Minorities benefiting in education or business in any society is not necessarily an indication that there is no persecution practiced against minority groups. All reports of local human rights bodies have featured the fact that there are no equal standards when dealing with Muslims and Copts in Egypt.
Incidents of attacks against Copts, their properties, churches, and even against their underage girls by Muslims extremist exemplify what the ILO’s report has mentioned, Abū Khūlah wrote in Waṭanī al-Dawlī, responding to the minister’s statement.
In order to explain her statements, the minister told Al-Muṣawwar that she used a widely known percentage of Copts because there is no official statistic about their number. “The head of the ILO has unjustly referred to features of persecution practiced against Copts in Egypt. I thereby was compelled to use expressions that we do not use in dealing with our country-brothers for responding alone. But not for expressing a belief of discrimination adopted by the Egyptian government,” the minister said.
Cornelis Hulsman, “Heggy: Why I wrote ‘If I were a Copt’,” Arab-West Report, Week 21, Art 5, June 14, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-21/5-heggy-why-i-wrote-if-i-were-copt.
Interview with Dr. Tarek Heggy who states that Copts are not united in their views of the role of the state towards Christians. Some Copts “were talking about the number of Copts as being between 5-20 million. The number of Copts in Egypt is a product of the environment. You cannot have people tell you that it is five, some people say it is 11, some say 18, and ‘Adlī Abādīr says that he is the leader of 20 million Copts.” Numbers are used for political gain. Heggy: “I am the one who wrote about the claim that 300,000 Coptic girls are raped every year. And I said it is just a joke, not 300,000, not 30,000, not 3000, I believe that it is not even 300. But Christians have used these claims to be granted asylum. It is a business, a Muslim lawyer was falsifying certificates for girls who claimed they were raped to give them quick access to the West.” Heggy says the number of Copts is uncertain, “Some say the Copts are two million, and some claim they are 20 million. The clarification mechanism is not there.”
‘Adil Jindi, “The jurisprudence of enumeration, examination, and elimination,” Waṭanīal-Dawlī in Arab-West Report, Week 24, Art 46, June 17, 2007. URL: http://arabwestreport.info/ar/node/17514.
“Abd al-Hādī (Minister of Labor and Immigration) stated that Copts form 10% of the Egyptian population, and possess one third of the total national wealth.”
“Moreover, Jindī states that the last official declaration about the number of Copts in Egypt was in 1996. At that time, Copts formed 6% of Egypt’s 63million-people population, which means that Copts numbered at 3,800,000 people in 1996. According to ‘Abd al-Hādī’s statistics, there are now 7,600,000 Coptic people. He wonders how the Coptic population can be doubled in a decade while Egypt’s Muslims increased only with a percentage of 17% during the same period.”
Abd al-Hādī responded to a statement of the ILO which is, however, no longer online. She refuted the claims of the ILO report about Copts being eliminated from leading posts in universities and official bodies, affirming that Egypt’s Copts and Muslims are treated equally. ‘Adil Jindī asks what government agency conducted the survey on Coptic wealth in Egypt. He accuses the statement of being wholly inaccurate and unreliable. As for equal opportunities for Muslims and Christians Jindī wonders if the minister knows one Copt who occupies the post of a dean of a faculty or who has even been nominated to be a president of an Egyptian university.
Fahmi Huwaydi, “About the myth of persecution and injustice,” Al-Dustūr in Arab-West Report, Week 24, Art 19, June 18, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-24/19-about-myth-persecution-and-injustice.
Former navy officer Engineer Ahmad Hasan Ma’mūn sent a letter to the author in which he expressed his astonishment at the allegations of persecution and discrimination against Copts.
Ma’mūn said that he spent his entire life in the navy and never experienced any discrimination
against Copts. He believes that those who claim discrimination do not know what is happening in reality or they are seeking to drive a wedge between Copts and Muslims.
He was astonished when he read that Copts were prevented from assuming high-ranking posts since the 1952 revolution. His experience in the navy completely counters to these allegations.
During the 1973 war, many Copts were assuming high-ranking posts in the navy such as naval signal corps commander Sa‘d Farah, submarine commander As‘ad Riyāḍ, chief engineer of electronics in the submarine corps Nasīm Marqus and many others. Furthermore, ‘Azīz Ghālī was commander of the Third Army and the current Minister of Environment Mājid George was the president of the Engineering Authority.
Ma’mūn pointed out that Copts have more opportunities in working at U.S. and European embassies or in emigrating abroad more than Muslims, which could be considered as a form of discrimination against Muslims. Furthermore, Copts participation in Egyptian economy amounts to 30 percent while they form almost six percent of Egypt’s population according to the census, which was conducted during the British occupation at the beginning of the 19th century.
Sameh Fawzy, “Sectarian numbers,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 25, Art 47, June 24, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-25/47-sectarian-numbers.
In her recent reply to a World Labour Organisation report which mentioned that Copts in Egypt are discriminated against in jobs and appointment to high ranking State posts, Labour Minister Aisha Abdel-Hadi said that Copts constitute 10 per cent of the Egyptian population yet control 30 per cent of the Egyptian economy. Her statements made front news in the national newspapers. Regardless of the international report itself, it is important to take a stand regarding the minister’s words. They appear to represent a sectarianism that has sneaked into the heart of the State institution, where it was adopted and promoted.
First, One of the leading articles of the Constitutional amendments is equal citizenship for all. This attitude has been understood by some as empathy for the citizenship principle, which rejects the division of citizens according to their religious identity. Yet the minister’s comments and her use of ratios clearly show that the principle of equal citizenship has not yet arrived at the ministry of labour.
Second: the use of figures to arrive at socio-economic facts constitutes a dangerous curve in human relations. Otherwise, what did the minister mean by her declaration that 10 per cent of the population of Egypt controlled 30 per cent of the economy of the country? Some might view it as a kind of tolerance, but others might consider it unintented sectarian provocation.
Third, the government never declared the proportion of Copts in its latest census. Where did the minister find the statistics on Copts? How did she know that they control 30 per cent of the economy? If her information is correct, it means there is a body working inside the State that is contradicting what the State says by analysing economic indicators according to a religious base. What were the economic indicators the ministry used to divide the Coptic from the Muslim economy in a country described as a model of coexistence between Muslims and Copts?
What was intended?
Fourth, to give the minister the benefit of doubt, what did she actually wish to say? Did she mean to demonstrate the absence of discrimination in holding positions in the State? With due respect, it would be unreasonable to ignore the job discrimination from which Copts suffer, particularly regarding leading posts in the State. We ask the minister—since she is so eager to analyse the figures from a religious point—on the number of Copts who are university presidents, college deans, ambassadors, deputy ministers, security directors and so on, and the number of firms and establishments that employ no Copts? And again, where did the minister get the figures from? Is the Labour Ministry basing its answer to an international report on a baseless statistic, but one that is included in the writings of the propagators of political Islam who use such figures to prove that Egypt is a paradise for Copts? These are baseless figures and, if included in a book it would be the author’s own concern, but to be included in an official report issued by a ministry is the State’s concern, and is a danger to which attention should be drawn.
Katia Saqqa, “The Jihad Group’s “revisions;” are they marginalizing or integrating for cultural communities in Egypt?” Al-Aḥrār in Arab West Report, Week 25, Art 73, June 28, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-25/73-jih257d-groups-revisions-are-they-marginalizing-or-integrating-cultural. (http://www.coptsunited.com)
“Al-Aḥrār specifies a file about minorities in Egypt. The file depicts the reality of Copts, Shī‘ah and Nubians. In the Coptic file there are two main streams that have different approaches from solving the Coptic problem in Egypt. Al-Ahrār mentioned that despite their being a minority in number, Copts of Egypt cannot be considered an ethnic minority, neither national nor a cultural minority in quality sense; for they have been present in Egypt long before Arabs.
‘Adlī Abādīr head of Copts United asserted that the International Committee related to the International Association for human rights had accepted to agree the cause of Copts’ persecution in Egypt. In his report to the International Association for Human Rights Abādīr asserted that Copts comprised about 12 million in Egypt; i.e., 10% of Egyptians, which does not identify with the official governmental percentage of five percent (Reviewer: The government maintains that the percentage of Copts in the population is five per cent, while the church states that it is in fact ten per cent. No accurate figures exist to verify or refute these claims). Dr. Rafīq Habīb asserted that the main problem in Egypt was fanaticism, adding that the main difference between Muslims and Christians in this regard is the number. He said the Copts’ fanaticism was the result of their being deprived from many employment chances and privileges that are given to Muslims instead.”
Michael ‘Adil and Nash’at Hamdi, “Bishop Bisanti confesses that the church took a census of the number of Copts in Egypt… and CAPMAS considers it illegal,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab-West Report, Week 27, Art 50, July 5, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-27/50-bishop-bisant299-confesses-church-took-census-number-copts-egypt-and-capmas.
Bishop Bisanti said on a symposium organized by ‘Ālam al-Mashāhīr newspaper that the number of Copts in Egypt exceeds 15 million. A source at the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics said they never received any request from the church to take a census of the number of Copts. The source indicated that any census should be approved by CAPMAS, otherwise it is considered illegal. Christians interviewed by the authors were skeptical with regard to the figures revealed in the census. They questioned whether the census included the one and a half million Coptic emigrants abroad. They also questioned whether it included Christians from other denominations.
CH: In other words, the Christians the authors consulted believe the number could be even higher than 15 million.
Hamdi Rizq, “15 million Copts,” Al-Miṣrī al-Yawm in Arab-West Report, Week 27, Art 49, July 7, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-27/49-15-million-copts.
The author believes it is the first time that a church leader has revealed the number of Copts in Egypt. Bishop Bisantī claims that the number of Copts in Egypt exceeds 15 million according to a census taken by the Coptic Orthodox Church. He further asserted that he does not mention these figures without having a reference to support them.
CH (May 2012): It is not the first time Bishop Bisantī or other churchleaders have made such claims. It perhaps is the first time that a church leaders is referring to a “census” taken by the Coptic Orthodox Church. The problem with this claim is that no one has ever seen that census and has been able to verify the data.
The author questions what sources Bishop Bisantī relied on while carrying out this census, especially since the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics denied approving a census of the church.
The author believes that these figures are a rough approximation of the number of Copts that may only rely on the number of baptisms recorded. He believes that it will remain an approximation until its sources are revealed.
Hani Labīb, “Statements against citizenship,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab-West Report, Week 27, Art 48, July 8, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-27/48-statements-against-citizenship.
Labib wrote in June an article accusing members of the Muslim Brotherhood of suffering from intellectual and political disorder. He wrote this following the statement of a deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood presented to Prime Minister Ahmad Nazīf last June in the People’s Assembly. The statement stated that the failure to declare the number of Muslims and Copts in the last census was illegal. He also said that numbers have to be revealed in order to boast about the number of Muslims and assert that Egypt is an Islamic state.
The author believes that this form of extremism has support from both sides. Bishop Bisantī of Ḥilwān and Ma‘sarah declared, in an unprecedented statement, that the number of Copts exceeds 15 million according to a census taken by the church.
The author indicated that the first article of the Constitution affirms the principle of citizenship regardless of numbers and the citizen’s place within the majority or the minority of the population.
Magdy Malak, “Copts need not apply,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 27, Art 57, July 8, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-27/57-copts-need-not-apply.
The Copts’ role in Egyptian politics—especially compared to their numbers which range between 10 and 12 per cent of the population—has been on a steady decline throughout the past five decades. And even though the church supported the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in the last presidential and parliamentary elections, the NDP did not respond by including any Copts on its candidate list for the recent Shura or Consultative Council—the upper house of Egypt’s parliament—mid-term elections. President Mubarak appointed to the Shura three Copts, Younan Labib Rizq and Wadie Fikry Ghali, whose membership was renewed, and Badr Helmy Rizqallah, a new member replacing the late Coptic member Fikry Makram Ebeid.
Nihal Bilal, Du‘a’ ‘Abd al-Rahman, “The unanswered question: What is the population of Copts in Egypt?” Al-Muṣawwar in Arab West Report, Week 28, Art 48, July 13, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-28/48-unanswered-question-what-population-copts-egypt.
“The estimated number of the Coptic population in Egypt has always been one of the taboos of the Coptic cause. Regardless of the inconvincible reasons behind this blackout, the number of Copts varies according to the source. Coptic sources would estimate them as ranging between 10 to 15% of the total population, while other unofficial sources estimate it to be between 6 and 8 %.
The authors, Nihāl Bilāl and Du‘ā’ ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, report on the repercussions to the recent statements of Bishop Bisantī of Ḥilwān and al-Ma‘sarah, who estimated the number of Copts to be around 10 or 15 million (For more information see: AWR, 2007, Week 27, Art. 47).
Amidst a seminar about citizenship, Bishop Bisantī surprised the attendants by affirming that he had more than one reason to estimate the number of Copts that way, refusing to identify his sources. However, he clarified that in 1977, Sayyid Mar‘ī, former speaker of the Egyptian People’s Assembly, estimated the number of Copts as not exceeding six million at a time when Egypt’s total population was 30 million. Bishop Bisantī added that people should not be surprised if I said that 10 to 15 million of the 75 million Egyptians are Copts.
Bishop Bisantī exclaimed that priests can easily know the number of Copts living in their neighborhoods through the baptism certificates they issue for new-born Copts and also through marriage contracts. He went further explained that there are nine million Egyptian Orthodox Copts, one million Protestants, and 100,000 Catholics living in Egypt. On the other hand, Copts living abroad do not exceed one million. There are 500,000 in the U.S., 200,000 in Australia, 200,000 in Canada, and 100,000 in Europe.”
Michael ‘Adil, “Bishop Bisanti said to Rose al-Yūsuf, ‘We reject all Western interference in Coptic affairs, and we do not receive any U.S. donations’,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 28, Art 47, July 17, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-28/47-bishop-bisant299-said-rose-al-y363suf-we-reject-all-western-interference-coptic.
“Bishop Bisantī of Ḥilwān and al-Ma‘sarah and one of the main references in the Coptic Orthodox Church asserted that the Coptic Orthodox Church has rejected all forms of foreign interference and has denied all allegations about the church’s intention to assign a successor to Pope Shenouda. Many other recent controversial issues are also discussed in this interview.
Q: You said that Copts numbered up to 15 million in Egypt, but what are your references?
A: There are two incidents that prove my argument. In 1977, Sayyid Mar‘ī, president of the People’s Assembly at the time, met with Father Tadrus Ya‘qūb, the priest of Saint JirJis Church in Alexandria. In the meeting, Mar‘ī contradicted Father Ya‘qūb when he declared that the Copts numbered 12 million. Mar‘ī declared that the Copts numbered 6 millions according to the state’s statistics.
In a meeting between Pope Shenouda and the former U.S. President Carter, the latter told Pope Shenouda, “I know that you are the spiritual guide for 6 million Copts.” The pope replied, “7 million.”
So, the scientific average of those two numbers would mean there were approximately 6.5 million Copts at that time.
However, knowing that Egyptians numbered 35 million at that time and 70 million now, one can see that Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, have doubled in number. Consequently and reasonably speaking, the number of Copts cannot be the same now, in 2007, as it was in 1977. The Coptic people must number between 13-15 million now.
Q: Does the church know the exact number of Copts?
A: The church has approximate numbers from the baptism records, marriage records and deaths records.
Q: Do you think that there is an international tendency to arouse this issue of the number of Copts in Egypt at this particular time?
A: We reject any offense against Egypt. However, as citizens, we speak loudly for no other reason than to hear each other. Reality implies that the number of Copts is 15 million, and the government can put an end to all doubts by announcing the real number.
Q: What if the government does not want to?
A: If the government finds it useless to announce the real number of Copts, then “let it be.”
Salim al-Sharif, “‘I do not wish to succeed the pope,’ Bishop Musá says,” Al-Aḥrār in Arab West Report, Week 29, Art 34, July 23, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-29/34-i-do-not-wish-succeed-pope-bishop-m363s225-says.
“The article is based on an interview with Bishop Mūsá the bishop of youth in the Coptic Orthodox Church. The bishop talked about problems of Copts in Egypt and the church’s relation with Coptic activists in the West.
Q: Do Copts still fear actively participating in politics?
A: Since Jamāl ‘Abd al-Nāsir’s [Reviewer: ruled Egypt from 1954 until 1970] totalitarian regime, Copts have withdrawn from the political life. Nowadays, they have a feeling of being a minority, and that they do not enjoy all rights on equal terms with other citizens.
Hence, the church always rejects such feelings, teaching its children in Egypt and abroad that we proudly belong to this country.
Q: It seems that you disagree with claims of discrimination against Copts?
A: No one says there is discrimination against Copts, which is a vapid phrase. We, however, say that there are some issues that we, as a group of citizens, do not have all our rights, such as holding high-ranking positions in the army, police and judiciary. I have urged Copts not to yield to despair, but to apply for any kind of positions as we are all children of the country.
Q: What is your opinion on the expatriate Copts?
A: There are about 500,000 Copts living abroad, but only ten of them cause trouble.
The church always advices them to abandon their actions in a bid to put them back in order. They even attack leaders of the church and the pope himself as they enjoy more freedom in the West.
Cornelis Hulsman, “Editorial,” Arab-West Report, Week 23, Art 1, August 28, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-23/1-editorial.
“The discussion about the number of Copts appointed to key positions or being candidates for parliament is linked to an unhealthy discussion about the number of Copts in Egyptian society. Do they make up 6% of the population as government statisticians claim or do they make up 10 to 20% of population as some church figures claim. But regardless of that discussion there are not even 6% Copts appointed to ’key positions’ whatever that means.
Does the ILO mean with ’key positions’ government ministers, top positions in various ministries or does it also include top positions in, for example, universities? One should also ask why there are so few Copts in key positions in the government or candidates for parliament. Many such functions are related to someone’s membership in the ruling National Democratic Party. Is it perhaps because only few Copts have become a member of this party and are active in it? The problem is that there is no exact information and figures available to the public and thus claims are made based on very in precise information.”
Maria Rezzonico, “Report on church response to poverty in Egypt,” in Arab-West Report, Week 35, Art 2, August 31, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-35/2-report-church-response-poverty-egypt.
The Coptic Orthodox Bishops Marqus of Shubra al-Khayma, northern Cairo, and Picenti of Helwan, south of Cairo, report a large influx of Christians from rural Egypt. They mentioned nothing of a church census. “It seemed instead that even the bishops were unsure of the precise total number of Copts. Every bishop provided his own percentage according to his own criteria, as it is clear from the following examples.”
Bishop Picenti bases his own estimation on the statement allegedly made by President Jimmy Carter during Pope Shenouda's visit to the United States in 1977. “I know that you are the leader of 6,000,000-7,000,000 Christians” (these are the words of Bishop Picenti: the figure commonly referred to is 7,000,000). Based on this assumption, the Bishop's reasoning is the following: having the Egyptian population doubled from that moment, it means that Christians today are between 10 and 15 million. If we consider that, according to the last census, the Egyptian population runs at 76,000,000, the estimation provided by Bishop Picenti corresponds to between 13 and 20 percent.