political circumstances such as the demolition of churches that affected life in Egypt. For example, in 1300 AD, churches in Egypt were either closed or demolished. Such incidents affected the number of Christians living in Egypt at that time.


In 1335 AD, Jacques Feron estimated the number of Christians in Egypt to be 30,000. In 1530 AD, after 14 years of the Ottoman rule, Christians reached the number of 50 thousands and in 1668, they reached almost 100 thousand. The memorial book at the French Chamber of Commerce in Marseille in 1670 mentioned that the number of Christians in Egypt has reached 150 thousand. In 1700 AD, the traveler, Benoit De Maillet mentioned that, according to the patriarch of the Copts, the number of Copts who paid the jizyah has duplicated as they were almost 15 thousand in 1673.
During the French expedition in Egypt in 1798, the Egyptian population was estimated at 2.5 million, which included 220,000 Christians. On the other hand, the English Lady Butcher wrote in the church history book that the number of Christians in 1855 reached 217,000. [see: http://www.ampltd.co.uk/collections_az/Col-Disc-1-2/contents-of-reels.aspx]
CH (May 2012): This link refers to:

Edith Louisa Butcher - Things Seen in Egypt. London, 1910

Edith Louisa Butcher - Egypt as we knew it. London, 1911

Lady Butler, Elizabeth Southerden Thompson - Letters from the Holy Land. London, 1903

Lady Butler, Elizabeth Southerden Thompson - From Sketch-Book and Diary by.... London, 1909

C G - A Fortnight's Tour Amongst the Arabs of Mount Lebanon, including a Visit to Damascus, Ba'albeck, the Cedars Natural Bridge, etc. 1876

Vahan Cardashian - Actual Life in the Turkish Harem. New York, 2nd edition, 1911
It is unclear from this link if the author referred to Edith Louisa Butcher or to Lady Butler.


  1. Daniel Steinvorth and Volkhard Windfuhr, “A Christian exodus from the Arab world,” Watani International in Arab-West Report¸ Week 5, Art 5, February 4, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-5/5-christian-exodus-arab-world.

“There are no reliable figures on the size of Christian minorities in the Middle East. This is partly attributable to an absence of statistics, and partly to the politically charged nature of producing such statistics in the first place.” And “In Egypt the number of Christians fluctuates between five and 12 million, depending on who is counting.” “Egypt’s Coptic Christians, numbering at least 5 million, are by far the Middle East’s largest Christian minority.” About 1,000 Copts convert to Islam each year.




  1. Elhamy Khalil, “Youssef Sidhom Speaks about Egyptian Issues and Coptic Concerns,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 6, Art 25, February 11, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/node/15916.

Mr Sidhom addressed the issue of the marginalization of the Copts in Egypt especially in the last thirty years. Though the Copts make about 15 per cent of the 75 million inhabitants of Egypt, there are very few Copts in chief executive positions in the civil service and fewer in the high ranks of the military. This inequality is also happening in political and educational institutions as well.


There are very few electoral districts in Egypt where the Copts are a majority. Hence there are very few Coptic legislators or city councilmen in government. This led to withdrawal of the Copts from many areas of public life and the political process as well.
Many Muslims are also disinterested in political affairs as shown by the participation of only 20 per cent of the population in the last elections. Mr Sidhom called the other 80 per cent a silent majority with overrepresentation of the Copts in this group.

__


Dr. Elhamy Khalil is a retired Pediatrician and Medical Director who came to the USA in 1959 and is a frequent contributor to Watani International. Email: efkhalil@hotmail.com
Unlike previous years, when the first statistics following the 2006 census were published no information was included about the number of Christians in Egypt. This fact and the statement of the Minister of Labor and Immigration in 2007, claiming 10 percent of Christians, triggered discussions in various media.


  1. Robeir al-Faris, “Pope Gregorious III Lahham says ‘No’ to isolation, ‘No’ to fear,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 6, Art 46, February 11, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-6/46-pope-gregorious-iii-lahham-says-no-isolation-no-fear.

I say ‘no’ to emigration; ‘no’ to shirking off responsibilities; ‘no’ to withdrawal from the national, patriotic, political, or social circles; ‘no’ to isolation; ‘no’ to moral or physical alienation; ‘no’ to marginalisation or inferiority, and ‘no’ to desperation. I tell Arab Christians not to give in to fear, frustration, nor dread of fundamentalist or fanatic movements. Emigration of Christians would mean a loss of plurality and diversity in the Arab World, as well as the obliteration of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Such is not merely a religious dialogue, but is in the first place a cultural, humanitarian dialogue that is carried through daily life interaction of bodies and souls.




  1. Hani Daniel, “Those figures and what they mean,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 8, Art 89, February 25, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-8/89-those-figures-and-what-they-mean.

“For the first time officials have placed a figure on the number of disappearing Coptic women. The figure was cited in the third annual report of the Citizenship Committee of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), and declared that the NCHR received 32 complaints of missing young Coptic women during the nine-month period from March to December 2006. It must be noted that these are only the cases which were put before the NCHR, and that countless cases go unreported.


Complaints presented to the Citizenship Committee were not restricted to Copts. Fourteen complaints came from members of the Bahā’ī faith; and one was signed by 51 complainants who demanded the right to have their religion cited on official papers. Last year, Bahā’īs’ were denied this right through a court ruling based on a Constitutional article that recognizes only three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The total number of complaints related to religion was 57, but the authorities to whom these complaints were referred replied to only 36.



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