Sa‘id ‘Abd al-Khaliq, “The National Coptic Organization announces its guardianship over the Copts and holds negotiations with foreigners aimed at gaining autonomy for Copts in Egypt!” Al-Maydān in Arab-West Report, Week 20, Art 28, May 13, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-20/28-national-coptic-organization-announces-its-guardianship-over-copts-and-holds.
(Editor: This article is not very different of that of al-Usbua, AWR 2004, week 19, art. 26. No doubt a few radical expatriate Copts have sent out a radical statement but they have no following and thus presenting their ridiculous claims creates unnecessary sentiments, see the comment in art. 30 in last week’s issue.)
Every now and then, we hear of crazy attempts to spoil the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Egypt and try to hit at the national unity. The National Coptic Organization submitted a leaflet to the Pope Shenouda with the title "Autonomy for the Copts of Egypt." The organization’s spokesperson in Washington said in a communiqué, "Since January 2003 and in total secrecy, precise and sensitive negotiations have been taking place between active parties in the new global order on the one side and a delegation of Egyptian and American Copts on the other side." The Coptic delegation included Maurice Sadeq, the head of the negotiation delegation and representative of the Copts of the inside "Egyptian Copts," and the chemist Nasha’at Marcus, who is the delegation’s consultant for the affairs of the Coptic Church.
Throughout the negotiations, the delegation’s demands focused on several points including the following:
*Carrying out a demographic census to count Copts, which would be under international supervision and ignoring the current civil records because the Arab government of Egypt forges the records of the Copts.
*Achieving autonomous rule for Copts under the supervision of the international community represented by the NATO, the U.S.A. and the European Commission.
Yusuf Sidhum, “Excluding Copts from leading posts,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 32, Art 14, August 8, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-32/14-excluding-copts-leading-posts.
“There are many examples to prove that Copts have minimal or absent share in the posts of governors, ministers, heads of state banks, state university presidents, as well as leading posts in the military and the police. All in all, it can be said that Copts occupy no more than zero to one per cent of the leading posts in these sectors. It is one of the serious problems shelved, or placed on ho1d by the government and is primarily a problem of deficient citizenship rights.
(Editor: the given figures are interesting but it is misleading to only look at the promotion of Copts to leading positions without looking at the number of Copts working in fields that would make them suitable candidates for such positions. Could it be that fewer Copts work in certain sectors? Could it be that there are other sectors where Copts make a much larger percentage? Do Copts actually make up 10% of the population? That percentage is often heard. Sidhom does not belong to the category of people who highly inflate figures, unlike those who claim Copts make up 20% of the population, but we have argued in earlier texts for AWR that a percentage of 6-8% is more likely.)”
The article provides a list with different fields in which the Coptic representation is low.
Cornelis Hulsman, “Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt; opinions from Egyptians in various positions,” Arab-West Report, Week 36, Art 28, September 1, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-36/28-muslim-christian-relations-egypt-opinions-egyptians-various-positions.
“This report presents the interviews with nineteen people, 18 Egyptians and one American researcher about the importance of the work of Arab-West Report […] Ramadan Abdel Mawla-- In [the village of] Ishneen.
Q: Many people emigrate from Ishneen to the city, what is the reason for that?
Father Yo’annis: The village is limited in space, but the capital is wider and has more projects. Those who live here are farmers. A person who wants to starts a business emigrates to Cairo or Alexandria where he can start his business and later return to help here. There are 420 families from Isheen living in Cairo and God kept them in Cairo because they offer help to the village’s inhabitants, Muslims and Christians. They built the guesthouse [in our village]. People who live here are poor and we take care of them and also those who live in Cairo.
Father Yo’annis: the living conditions here are difficult. We have in the church 120 families of Ihwat al-Rab; we support them
Q: How many Christian and Muslim families are there in the village?
Father Yo’annis: There are about 600 Christian families and another 600 Muslim families [Mr. Ramadan confirms this]. We live in real love and there is no difference between Muslims and Christians.
By the way, most Muslim families have a picture of Virgin Mary in their houses. We use a loudspeaker to pray in the church so Muslims and Christians hear [the prayer] the same thing happens when our Muslim brothers perform their prayers.
Q: But what was the percentage fifty years ago?
Father Yo’annis: The percentage [of Christians] was more than that but many Christians emigrated to Maghagha, Beni Mazar or to Cairo. That is why their number decreases. Now the number of Muslims and Christians is equal.
CH (May 2012): Also Muslims have migrated from this village but the proportion of Christian migrants appears to be higher than that of Muslim migrants. Since this is not a village that is noted for tensions between Muslims and Christians the reasons could be in the difference in education between Christians and Muslims. Since villages offer little to no work opportunities for educated people they tend to emigrate. The growing proportion of Muslims is probably also because Muslims tend to have larger families. Please note that from what I have observed since 1976 Christians in lower and middle social classes tend to stress the need for good education for their children more then Muslim families in similar social classes. I do not think that Muslims and Christians in higher social classes have different views about the importance of education for their children.
Bishop Marcos: (…) Al-Kosheh is not the example in our area but a bad example because if you hat compare al-Kosheh with 100.000 villages, you can see big differences. All villages, all the people in the villages, country and cities, like each other very good.
We are about 70 millions, the Christians about 12 million [Editor: I disagree with the Bishop’s estimate, see for arguments earlier issues of AWR]. The relations between all these people are very good. If a problem happens between some people, a number we can count on one hand, it does not mean that Egypt is very bad. No. Egypt is very good.
Bishop Yohanna Qulta: We have 170 Catholic schools; the majority of their students are Muslims.”
Majdi Khalil, “The Ordeal of Arab Christians,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 40, Art 23, October 3, 2004. http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-40/23-ordeal-arab-christians.
Muhammad Hasanain Haykal wrote in Perspectives:
I personally feel, as others certainly do, that if we do not address the issue of Christian emigration, if we continue to overlook it or neglect it on purpose, then we will face an Arab scene that will not just be different from the current one, but one that would have definitely lost part of its assets on a human and cultural level. It would be such a loss if the Eastern Christians leave believing that there is no future for them or their children here, Islam would then be left alone in the East with only the company of Zionist Judaism and most specifically that of Israel.
Yusuf Sidhum, “The first Coptic symposium in Zurich: Today and tomorrow,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 40, Art 34, October 3, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-40/34-first-coptic-symposium-zurich-today-and-tomorrow.
“The first international symposium of Egyptian Copts: A minority under siege,” included papers on the migration of the Christians of the Middle East. “This last problem is viewed as a major civilizational loss to the region and not a mere demographic problem.”
The symposium drew up resolutions including:
Allocating a proportionate and just percentage (estimated between 10-15%) of government appointed positions to Copts, to guarantee appropriate participation.
Allocating a proportionate and just percentage (estimated between 10-15%) of parliamentary seats for Copts, thereby encouraging political participation and guaranteeing adequate representation in the electoral bodies.
CH: This means that attendants of the symposium must believe that the proportion of Copts in Egyptian society is around 10 to 15 percent.
Nabil ‘Abd al-Fattah, “Coptic grievances…are they of a minority or views and policies under siege?” Al-Ahrāmal-‘Arabī in Arab West Report, Week 41, Art 15, October 9, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-41/15-coptic-grievancesare-they-minority-or-views-and-policies-under-siege.
“The Coptic issue is one of the most important in the Egyptian question’s political file. Copts’ political, religious and cultural demands have been a pressing issue of tension.
The Coptic demands are also supported by the Orthodox Coptic clergy who even added the necessity to deal with the problem of political representation for the Copts based on the proportion of Coptic population in Egypt. This is also the position of Pope Shenouda III, who considers this option as a solution to the problem of Coptic representation in the parliament.”
Islam Kamal, Ibrahim Jab Allah, “Copts between secular state slogan and denominational representation plea,” Al-Qāhirah in Arab West Report, Week 46, Art 17, November 9, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-46/17-copts-between-secular-state-slogan-and-denominational-representation-plea.
“The fatal point of weakness in the 1st Coptic symposium in the Swiss city of Zurich was that it tried to be secular but could not remain so until the end of this noble call that enhances Egyptians’ unity and consequently functions as a life buoy from a merciful fate at the end of a dark tunnel.
The first recommendation in that event urges total separation between religion and the state, but the third one calls for devoting a fair proportion of 10-15% of parliamentary seats for the Copts in a way to encourage political participation.
The fourth goes on to ask for the same percentages in government posts that are occupied by means of appointment.
In a nutshell, the symposium appealed for proportional representation, a call categorically rejected by the committee that drew up the best constitution ever known by our country throughout history: the 1923 constitution.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Do not claim something that cannot be proven; the origin of some Christian persecution stories,” Arab-West Report, Week 47, Art 8, November 23, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-47/8-do-not-claim-something-cannot-be-proven-origin-some-christian-persecution.
“The purpose of this article is to show Western readers to be careful with Christian persecution stories from Egypt, they may be true but also may not be true. The great difficulty is that there are many rumors flying around that are mostly not investigated. Most examples of rumors for this article came from Christian circles but some examples are given from Muslims showing that the belief in rumors is certainly not limited to Egyptian Christians only.”
MN (May 2012): This article stresses the need for double-checking information, especially when it comes to statistical information. The reason for this is because different sources have different interests to take into account, which (it might be unintended) influence their statements/utterings.
Cornelis Hulsman, “Feelings of discrimination and persecution among Coptic migrants,” Arab-West Report, Week 50, Art 24, December 14, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-50/24-feelings-discrimination-and-persecution-among-coptic-migrants.
“A report following discussions with young Copts in Germany claiming they had been discriminated and persecuted in Egypt.
Christians are persecuted in Egypt. That is why they leave the country. Of course there are good Muslims but the problem is that in Islam as a religion, we are not considered equal. We are free in Germany to speak out. Of course there are girls who are kidnapped (this statement resulted in a discussion in the group of young Copts, some insisted Christian girls are kidnapped and others disagreed but the speaker continued). It happens. A Muslim family will invite a Christian girl to their home and put drugs in her drink. After that, she discovers that she has been raped and cannot go back to her family because she is no longer a virgin.
CH: I have investigated 120 cases of conversions to Islam. One finds social problems, but never physical force. I do not believe the drugs story.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Arab-West Report, Week 50, Art 25, December 14, 2004. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2004/week-50/25-love-your-neighbor-yourself.
The article mentions the struggles with working with Coptic statistics:
“Today, the population in Egypt is approximately 6-8% Christian and over 90% Muslim. Most Christians in Egypt are Orthodox. With 4 to 5 million believers, the Orthodox Church is the largest church in the Middle East.
There are, of course, many problems but they are misrepresented and many claims are either exaggerated or untrue.”
Khalid Salah, “‘We demand a church in every street” says Bishop Bissenti,” Al-Ahrām al-‘Arabī in Arab West Report, Week 2, Art 23, January 8, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-2/23-we-demand-church-every-street-says-anb257-b299sant299.
“[…] there is a problem with the state regarding the issue of census. (…). In 1977, former US President Jimmy Carter told Pope Shenouda that he knew the prelate was the spiritual leader of seven million Christians in Egypt. At the time, I met with the then-Speaker of the People’s Assembly (parliament) Sayyid Mar‘’ī and he said the number of Copts was six million, out of a total Egyptian population of less than 35 million, back in 1977. Measuring on this, the number of Copts could have grown to be up to between 10 and 12 million.”
Bishop Bisanti calls for the exact number of Christians in Egypt today. He raises the following questions:
“Protestants and Catholics in Egypt are able to do this and thus why not the Orthodox? Sure the Orthodox Church is much larger but Pope Shenouda did ask all bishops to provide him with figures of the number of Christians in their diocese. Why is that number not made public?”
For generations people have used 10% as […] a rough estimate. It is thus unlikely the speaker of the Parliament would have given such a high number. […] Whatever the reason it is highly unlikely that a speaker of Parliament would mention a figure that was so in violation with that of the CAPMAS, Egypt’s statistical office, at the time. The number debate is frequently coming back in plays a role in claiming Copts should have more churches and more Copts in higher government positions.
Finally, Bishop Bisanti asks if it is reasonable that by its 10 or 12 million of the population only to have 10 seats in the parliament, and mostly by appointment. He asks if that is a healthy national situation.
‘Amr al-Misri, “The whole kit and caboodle about the Samallout incidents,” Arab West Report, Week 3, Art 21, May 30, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-3/21-whole-kit-and-caboodle-about-sam257llout-incidents.
“In the beginning, the church had obtained a permission to build a service facility over a plot of 500 square meters it owned and surrounded with a mud brick wall. Part of the wall had fallen down due to several cracks and strong winds.
The wall was not re-built due to rejection by the security authorities that are pressuring the church to turn the place into a public utility although the church’s ownership of that land was validated by a Cassation Court ruling in 1981.
In an interview with al-Usbou‘, Mīnyā Governor Maj. General Hasan Himīda dismissed accusations of discrimination against Copts and encumbering the construction of new churches. He said the number of applications to build churches reached 839, of which 474 were approved, 79 refused and six delayed.”
Yusrā Zahrān and Fādī Habashī, “Copts own half of Egypt’s wealth...where is the discrimination?” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab-West Report, Week 3, Art 22, January 17, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-3/22-copts-own-half-egypts-wealthwhere-discrimination.
Prominent journalist Adel Hammouda claims that Copts are 10 percent of population while they, according to him, own 50 percent of Egypt’s wealth. He says the two percentages need to be in proportion (Editor: where does Hammouda get his percentages from? Both percentages are too high. There are certainly very rich Copts but also hundreds of thousands extremely poor. How did he calculate the 50%? This is very unlikely.) However, Hammouda refused such logic claiming it was a proportion built on sectarian principles.
Majid ‘Atiyah, “Enemies of the state capitalize on sedition,” Al-Ahālī in Arab West Report, Week 4, Art 11, January 19, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-4/11-enemies-state-capitalize-sedition.
“The persons, who help the enemies of the state, hide under the cloak of ‘human rights,’ ‘minorities’ rights’ and ‘freedom of worship,’ cannot but be lacking in awareness.
[…] the Copts, before the July revolution (1952), used to own 17% of the national wealth and they then made up more than 18% of the total population, in other words their share of the wealth was less than that of the Egyptian Jews. (Editor: where does the figure of 17% of national wealth come from? The 18% of population is too high.)
The Coptic share in agricultural wealth plummeted to 3% today. The Coptic share in real estate does not exceed 5% and the national wealth as a whole is no more than 8% (Editor: what are the sources for these figures?).”
Yusuf M. Ibrahim, “Are Arab Christians becoming extinct?” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 6, Art 23, February 6, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-6/23-are-arab-christians-becoming-extinct.
“In a string of recently published essays, eminent Egyptian – American Muslim sociologist, Dr. Saad Eldin Ibrahim, who was jailed for his political views, argued that in Egypt, which had the largest Christian minority of 7 million, for the last half century Christians have been held back in building or even repairing their churches.
Likewise, Dr. Ibrahim, a pro- democracy activist who is professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo and chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo, says school textbooks ignore 600 years of the history of Coptic Egypt, as well as Christian contributions to its art, culture and architecture.”
Nabil ‘Umar, “Pardon me, Ms. Kariman...Copts are not a minority!” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 6, Art 21, February 7, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-6/21-pardon-me-ms-kar299m257ncopts-are-not-minority.
The author states: “If we scrutinize the term ‘minority,’ we find it refers politically to a community smaller than the majority it shares society with; it has its own traditions, norms, values and heritage unlike that of the majority such as the Tamil in Sri Lanka, Kurds in Turkey, Whites in South Africa and Palestinians living in Israel since 1948.
From this standpoint, it is impossible to consider the Copts a minority just for being fewer in number than the Muslim majority. The texture of the Egyptian nation is not divided into two parts, rather it is one fabric inside a single entity.”
Yusuf Sidhum, “President Mubarak, anew: Egypt of the Muslims and Copts,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 7, Art 23, February 13, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-7/23-president-mubarak-anew-egypt-muslims-and-copts.
The author discusses the low representation (if any at all) of Copts in different positions:
Last August I tackled the issue of the dearth of Copts in leading official posts, pointing out that their proportion in such posts was notoriously low, ranging between zero and three per cent. I wrote then that these figures indicated a severe flaw: “ semi- official figures- there are no official figures- place the Coptic population at some 10 per cent of the Egyptian population. Since Copts go through the same educational system- on all school and university levels – as Muslims do, and later enter the job market with almost the same qualifications, the natural distribution of Copts in jobs would be around the same percentage as their numbers. If advancement in jobs were subject to competence alone, it would then stand to reason that Copts would occupy around 10 percent of leading posts. That is, if no obstacles were placed in their path.
Sadly, this particular article dealt with the police officers’ promotions approved by the Interior Minister last July, which included 151 names not one of whom was Copt. I considered this a serious, inexplicable, unjust predicament, which occurred repeatedly every time official promotions or honors lists were announced.
Whenever the question of the minimal nomination of Copts to leading posts surfaces, some hasten to declare that the reason is their small numbers in the work force in the first place. This in itself is the outcome of a decades – long flawed policy which never afforded Copts opportunities equal to those of Muslims regarding access or appointment to jobs in certain sectors.”
Mājdah Maurice, “The happy minority and the sectarian discourse,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab-West Report, Week 7, Art 34, February 14, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-7/34-happy-minority-and-sectarian-discourse.
The author, a Coptic Christian, is upset with the way some Muslim authors have used claims that Copts would have a certain percentage of the national wealth. She makes the argument correctly that poverty, corruption, and deterioration in living standards do not differentiate between Muslims and Copts.