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

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The article deals with building of churches:

“[…] tens of churches have been built in the past years without government permission and without problems. Other churches have obtained a permit for either building or repair. The Egypt Country Report on Human Rights Practices -2000, released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in February 2001 states that "the Government issued 29 permits for church-related construction in the year 2000, including 4 permits for the construction of new churches, 19 permits for churches previously constructed without authorization, and 6 permits for the demolition and reconstruction of existing churches. In addition, the Government reported that local authorities issued more than 350 permits for church-related repairs during the year."
Competent informed sources have assured us that the governor of Qalyubia has recently issued decrees to demolish 18 illegal buildings in Begam area, Shubra al-Kheima which were constructed randomly and without licenses stipulated by the law.
On February 24 - 25, 2001, concerned authorities executed 12 of those issued decrees, while the other remaining 6 are to be carried out soon.”

  1. ‘Abd Allah Kamal, “Copts in America accuse four American residents of persecuting them,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab-West Report, Week 11, Art 5, March 17-23, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-11/5-copts-america-accuse-four-american-residents-persecuting-them.

Dr. Yacoub is Christian. He did not migrate escaping claimed persecution, but seeking the wider scientific atmosphere that made him what he is today. He did not attack Egypt. […] Only losers do this, those who fled their home fearing scandals or running from guilt for something they did, then turning into religious freedom activists [...].

I have much information about those calling themselves the Copts in the countries of emigration. I will give only one example, without disclosing names. He has a loud voice in America these days. His father is a pastor from Upper Egypt, working in a foster care institution [Editor: the reference is obvious: Joseph Asad from the Freedom House. His father is pastor in the Lilian Trasher orphanage in Assiut]. The son had an ethical scandal in this institution, so he left Egypt trying to run from it. He is claiming there is persecution in Egypt, forgetting that his family still live there, enjoying citizenship rights and freedom to worship, trying to wash away their disgrace [...].
Another example, M.Q in Shubra, a Coptic lawyer working in Egypt and running a human rights center there, can travel to the US for an unknown reason, and become another lie-telling machine, without being asked to prove what he says... [Editor: The reference is obviously to Maurice Sadeq. He was the only Coptic lawyer with a human rights center in Shubra who left for the US.] Needless to say that the first people who know that they are all lies are the ones telling them [...]. Michael Meunier, supervising an internet website, tried to talk the American committee out of coming to Egypt, claiming that they had enough data on the persecution [of Copts]. He feared the committee would see the truth, and realize that such people were working for their own interests, regardless of the nation and its elements.
The committee [USCIRF] is not only visiting Egypt, but also Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Palestine. It is not a division of the congress, although it contains some Congress people. It has nothing to do with President Mubarak’s visit to the US. Therefore, it will be most welcome to meet whoever it pleases in Egypt, only to realize the lies of these Copts in the countries of emigration [...].
If there are objections against some law, it does not follow that it could be overlooked until it is changed... The president is always giving permission to build new churches, something no one can deny.

  1. “A Christian encyclopedia: The number of Muslims increased with 7% during the last century,” Al-Sharq al-Awsaṭ in Arab West Report, Week 12, Art 23, March 22, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-12/23-christian-encyclopedia-number-muslims-increased-7-during-last-century.

“According to statistics, published in the last revised edition of "The International Christian Encyclopedia," the number of Muslims has increased with almost 7% of the world’s population during the last century, while that of Christians decreased.

According to these statistics, Muslims account for 1.2 billion and Christians for one billion (Editor: This figure is as given in the article, but it should be two billion for the following statements to be correct) out of the world’s population. This means that the percentage of Muslims to Christians is two to three, while in year 1900 it was one to three.
The same source shows that the ratio of Muslims out of the world population increased from 12.3% in 1900, to 19.6% while the ratio of Christians decreased from 32.3% in 1900, to 31.2% at the present time. As for the other religions, there were slight changes in their ratios.”

  1. Vickie Langohr, “Frosty Reception for US Religious Freedom Commission in Egypt,” Religious News Service from the Arab World (Arab West Report) Week 12, Art 13, March 29, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-12/13-frosty-reception-us-religious-freedom-commission-egypt.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) met with Pope Shenouda, the head of the Coptic Church, and the Sheikh of the Azhar but otherwise was almost universally boycotted by both Christians and Muslims. The members of the Commission waited in vain for members of Egyptian political parties and civil society groups to arrive at the commission’s welcoming gala.

Egypt’s Christians, the overwhelming majority of whom are Copts, are variously estimated at between six and ten percent of the population. The Coptic issue has long been politically sensitive.
Only three Christians serve among the 444 elected politicians in the new parliament. Two of the three are wealthy entrepreneurs, and wealth may be the best chance for Coptic candidates to break into the upper echelons of political power.
More pernicious than political under-representation of Copts is the charge that they are singled out as victims in communal violence.”

  1. Islam Hulwah, “Why did the Pope go back on his decision about refusing to meet the American Committee?” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 15, Art 20, April 13, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-15/20-why-did-pope-go-back-his-decision-about-refusing-meet-american-committee.

“A TV discussion between two Copts, Gamal Asad and Mamdouh Nakhla, nearly turned into a dispute on air. The subject of the discussion was the visit of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Nakhla was of the opinion that the Commission’s visit was one with good intentions while Asad considered the visit to be an illegal intervention in the other’s affairs.

The discussion escalated when it moved to the issue of the Christian minority in Egypt. While Nakhla stressed that there is really a Christian minority in Egypt, relying on the fact that Christians in Egypt count for only 15%, Asad believes this opinion to be a "sectarian concept," saying "Population does not matter."
As for Coptic representation in Parliament and the fact that there are only seven representatives out of 454, Nakhla asked for Christians to count for 10% of the members of Parliament, wondering how three of the seven could be elected while the other four are appointed.
Asad believed that "This is not the problem of the government. You [Nakhla] nominated yourself at the last elections and failed because the sectarian climate does not allow a Copt to win 50.5% of the votes. That is why I believe that the solution lies in an unconditional list [in the elections], the system because of which I was elected twice as a member of Parliament.’”

  1. Trevor Mostyn, “Lead Book Review. A love letter to Egypt’s ancient Christians,” The Tablet in Arab-West Report, Week 15, Art 37, April 14, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-15/37-lead-book-review-love-letter-egypts-ancient-christians.

Book review of John Watson’s "Among the Copts" who believes that “today there are some six million Copts out of a total Egyptian population of 50 million”.

  1. Paul S. Rowe, “Four Guys and a Fax Machine? Diasporas, New Information Technologies, and the Internationalization of Religion in Egypt,” Journal of Church and State in Arab-West Report, Week 17, Art 14, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-17/14-four-guys-and-fax-machine-diasporas-new-information-technologies-and.

“Academic article on the impact of the Coptic lobby outside Egypt, a relatively small group of people who use the latest communication technology to increase their voice.

The experience of Egyptian Christians, known as Copts does not diverge from this larger trend in many regards. Despite forming a fairly large religious group within the Egyptian populace (controversial government estimates consider Copts to make up approximately 5.8 percent of the Egyptian population, numbering just over three million--the church would likely hold to a more generous 10 percent, or 6-7 million.(footnote in article)
Copts tend to accept integration into the larger Egyptian polity and are largely seen as a quiescent group. Although the politicization of religion has not been unknown in Egypt, in large part it has been a result of economic turmoil and tendencies on the part of the government toward Islamicization of political institutions.
In the wake of serious sectarian quarrels in the 1930s and 1940s, Christians have accepted a position of communal subordination in exchange for peaceful coexistence with the Muslim majority. Only during times of major crises has this peace been broken with mass protest and sectarian strife.”

  1. Albair ‘Azir Barih, “Illegal building of churches, why?” Al-Muṣawwar in Arab West Report, Week 17, Art 22, April 27, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-17/22-illegal-building-churches-why.

“[…] despite the fact that the largest number of churches have been built during President Mubarak’s time, the last two years has witnessed the building of an even greater number than the last ten years. Still, many prefer to go ahead with building their churches without obtaining licenses, and then apply pressure on the government to legalize them. All the churches in Qalyoubiya (thirty of them) were built this way!

"When I was appointed bishop of Shoubra Al-Kheima, there were 18 churches, all built without licenses. During my 23 years in Shoubra Al-Kheima, 12 more churches have been built the same way after reaching an understanding with security. I am happy with the current method because it is simply the best and quickest. Building a church according to the presidential decree requires many, many documents, some of which are hard to acquire. For example, the building could be on unplanned land, or land whose legal owner is not known, although everybody knows it belongs to the church...” says Bishop Marcos of Shoubra Al-Kheima.
[…] a number of Christian clergymen believe building churches is not such a difficult task... Catholic bishop Kyrillos of Assiut explains, ..". Through presidential decree 15 licenses for building and restoring houses for monks and social service centers were obtained. There are no problems in Assiut as General Ahmed Hammam, governor of Assiut, is giving orders [because] of the necessity of enforcing the presidential decision without finding complications, applying the spirit of the law more than its text. Engineering departments in the governorate are giving all the help they can to issue the licenses. The Catholic Bishopric in Assiut does not break the law."In Assiut, there are 38 Catholic churches, eleven nunneries, and three monasteries, all built legally. The number of worshippers suits the number of available churches. Moreover, the governor is taking care of seven Coptic bishoprics and bishops in Assiut. We have just celebrated completion of renovations to a church near Darunka Monastery area last month."
According to statistics, there are 8,000 churches for the three denominations: Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical. 5,333 churches and administrative buildings have been renovated during President Mubarak’s time. 250 presidential decrees for building new churches have been issued. This number of restorations is unprecedented in centuries.”

  1. “Seventy thousand Copts counterfeit police reports to get American citizenship,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 29, Art 12, July 18, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-29/12-seventy-thousand-copts-counterfeit-police-reports-get-american-citizenship.

“Coptic sources in California discovered that about seventy thousand young Coptic Egyptian men claimed that they were persecuted and submitted false reports stamped with fake stamps about their wives being raped to get access to work and obtain American citizenship.

RNSAW comment: We know of individual Coptic Christians who forged documents to go the West. We know of one particular Immigration lawyer (Canadian-Egyptian) who is involved in such forgery but from where does the number 70.000 come? That number may need to be questioned.”

  1. Cornelis Hulsman, “Reviving an Ancient Faith; two strong-willed reformers bring Coptic Orthodoxy back to life,” Arab-West Report, Week 51, Art 13, December 28, 2001. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-51/13-reviving-ancient-faith-two-strong-willed-reformers-bring-coptic-orthodoxy-back.

"Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country with the largest Christian community in the Arab World. No recent statistics have been published about the number of Christians in Egypt, either by the Egyptian government nor by the church. Bishops and priests give estimates varying from 12 to 20%.”

  1. Usamah Salamah, “Restrictions on the building of churches are a must... Positions should be distributed according to efficiency and not religion,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 52, Art 4, December 29, 2001-January 1, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2001/week-52/4-restrictions-building-churches-are-must-positions-should-be-distributed.

“The article gives the opinion of Nabil Luka Bebawy concerning the problems facing Copts in Egypt and how to solve them.

The number of Coptic ministers in the pre-revolution governments was not more than two, taking notice that Mustafa Al-Nahas headed the largest government during this period. That was in 1950 and it included seventeen ministries. There was only one Coptic minister among them. During the time of Sadat, the number of Coptic ministers increased to two or three ministers in each government.
The percentage has remained the same during the time of Mubarak, while the total number of ministers ranged between 30 and 33 ministers in every government.
Bebawy explains that the solution for the problem of positions depends on making selections according to efficiency and loyalty and those who feel injustice may turn to the courts [for redress].
Appointment according to religious bases opens the door for discussing the percentage of Copts in economic, vocational activities.
It should be noted that Copts own 60% of the pharmacies, 20% of the contracting business and 30% of trading companies. Those percentages are bigger than the percentage of Copts in the total number population. Thus, we will face more complicated problems. At the same time demanding a certain percentage of positions to be given to Copts will open the door for conflicts among Christian denominations, as each denomination will ask for a certain percentage.”

  1. Cornelis Hulsman, “Attacks of Coptic activists on Dr. Milad Hanna questioned,” Religious News Service from the Arab World in Arab West Report, Week 6, Art 12, February 12, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-6/12-attacks-coptic-activists-dr-milad-hanna-questioned (See the comments on the Egypt Country Report on Human Rights Practices - 2000, RNSAW, 2001, week 08A, supplement.)

“[…] Meunier exaggerates when he writes about 12 million Copts (on a population of approx. 75 million this would be 16%). Pope Shenouda certainly has a good estimate of the number of Copts in Egypt but he did not supply Meunier with that number. Bishop Yo’annis, the secretary of the Pope, recently said in a meeting with a delegation of the Dutch organization World Servants that the Pope has asked all bishops to provide him with figures from their dioceses. The number is, however, not released in public. Pope Shenouda knows the number is much smaller than Meunier wants us to believe. Dr. Milad Hanna knows about a survey I carried out in 1985, asking bishops for the estimates of Orthodox Christians in their dioceses. The numbers collected translated in around eight percent of the total population. A percentage based on a calculation of figures obtained from the bishops themselves. Other research shows the figure may even be less (See the comments on the Egypt Country Report on Human Rights Practices - 2000, RNSAW, 2001, week 08A, supplement).”

  1. Cornelis Hulsman, “Recent Development,” Arab-West Report, Week 7, Art 1, March 4, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-7/1-recent-development.

The article deals with Muslim-Christian tensions in Beni Walmis related to church building.

“The Copts obtained support from outside their village to change their little village church, with a government permit, into a beautiful church, which far exceeded the beauty of the local village mosque. Muslims, who form the majority in this village, had for years a mosque that looked better than the church. Suddenly, with the money flowing in from outside the village, the appearances started to change. The church of the Christian minority, forming perhaps 30% of the local population, had become more beautiful than the mosque. This resulted in jalousy. Jalousy in simple minded rural communities in Upper Egypt can create havoc, that is not just related to Muslim-Christian relations.”

  1. Yusuf Sidhum, “Winds of change,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 10, Art 7, March 10, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-10/7-winds-change.

Saudi Prince Talal Bin Abdel-Aziz wrote an article in the Lebanese Al-Nahar paper on January 29 titled, “The Survival of Christian Arabs”. He wrote that it is a disaster that Arab Christians leave their homeland which can jeopardize the peace and stability of the Arab world. He added that the survival of Arab Christians is the only plausible reply to Israel´s claim to the one-religion and one-race and is an Arab vote for democracy and freedom and against civil wars.

  1. Cornelis Hulsman, “Do Coptic emigrants not care about the Palestinians? An overview of subjects in Coptic Daily Digest in the period March 1 - April 5, 2002,” Religious News Service from the Arab World (Arab West Report), Week 14, Art 11, April 20, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-14/11-do-coptic-emigrants-not-care-about-palestinians-overview-subjects-coptic-daily.

“Osama Salama´s words are sharp, full of anger about Coptic emigrants.

There are some moderate voices on the Copts Daily Digest but as soon as they concern opinions about Islam they are quickly silenced by the more radical Copts. That’s not an atmosphere that helps creating an understanding between Muslims and Christians.
Overview of all articles in the Copts Daily Digest, March 1 - April 5, 2002:

"According to a survey done among the church in Alexandria, only 10 % of Christians attend the Church, What happened to the rest?" It is therefore not good Christians quarrel among themselves.”

“The objective of the advertisement is clear. "Any American foreign aid to Egypt must be tied to Egypt’s performance on human rights. How much longer do the Copts have to wait before the Egyptian government finally addresses their problems? What does it take for Egypt, and the rest of the world, to acknowledge that the 12 million Coptic Christians (15-20% of Egypt’s population) are suffering? Is it because Copts will not blow themselves up, or blow others up, that nobody seems to take note?"
N. Rizk posted a text on Muslims and the USA. "In Egypt, Coptic Christians who (used to) comprise about 10 percent of the population are a persecuted minority and have been so for at least decades […]”.

  1. Hamdi Rizq, “Friday men carry diplomas below the standard of a university degree,” Al-Muṣawwar in Arab West Report, Week 14, Art 2, May 4, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-14/2-friday-men-carry-diplomas-below-standard-university-degree.

“According to official statistics, there are 73,000 mosques under the control of the Ministry of Waqfs and 12,000 mosques that will be put under the ministry’s control in future. In addition, there are about 50,000 imams and preachers who meet the requirements. This is about two thirds of the total number of mosques already under the ministry’s control and those which will be put under control in future. This means that there is a one third that can fall in the hands of Islamic groups, and here lies the danger.”

  1. Ed Rizq Allah, “A book review for Among the Copts,” Coptic Daily Digest in Arab-West Report, Week 23, Art 16, June 11, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-23/16-book-review-among-copts.

“Egypt is home for the largest indigenous Christian population in the Middle East that by some estimates is about 15-20% of the total population” (CH: this is the estimate of the author of this article).

“In addressing the issue of the size of the population of the Copts in Egypt, the book provides a rather short review for a major issue affecting contemporary Copts. The book indicates that given conflicting figures of the census data, and the vagaries of politics and hazards of census taking, it is better not to know exactly how many Copts there are. The population of the Christian population affects its social standing, political prospects and influence. Militant Islamic groups have tended to discount the number of the Christians in Egypt, as it suits their political agenda. Sympathizers with militant Islam within the ranks of the government of Egypt have kept the data of the census of the Copt as if it were a state secret (Editor: I haven’t seen any statements of militant Islamic groups about the number of Christians in Egypt - Christians are generally ignored in their statements. It is true that the data of the last census of the Copts is kept secret. But does this have its origin with sympathizers of militant Islam? That’s questionable with a government that tries to keep Islamists out of functions of influence. The reason is most likely different. Could it be that the government just tries to avoid a discussion about the number of Copts?) The Copts have long contended that their number was deliberately discounted.

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