Muslim-Christian tensions are, in general, felt much more by Christians than by Muslims for reasons of sheer numbers. Tensions in a country with a population of 6 percent Christian and 94 percent Muslim are of course felt much stronger by the smaller religious group. It is little wonder that many Christians want to emigrate. Jamāl As‘ad writes that emigration of Christians from the Middle East to Western countries, especially the U.S., Canada, and Australia, has become one of the most remarkable social phenomena in the last few decades. As‘ad believes opportunists use the persecution of Christians for personal gain. Thus, facts are mixed with illusions and false assumptions. Of course there are common factors that push both Muslims and Christians in the region to seek to emigrate, the most important of which is the deteriorating economic condition and the consequences of this on the youth. Another reason is the spread of salafī ideologies that causes Christians to feel like strangers. Jamāl As‘ad then notes that 95 percent of people awarded the U.S. immigration lottery are Copts. He criticizes Coptic Orthodox churches for facilitating the process of applying for this emigration, wondering if there is a joint U.S.-church plan to empty Egypt of its Copts (Art. 40).
‘Adil Gindi, “The Talibanization of education in Egypt: How the Arabic language courses were turned into obligatory indoctrination in Islam,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 5, Art 31, February 3, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-5/31-talibanization-education-egypt-how-arabic-language-courses-were-turned.
“The following article presents an overview of what the author coins the “talibanization” of eduction in Egypt, and the impact that it is having in schooling systems, particularly in relation to Muslims versus Copts.
Review of the schoolbooks of the Ministry of Education in the elementary and junior high (preparatory) schools, came with most surprising findings: Arabic language classes have been directly and indirectly turned into lessons in Islamic religious indoctrination. _Based on the complete set of books available to us, pertaining to the first semester of 2007/2008; it turned out that the number of Arabic language lessons taught to pupils from the second grade of primary education up to the third grade of junior high, is 126. These were found to include 52 which contain Islamic texts and references - at a rate of 41%. They are broken down as follows: Elementary second grade (15/7), third (15/7), fourth (15/5), fifth (17/6), sixth (17/8), junior high first grade (15/8), second (15/7), and third (1714).”
Shirin Rabi, “Exclusive, a dangerous study reveals the increasing number of Coptic prisoners in Egyptian prisons because of Pope Shenouda’s obstinacy in solving divorce-related problems and the collapse of Copts’ educational level,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 7, Art 27, February 11, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-7/27-exclusive-dangerous-study-reveals-increasing-number-coptic-prisoners-egyptian.
“Dr. Kushk’s study revealed an increasing number of Egyptian Christians who face jail sentences in the period from January 2000 to June 2007. There are a total of 12,231 Christian prisoners; 7418 of them are men and 4812 women. […].”
“The study revealed the increasing range as follows: In December 2000 the number of Christian prisoners in Egyptian prisons was 7898, 8295 in 2001, with 417 more prisoners, 8712 in 2002, with an increase of 518 prisoners, 9230 in 2003, with an increase of 672, 9902 in 2004 with an increase of 741, 10647 in 2005 with an increase of 767, 11410 in 2006, with an increase of 821 and the number raised to 12231 with an increase of 912 prisoners.”
“A practical study revealed that there were 20,000 divorce rulings for Christian couples in the Egyptian courts between 1996 and 2000. (Reviewer: The article does not mention whether it was the same study or another study. Rabī c also does not make it clear when she mixes between her argument and the study.) In Assiut there are 1057 divorce cases pending a church decision after having the court rules of divorce. In Giza there were 9774 divorce cases in one year and 161 cases could have the khul‘.”
“[…] observers of Coptic issues asserted that the number of bishops during Pope Shenouda’s mandate increased by 600 percent. This factor had a negative impact and divided Copts, especially when considering that they provide no altitudes for anybody who holds a different opinion to the church. The church trials are another factor leading to an increase in tension in the absence of clear rules.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “The peace building prince; One Jordanian leader shares his deep desire to preserve the Arab Christian World,” Christianity Today in Arab-West Report, Week 52, Art 7, February 13, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-52/7-peace-building-prince-one-jordanian-leader-shares-his-deep-desire-preserve-arab.
“Demography and geography have been a part of the reason for Christian emigration. There is a feeling in the West that somehow Christianity is Western-centric. There are incentives for Middle Eastern Christians to migrate: salvation from a hostile atmosphere that is not their creation, and for which they are not the sole target or victim. Do you know that there are more Christians from Jerusalem in Sydney, Australia, than there are in Jerusalem? There is a feeling that migration is facilitated to save souls and that is tragic.”
Sami Jad al-Haqq, “Copts are the watchword in the local councils elections in Minia,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 9, Art 37, February 25, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-9/37-copts-are-watchword-local-councils-elections-minia.
“As the ruling National Democratic Party has enrolled a number of Copts in its lists for the upcoming local councils elections in the southern governorate of Minia, the author believes it is a political exploitation of Copts within the party’s campaign.
‘Abd al-Wahhād Makram, member of the People’s Assembly and coordinator of the ruling National Democratic Party [NDP, see: www.ndp.org.eg] campaigns in Minia, stated that the NDP has enrolled nine Coptic candidates in the Shārūnah village alone, among other locations throughout the southern governorate. The author regards the action as a political exploitation of Copts in the elections as the contests in Minia are apparently hard.”
Dr. Rafiq Habib, “Will Copts be a minority?” Al-Dustūr in Arab West Report, Week 9, Art 19, March 1, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-9/19-will-copts-be-minority.
“Rafīq Habīb rejects visions that regard Copts as a minority group in Egypt, saying it is just a numerical minority that coincides with the cultural and civilizational features of society as a whole.
Habīb defines the concept of ’the minority group’ as the group that contains fewer number of citizens and differs culturally and civilizationally from the rest of society. However, ’the numerical minority’ is not considered a minority but rather an acknowledgment of a statistical fact. Accordingly, Copts constitute a numerical minority as they are a part of the cultural and civilizational framework of the entire society.
Some Copts tend to promote an idea that they are a persecuted minority group. The author says that certainly not any problem associated to the numerical minority results in turning it into a cultural or civilizational minority group.
The author also criticizes some visions that consider the current prevailing Islamic and Arab cultural as a threat to the Coptic one, as a result they tend to call for fixed quotas in the parliament and on high-ranking posts. Thus, it is only Copts who will choose either to merge into the entire society and to take part in its activities, or to work on keeping privacy but losing their cultural and civilizational roles, Habīb says.”
Katia Saqqa, “Objective laws and the Coptic Personal status code in Egypt,” Arab West Report, Week 11, Art 33, March 12, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-11/33-objective-laws-and-coptic-personal-status-code-egypt.
“The Egyptian press continues to devote attention to the different reactions to the Supreme Administrative Court ruling allowing Christian divorcees to remarry. The church rejected the ruling and considered it against the Bible and church codes. Some authors highlighted the tragic influence of the restrictions imposed on divorce and remarriage in Coptic families.
[Schismatic bishop] Max Michel has declared that there are one million eight hundred Copts who have converted during the mandate of Pope Shenouda III. ‘Amr Bayyūmī of March 14, 2008 mentioned that the Coptic Orthodox Church denied the allegations and intended to file a claim against Max Michel accusing him of sowing sedition amongst Copts and between Copts and Muslims.
Bishop Bakhomius added that according to the official state’s statistics the number of Copts in Egypt is 5.6 million. However, according to Max Michel’s allegations, the number of converts is 1.8 million, which means that one third of every Christian family in Egypt converts, which Bishop Bakhomius stated is “unrealistic”. Bishop Bakhomius revealed that there are 13 million Copts in Egypt, according to the annual statistics applied by the different bishoprics, adding that the state’s official statistics are not accurate.”
Ahmad al-Sa‘dawi, “A controversial CD signals war between the church and Max,” Ākhir Sā‘ah in Arab West Report, Week 12, Art 4, March 19, 2008.URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-12/4-controversial-cd-signals-war-between-church-and-max.
[Schismatic bishop] “Max Michel claimed that he has a CD on which an alleged meeting of Coptic Orthodox clergymen is recorded. Michel claims that the Coptic Orthodox clergymen discussed the increasing number of Copts who convert to Islam. Max Michel further claimed that Copts’ conversion has become more common under the mandate of Pope Shenouda. He further claimed that the Coptic Orthodox Church is aware of this “loss” of its believers, and stated that he has a CD that proves his allegations, on which a monk called Anastasi al-Samū’īlī speaks about the issue.
Bishop Pachomius added that the monk’s information was not correct. He added that the statement of his that was on the CD was cut from his refutation of the assumption that Copts number in Egypt decreased from 8.2 percent to 5.6 percent in the period between 1917 and 1987. Bishop Pachomius stated that the original CD is available in all Coptic churches’ bookshops, and it will show the defectiveness of Michel’s assumptions.”
Sami Jad al-Haqq, “Dr. Mustafá al-Shak‘ah, accused of insulting Christianity: there is a church every 100 meters in Heliopolis, Copts control Egyptians’ fate and it is not our problem that they are a minority,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 13, Art 24, March 24, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-13/24-dr-mustaf225-al-shakcah-accused-insulting-christianity-there-church-every-100.
The author presents Dr. al-Shak‘ah, professor at the Azhar University and member of the Islamic Research Academy and his comments about claims that he has insulted Christianity, based on a report submitted by two Coptic activists.
Al-Shak‘ah believes that there is an international program, supported by The World Council of Churches (WCC, see: www.oikoumene.org), to build a large number of churches in Egypt (nonsense!). He also says that the state goes too far in giving permits to build new churches to the extent that there is a church every 100 meters in Heliopolis (Editor: an extreme exaggeration). He described the claims that Copts are persecuted as unfair allegations as Copts occupy 50 percent of the leading positions in Egypt. He highlighted the Islamic teachings, that urge Muslims to treat Christians as equal citizens. He also asserted that Copts demands should be reasonable and correspond to how many Copts there are.”
Shirin Rabi‘, “Copts of Assiut send a letter to Mubarak denouncing the promotion of Muhammad Muhsin Salih – the seditions igniter – and accusing Safwat al-Sharif of slaughtering them,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 15, Art 29, April 7, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-15/29-copts-assiut-send-letter-mub257rak-denouncing-promotion-muhammad-muhsin-s257lih.
“Coptic lawyer and human rights activist Mamdūh Ramzī denounced the decision and pointed out that Sālih has been accused several times of proselytizing Christian families. “The more Copts try to genuinely join the political realm in Egypt, the more state institutions try to cut them out,” Ramzī said. Copts make up 70 percent of the population in Assiut; as a result they should be represented in elections in a way that corresponds to that percentage, an eliminated Copt, Girgis Hannā has stated.”
Katia Saqqa, Press review: “Attacks against the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of Abu Fana, covering the period June 9 – June 16 ,” Arab West Report, Week 15, Art 8, June 14-20, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-15/8-attacks-against-coptic-orthodox-monastery-ab363-f257n257-covering-period-june-9, arts referred to: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2008/06/egypt-a-frail-p.html, www.nchr.org.eg/en/home.asp.
“In the issue of Al-Fajr, June 9 2008, Muhammad al-Bāz mentioned that the attack against Abū Fānā Monastery was not the first of its kind, and that attacks have been carried out since 2005. Al-Bāz mentioned that according to the Coptic Orthodox Church’s census, the attack against Abū Fānā is the 18 since 2005. He also reported that over the last five months, six attacks were carried out by the community tribes surrounding the monastery.”
“Al-Baz denies there was a sectarian element to the attacks. Instead, he believes that there were materialistic and financial motives involved. He also criticizes what he considered to be the monks’ allegations that they were targeted because they are Copts.”
“Al-Dustūr of June 13, 2008 quoted Jeffrey Fleishman’s article in the Los Angeles Times published under the headline, ’A frail pope and sectarian tensions,’ in which he discussed a number of the sectarian incidents that have taken place recently. [To read Fleishman’s article in full see: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2008/06/egypt-a-frail-p.html]”
Ishaq Ibrahim, “Watani talks to Islamic thinker Jamal al-Banna: Copts under an Islamic majority,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 24, Art 16, June 15, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-24/16-watani-talks-islamic-thinker-jamal-al-bann257-copts-under-islamic-majority.
It is also not acceptable that the minority challenges the will of the majority. It should be added here that Copts used not to challenge the State. Even when they were dealt injustices they showed no resistance because they were convinced that they would find compensation in one way or another. For instance, when Copts are denied the right to occupy government posts they direct their attention to commerce and land ownership, so they now control 30 per cent of the Egyptian economy although they account for only ten per cent of the population.
“Let us admit a fact: embassies and foreign companies prefer Copts to Muslims. Positions are not the most important thing, because the economy and arts are open to everybody. Among the richest men in the world there are three Copts.”
Q: What sources did you depend upon to prove that Copts control the economy?
“It comes from Samira Bahr’s book Copts in Egyptian Political Life. She indicated that 40 per cent of professors of medicine were Copts. In the Ministry of Finance, 60 per cent of employees are Copts. They own 20 per cent of land and construction companies [Editor AWR: those percentages might have been valid in the 1930s but they are unlikely for today]. But in general, I think that fanaticism by both sides is the core of the problem.”
Q: How do you explain the growing fanaticism in Egyptian society?
“There are many factors. I think the lack of freedoms is the source of all political and religious ills. Take the instance of conversion. If a Muslim converts to Christianity because he wants to migrate to Canada, Muslims consider such an attitude an offence against their religion. The same could be said if a Copt converts to Islam to marry a Muslim woman. I believe that adults are entitled to choose their religion, because the freedom of belief is one of the basic human rights. It is guaranteed by the Qu’ran.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Editorial,” Arab-West Report, Week 13, Art 1, July 3, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-13/1-editorial.
“Hulsman comments on the recent ENAWU launch, and points to a number of articles on houses of worship in this issue.
Dr. Mustafá al-Shak‘ah’s claim that there is an international program to build a large number of churches is unfounded. Copts in Egypt would no doubt wish that to be true. His claim about the number of churches in Heliopolis is an extreme exaggeration but shows emotion. His claims that Copts occupy 50 percent of the leading positions (how defined? al-Shak‘ah does not explain) is equally untrue. Copts are underrepresented in the highest government positions but one finds a relatively large number of Coptic businessmen but that certainly does not justify his claim.
Dr. Mustafá al-Shak‘ah is certainly right to assert that “Coptic demands should be reasonable and correspond to how many Copts there are.” Copts generally exaggerate their numbers.
Both Copts and Muslims as Dr. Mustafá al-Shak‘ah, would greatly help the discussion if they would refrain from emotional exaggerations or other claims that cannot be backed up by facts.”
Jamal As‘ad, “Bishop Bishuy and the return of the era of martyrs,” Al-Dustūr in Arab-West Report, Week 23, Art 21, July 4, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-23/21-bishop-b299sh363y-and-return-era-martyrs.
The author does not deny that Copts have problems, asserting that they must be solved within the framework of the national community. He believes some expatriate Copts are trying to divide the region on a sectarian basis according to an American agenda such as what happened in Lebanon. Some Copts inside Egypt support what the author calls the "sectarian solution" through a newspaper circulated by and inside the Coptic Orthodox church (Editor: that can only be a reference to al-Kitiba Tibiya). Some clergymen have revealed direct and indirect links with this agenda through their relationship with international non-governmental organizations. These clergymen exploit the weakness of the regime, the attempts of the latter to court the United States and sectarian incidents against the Copts. The clergymen use these circumstances to break the arm of the regime in order to entrench the idea that the church is the only representative of the Copts and that Pope Shenouda is their political leader.
He attacks Bishop Bīshūy for his interview with the al-Misrī al-Yawm daily on May 24. He believes the bishop is misusing the pope’s trust. In the interview, he said that the abolition of denominational Councils was a big mistake and they must return. He also said that if the state thinks that Pope Shenouda is the only obstacle in its way, this is not true because there are 80 bishops who are "mines" of steadfastness and struggle.
Jamāl As‘ad fears that the Coptic era of martyrs might return. He also said that if the court proved that what happened in Qinā governorate was wrong and that its Christian governor, Majdī Ayyūb, unlawfully demolished the monastery, they will call for his dismissal. He called for the appointment of 40 Copts in the People’s Assembly in line with their proportion in Egypt. He supports the nomination of Jamāl Mubārak for presidency and said that he will be happy if Copts supported his opinion. He declared that there is a program in the churches to conduct a census of Copts in Egypt.
The author questions whether Bishop Bīshūy wants, through his call for the return of denominational councils, to create rifts between Egyptians and to try Copts before these councils as it was during the occupation. He questions why the bishop mentions the era of martyrs when Copts were defending their faith. He indicates that the wall which was demolished was unlawfully built on agricultural land owned by a bishop’s driver and that governor Majdī Ayyūb has nothing to do with this issue. The wall was demolished under a decision issued by the Directorate of Agriculture.
The author believes Bishop Bīshūy is interfering in politics and entrenching sectarianism which will harm the Church and the Copts. He remind the bishop that Egypt is not Lebanon and the church’s only role is spiritual not political.
Salih al-Qallab, “Without Christians, there would be no such thing as ‘the East’,” Waṭanī al-Dawlī in Arab-West Report, Week 27, Art 18, July 6, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-27/18-without-christians-there-would-be-no-such-thing-east.
If this migration continues, the region will witness intolerable hardships quite irrelevant to the merciful teachings of Islam. Lamenting migration from Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon.
Nadin Qinawi and ‘Amr Bayyumi, “Copt feels humiliated if described as Arab: Bishop tells symposium,” Al-Miṣrī al-Yawm in Arab-West Report, Week 29, Art 50, July 20, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-29/50-copt-feels-humiliated-if-described-arab-bishop-tells-symposium.
This article is a comment on a lecture of Bishop Thomas, see: AWR, 2008, week 38, art. 27 with a comment in art. 1. According to the authors bishop Thomas’ lecture was "A cry to help the Egyptian Copts continue residence in their homeland and prevent their migration." Bishop Thomas said the two processes of Arabization and Islamization are the largest obstructions facing the Christian community in Egypt.
‘Antar ‘Abd al-Latif, “Pope Shenouda’s state vs. Mubarak’s state,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab-West Report, Week 32, Art 28, August 4, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-32/28-pope-shenoudas-state-vs-mub257raks-state.
Coptic politician Jamāl As‘ad comments on the Coptic/Muslim interpretation of Egyptian history that may inadvertently be increasing sectarian strife and the American-Zionist scheme to divide the Arab region on a sectarian basis. This, together with government practices, terrorism and the church speaking on behalf of the Copts, contributed to the migration of many Copts. As’ad says that Coptic activists like Michael Munīr and ‘Adlī Abādīr use the problems of the Copts only to seek leadership.
Kamal Murad, Ahmad ‘Abd al-Jalil, “Copts electoral card in Bar Association race,” Al-Fajr in Arab West Report, Week 35, Art 34, August 25, 2008. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2008/week-35/34-copts-electoral-card-bar-association-race.