Only persecution and sectarian problems occupy his mind and ignores the stable and unchanged national unity.
He spoke provokingly in different conferences about the similarities between the Copts and the colored Americans. He usually gets things mixed up, saying that the American law is similar to another one issued in Khedive Ismail’s time which gave the Copts 25 percent of the leading positions and 10 percent of the military forces. He ignored the fact that Copts refused that [these fixed percentages].
CH (May 2012): I am not aware of a decree making such percentages in Khedive Ismail’s time possible. This makes the statement questionable and it would therefore be interesting to have a researcher check this claim.
He totally forgets the fact that what he asks concerns a political representation and not a religious one. What he is saying is breaking the institution it is a way of isolating the Copts from national unity. The Copts have always been part of Egypt. He also demanded the same percentage for Copts among the deans of Universities, governors and ministers ignoring the fact that there must be equal opportunities and the fittest will survive. We can’t use religion as a job application asset. Only qualifications and skills should count and this is in harmony with logic and the constitution.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Escaping social control in Egypt dubbed kidnapping in US,” Middle East Times in Arab West Report, Week 26, Art 36, June 24-30, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-26/36-escaping-social-control-egypt-dubbed-kidnapping-us.
The article deals with investigation on conversions and takes up the issue whether or not it can be stated to be forced:
“Over the past four years, I have been collecting information on 80 Christian girls who converted to Islam. For around half of them, more investigative work has been done. Of the ten names mentioned in the advertisement, seven are in my files. There is no evidence that any of those girls was kidnapped and/or raped and/or forced to convert to Islam as the advertisement claims.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Forced Conversions or Not?” Religious News Service from the Arab World (Arab West Report), Week 26, Art 37, June 28, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-26/37-forced-conversions-or-not.
“Priests estimate that between 60 to 65 % of those who convert to Islam are aged 17 or 18. They also estimate that 80% to 90% of the converts are younger than 25-years-old. Eighty percent of those converts are girls.
An estimated 20% convert to Islam after having had a sexual relationship with a Muslim. Sexual relationships lead to Muslims putting pressure on the Christian to convert.
[…] about 10 % of the conversion cases to Islam in Alexandria are because of pressure at work or in the army. Some claim that others converted because of financial difficulties and housing problems. It is reported that some landlords have threatened to throw Christians out of their apartments or houses who were not able to pay the rent unless they convert to Islam.
Priests in Alexandria say that about 10 % of those who convert to Islam do so because they want to get a divorce. A church worker in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo estimates this percentage to be 17%.
According to the same church worker in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, about 3 % convert because they are seeking material gains such as a promotion, travel abroad, or obtaining a better standard of living.
The number of Christians converting to Islam is very large. Except for figures within the Ministry of Interior (which are not available to the public) no statistics exist. Church leaders, however, estimate the number of converts to be thousands a year. The highest estimates mentioned were around 15,000 to 20,000 per year.”
Hanan Al Badri, “President Mubarak in Washington: give him a big hand,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 27, Art 25, July 3, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-27/25-president-mubarak-washington-give-him-big-hand.
“When Bishop Surial was asked about the number of Coptic emigrants who converted to the Protestant domination, he denied the occurrence of such incident. But the fact is there are 200 Coptic families who converted to Protestant dominations because of their refusal of certain Orthodox rituals. This movement aims at destroying the Coptic Orthodox Church in the West.”
MN (May 2012): The author makes the statement in this excerpt; the article (which can be found by following the URL above) does not mention any further souce for this knowledge.
Rajab al-Banna, “In America: the honorable Copts... and the Coptic mercenaries,” October (Magazine) in Arab West Report, Week 33, Art 36, August 15, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-33/36-america-honorable-copts-and-coptic-mercenaries.
“In the mind of the author, the report of Cornelis Hulsman prepared for the New York Council of Churches a few weeks ago regarding the alleged kidnappings, rapes and forced conversions to Islam of young Christian girls was like a bomb destroying the claims of the Coptic groups in the USA who vehemently accuse Egypt of discrimination against and persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Rafiq Iscandar, the head of the American Coptic Union in the United States said, "There are 20 thousand cases of rape which happen annually to the Christian girls, and this has been continuing for 20 years up till now," and the audience laughed. An American reporter asked, "From where have you got this number...?" As for Hulsman, he answered and said that this [figure if true] means [that a] quarter of the Coptic girls in Egypt are converted to Islam and are raped by the Muslims.(!)”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Press conference New York Council of Churches on forced conversions to Islam,” Religious News Service from the Arab World in Arab West Report, Week 33, Art 37, August 16, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-33/37-press-conference-new-york-council-churches-forced-conversions-islam.
Transcript of press conference given by New York Council of Churches [NYCC], June 28, 1999.
RI: You mentioned in your report that young girls convert in large numbers, fifteen to twenty thousand (15,000-20,000) per year. If I multiply this with twenty (20) years it is four hundred thousand (400,000) young girls. And your sample picked only seven (7) names. Where are the other four hundred thousand (400,000)? What happened to those people? They were not kidnapped?
CH: First of all I have no figures of the numbers of conversions. I don’t have them.
RI: But you wrote it.
CH: I have estimates and estimates vary from thousands per year to the highest I have heard which was twenty thousand (20,000) per year. I don’t know the real numbers. It is like the population statistics for the Copts in Egypt, which vary from four million (4,000,000) to twelve or fifteen (12 or 15) millions in Egypt. They are all estimates. Some estimates are more reliable than others but they remain estimates. I don’t have statistics. No one has them except for the Ministry of Interior.
RI: Please let me continue. Among those seventy thousand (70,000) there are twenty thousand (20,000) young girls. This is a waging war.
CH: (…). First about the numbers. You are doing something very interesting. You are first of all using the highest estimate of twenty thousand (20,000) per year. I am telling you they are estimates. I don’t have precise figures and then when you accept that this is twenty-five (25%) of the natural growth of the Coptic Orthodox Church you are going to a figure of four million Copts in Egypt. If you accept that figure and you accept the highest estimate only then it comes down to twenty-five percent (25%) of the natural growth. I didn’t hear you before claiming there are four million Copts in Egypt. I thought the American Coptic Union is accepting higher numbers.
Dr. Hiemstra: The question is do you know if there is falsification of the number of Copts in Egypt.
CH: You cannot prove there is falsification. What you need to do is to do your own research. People who are claiming that there are eight (8), ten (10) or twelve (12) million Copts in Egypt, just do your own research. That is not too difficult.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Interview with Mr. Rafique Iscander, chairman of the American Coptic Union,” Religious News Service from the Arab World (Arab West Report), Week 34, Art 24, August 22, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-34/24-interview-mr-rafique-iscander-chairman-american-coptic-union.
Interview with Rafique Iscander, chairman and founder of the American Coptic Union. He discusses growing up in the Sohag governorate and the increasing ratio of Muslims to Christians in Egypt. Iscander: “I read information that the increase of the rate of Muslims is 2.3% for each 1000 persons and the rate among Christians less than 1%. I thought about it. There is a small calculation, like to 2, 4, 16, 32 and 2, 4, 6, 8. So after 50 years from now we will have for each Christian 32 Arab Muslims there and we will be finished within 50 years. These are facts. These are numbers. You cannot escape. Numbers is different.”
CH (May 2012): When I interviewed Iscander in 1999 I asked him for references for the numbers he was providing. This, however, he was not able to do. Many of the discussions with Coptic activists go this way. They have read something somewhere, but tend not check their sources and immediately draw conclusions. Iscander may not be wrong in the growth rates of Muslims and Christians but it needs to be further investigated.
Hudá Tawfiq, “In the report of the American Foreign Ministry: Mubarak supported the religious freedom for the Copts and has never refused a request to build a church,” Al-Ahrām in Arab West Report, Week 37, Art 35, September 10, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-37/35-report-american-foreign-ministry-mubarak-supported-religious-freedom-copts-and.
“The report of the American Foreign Ministry about religious freedom in the world confirmed that President Hosni Mubarak implemented the necessary procedures to facilitate and support religious freedom for Egyptian Copts.
The report, which was issued yesterday, pointed out that during the period of the ’90s, the number of licenses for building and repairing churches in Egypt increased to 20 per year compared to 5 licenses only in the 80’s, just as President Mubarak had delegated authority to the governors to give licenses for building and repairing in their governorates.”
Hani Zayyat and Mustafá Sulayman, “The beginning of the first implementation of the law of religious persecution. America calls upon Egypt to give the Baha’is the opportunity to worship,” Al-Usbū‘ in Arab West Report, Week 39, Art 28, September 27, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-39/28-beginning-first-implementation-law-religious-persecution-america-calls-upon.
“[…] this report of the US State Department which was published on the 9th of this month [September]. It is the first report after the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act was enacted (the Don Nicolas - law).
There are about 70 thousand mosques, almost one half of which are still not licensed. Yet, the government has declared that all mosques will be under its control by the year 2000. The report adds "Muslims represent the majority of the population in Egypt, while Christians represent only 10% and Jews do not exceed 200 people. A small number of Shi’ite Muslims and Baha’is live in Egypt. There are no legal obstacles preventing non-Muslims from embracing Islam. Yet, Muslims confront legal problems if they desert Islam. In the past two decades, tens of Muslims have been detained due to their apostasy from Islam. Those apostates have been exposed to persecution."”
Yusuf Sidhum, “An intensive reading of the American report – 2,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 41, Art 26, October 10, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-41/26-intensive-reading-american-report-2.
“The detailed [US] report on Egypt states that the Egyptian constitution ensures the freedom of belief and the right to exercise the religious rituals within certain limitations portrayed by the state:
As the majority of the Egyptians follows the Sunni Islam, we find that 10% of the population follows the Coptic Orthodox Church with some Christian minorities that follow the Catholic, and Evangelical denominations. In addition, there is a small group, which follows Judaism and a small number following the "Shi’a" and "Baha’i" sects.
Although president Mubarak endorsed 230 requests to build new churches during the last eighteen years, the Christians very much resent the deliberate and unlimited delay of the requests before they are forwarded to the president for endorsement
The fruits of this joint committee between the Egyptian Awqaf-authority and the Coptic Orthodox Awqaf resulted in retrieving 800 acres out of 1500 acres [of land] that had been infringed upon. The committee continues to do its work to settle matters related to residual property.”
Nageb Korolos, “Copts in Egyptian politics,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 41, Art 29, October 10, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-41/29-copts-egyptian-politics.
“Dr. Mustafa Al-Fiqy mentioned in his book that Copts represent 10% of the Egyptian population. Copts enjoyed some privileges at the time of the Fatimids.
In 1908 Akhnoukh Fanous tried to establish a party in response to the Islamic trend which tried to exclude Copts from the Egyptian public and political life. Akhnoukh Fanous didn’t succeed as Copts refused to join his party because Copts didn’t believe in sectarianism.
In November 1918 Fakhry Abd Al-Nour, Wissa Wasif and Tawfiq Andrawes complained to Said Zaghloul that the Wafd party had no Copts among its members. They also nominated three Copts to join the Wafd Party; Wasif Botros Ghaly, Senout Hanna and George Al-Khayat. Said Zaghloul gave his approval and the three nominated Copts joined the Wafd party. When George Khayat asked him directly about the Coptic role in the political movement he received from Said Zaghloul the following answer. He said, ‘Copts and Muslims all have rights and duties, Egyptians are all equal’.
When Said Zaghloul was chosen as the head of the Wafd party, new members joined the Wafd like Mustafa Al-Nahas and Makram Ebeid.
In February 1922, Tawfiq Dos and Mahmoud Azmy asked to assign a number of the seats in Parliament to minorities. The Coptic members of the Wafd opposed this suggestion. It was also attacked by the two Coptic newspapers ‘Egypt’ and ‘Al-Watan’.”
Wa’el Lofty, “Hundred thousand Egyptians waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 47, Art 34, November 20-26, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-47/34-hundred-thousand-egyptians-waiting-coming-jesus-christ.
“Safwat Al-Bayadi, the head of the Protestant Church in Egypt says that only twenty percent of the members of the Protestant churches in Egypt believe that Christ will come at the end of this year.
There are no less than a hundred thousand Egyptians expecting the coming of Jesus Christ on the last day of this year.
Revd. Dr. Safwat Al-Bayadi estimated the number of those believing in these ideas to be about twenty percent of the members of the Protestant churches in Egypt. Official statistics say that the total Protestant church membership in Egypt is about half a million.”
Charles M. Sinut, “Egypt minority cries out for justice,” Boston Globe in Arab West Report, Week 51, Art 9, December 4, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-51/9-egypt-minority-cries-out-justice.
“A new article about the Koshh issue. The article places the Koshh incident in the context of discrimination or even persecution of Christians in Egypt and quotes for this Hafez Abu Seada, the secretary-general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
The Coptic church, one of the oldest in Christendom, dates back to Saint Mark the Evangelist, who founded it as early as the year 60. Copts make up between 5 and 10% of Egypt’s population of 60 million and for at least a century have been steadily emigrating to Europe and America, largely to escape poverty but also to evade discrimination - some would say persecution - amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “‘The story of Al-Koshh is an example of police misbehavior against Egyptians, not because they were Christian’ says Hafez Abu Seada, secretary-general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights,” Religious News Service from the Arab World (Arab West Report), Week 51, Art 10, December 22, 1999. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-51/10-story-al-koshh-example-police-misbehavior-against-egyptians-not-because-they.
“The RNSAW received the article of the Boston Globe from the American Council of Churches with a request to comment on its content and so the RNSAW interviewed Hafez Abu Seada, the secretary-general of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights, about this article.
Q: "Some claim up to 1200 people have been tortured. What is your opinion?"
"A: Our report said "hundreds of people" but I cannot give a specific number but it means less than 1000. It could be anywhere between 100 and 900. Bishop Wissa made a list of people who were tortured but I have not seen that list. You have to be careful with numbers. Some people who were tortured had marks in their bodies and we have photos of them but we cannot say that 1000 people were tortured in an equal way. Perhaps 100 were severely tortured but most others were put under some form of pressure or were beaten up but they did not undergo specific torture methods such as the use of electricity, whipping, etcetera."
Q: "Do you agree with Milad Hanna’s statements in the article?"
A: "I do not think Al-Koshh is a landmark case for the Copts. I disagree with him. Compare the number of Christians who are tortured to the number of Muslims who are tortured. Christians make perhaps 8% of the total Egyptian population while Christians who have been tortured do not make 1% of the total number of tortures. Most of the people who have been tortured in the past ten years were Islamists."
CH (May 2012): There are Islamists who have emigrated/escaped to the West but I do not think their numbers are large.
Q: "Why did you reject the prize of the Freedom House?"
A: "I disagree with the policy of the Freedom House. They have said Al-Koshh and other issues were examples of persecution of Christians in Egypt, but according to my point of view, we are dealing with systematic police behavior against all Egyptians, not Christians only. Most arrests in Al-Koshh were Christians, but it was not directed against Christians because they were Christian. No, that is not true. Christians do have some problems in Egypt such as [in the area of] church building and they have difficulties to obtain top positions in the government, but this also applies to the Muslim Brotherhood movement and the leftist Tagammu Party, but Al-Koshh is not the landmark case as Milad Hanna claims."
‘Azzazi ‘Ali ‘Azzazi, “One of the emigrant Copts accuses Dr. Nabil Luqa Bebawi of hypocrisy!!” Al-Usbū‘ in Religious News Service from the Arab-World (Arab West Report), Week 1, Art 9, January 3, 2000. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2000/week-1/9-one-emigrant-copts-accuses-dr-nabil-luqa-bebawi-hypocrisy.
Emigrant Copts from the U.S. and Canada are citing statistics, small incidents, and dates to affirm that there are real issues for Copts in Egypt. Copts within Egypt who are participating in public life are denying the claims of expatriate Copts on the other hand. Dr. Selim Naguib of the Canadian Coptic Association, belonging to the first category, wants Coptic issues to be handled within the “Egyptian family,” thus giving expatriate Copts the right to mingle in Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt. The author of this article disagrees with expatriate Copts exaggerating issues in Egypt.
Muhammad ‘Abd Allah and Majdah Fathi, “Is there really persecution in Egypt?!” Al-Usbū‘ in Arab West Report, Week 3, Art 8, January 17, 2000. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2000/week-3/8-there-really-persecution-egypt.
According to Gamal Asad Abdel-Malak, former People’s Assembly member: “The numbers that enter military and police colleges: there is no law limiting these numbers, so they can be increased. That will bring to existence the joint trust between sides. Also, for the sake of Egypt, working the rule of accepting the other and the existence of the other must be done urgently. That must be done in a framework of education, media and culture. How come that television is not playing a role in bringing into existence the Egyptian character to deep root in the feelings of the Muslim child that there is another [child who is a] Christian. Also, the Christian child would know that he or she exists in a country that he or she must belong to. Such problems can be easily solved by a governmental decree.
Novelist Magid Tobia sees that the most important problems of Copts are those concerning the building and repair of Churches and equalizing them with mosques in the operation of issuing building permits.
He says: "There is also the problem of Copts taking places in some public positions. There is not a single Coptic governor. What is even more dangerous is that what is called the National Party did not nominate a single Copt in the last elections. This is a scandal because some Copts succeeded by their own efforts and by people’s love for them, without being members of the National Party that has conspired to make them fail. Then, the National Party is practicing apartheid. Muslims were not screened from that discrimination as long as they are not members of the Party. All that makes us lose the pointers that show the movement of society. That is why we are surprised with unfortunate incidents like those of Al-Kosheh."
Rida al-Musallami, Husayn ‘Abd Rabbuh, “Religion is for God, business is for all,” Al-Usbū‘ in Arab West Report, Week 3, Art 9, January 17, 2000. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2000/week-3/9-religion-god-business-all.
“Those who speak about the percentage of representation of Copts [in the parliament], open a door for others to speak about the persecution of Muslims, as they do not own the appropriate share of wealth in proportion to their population. Through the same framework, Muslims should be afraid of Coptic capital that is dominating many vital sections all over Egypt.”
Marqus ‘Aziz Khalil, “No Father, the churches will not be pulled down, Egypt will survive,” Watani in Arab-West Report, Week 7, Art 11, February 13, 2000. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2000/week-7/11-no-father-churches-will-not-be-pulled-down-egypt-will-survive.