“The basic premise from which this article proceeds is that the Copts are (or should be) genuine Egyptian citizens, that is, first – calls citizens.
The Coptic community has other more serious complaints that can be summed up as follows: the existence of a general climate that allows for the resurgence at different times and in certain areas of the county of a spirit of religious intolerance. Copts are finely attuned to this phenomenon, as sometimes the mere mention of their name is enough to trigger a hostile reaction. There is a widespread feeling among Copts that their participation in public life has gradually dwindled over the last fifty years.
Their sense of marginalization is borne out by the facts: in 1995, not a single Copt was elected to parliament. There is, moreover, the spectre of communal violence, which can flare up at any time […].”
Majdi Khalil, “4. Ten reasons why a Copt should run for president,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 14, Art 4, April 3, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-14/4-ten-reasons-why-copt-should-run-president.
There is need to search for a suitable Coptic candidate to compete with the incumbent Egyptian president, not because it was a right for the Copts guaranteed by the constitution, but because the key objective of the competition is to expand the democratic practices to be genuine in the future.
According to the author there is at least ten reasons why a Copt should run for presidency:
“The eighth is the Copts’ expression of their voting power, considering that the Copts make 15-20% of the total population in Egypt and their financial power enhance their votes (Editor: we have earlier provided reasons in AWR why Copts cannot make up more then 6-8% of the population).”
Munir Bishay, “A Coptic President of Egypt?” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 14, Art 5, April 3, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-14/5-coptic-president-egypt.
Copts in Egypt must arise and shed the apathy that plagues so many of them and become part of political reform process that will eventually improve their lives. Sadly, as the result of certain developments in Egypt's modern history, Copts have become marginalized. Many of them withdrew from political life. As an example, in the last parliamentary election only two Copts were elected for the 444 available seats. Approximately 10 million Copts, comprising roughly 13% of Egypt's population, are represented by less than ½% of the Parliament. (Editor AWR: an exaggeration. Copts in Egypt represent approximately 6-8% of the population.)
Dina Hasan, “The President of Egypt, a too heavy onus to take,” Arab West Report, Week 17, Art 5, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-17/5-president-egypt-too-heavy-onus-take.
“Pope Shenouda III said it is natural for a President to belong to the religion of the majority, and it would be rather a “joke” should a Copt run for President. He added that expatriate Copts form no political party and a few of them are extremists.
The Pope indicated that the Church will not partake in the elections since it is not a political body. Meanwhile, Bibāwī (Nabīl Louqā Bibāwī, Deputy Head of the Culture and Information Committee in the Shoura Council) asserted that he knows with the wisdom of hindsight that the 8,000,000 Copts will be voting for Mubārak. (Editor: this number is, as usual, much too high. See earlier discussions in AWR about the estimated number of Coptic Christians in Egypt, probably between 6 and 8% of the population).”
Majdi Khalil, “Let’s Think Out Loud…Ten Reasons Why We Should Nominate a Copt As A Candidate In The Egyptian Presidential Election,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 19, Art 3, May 8, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-19/3-lets-think-out-loudten-reasons-why-we-should-nominate-copt-candidate-egyptian.
The author provides ten reasons why the Copts in Egypt should find a candidate to compete for the presidential election:
“Copts represent 15-20% of Egypt’s population (Editor: it is common for activist Copts to overestimate the number of Copts in Egypt. The estimate is closer to 6-8% of population), but their voting strength exceeds that percentage for several reasons and their financial abilities add more weight to their voting strength and increase their political power that has been idle until now.”
Hani Labīb, “Copts, citizenship and presidents of Egypt,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 37, Art 19, September 7, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-37/19-copts-citizenship-and-presidents-egypt.
“The era of President Husnī Mubārak has witnessed some kind of balanced relations in a way that was not available in the previous one.
As far as Coptic political participation is concerned the author would reject the legal quota system for Coptic representation in parliament on the grounds that this isolates the Copts and entrenches faith-based politics.”
Munir Hanna Anis Armanius, “Christian minorities in the Islamic world, an Egyptian perspective,” Arab-West Report, Week 13, Art 29, September 15, 2005.URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-13/29-christian-minorities-islamic-world-egyptian-perspective.
“The statistics of 2004 show that the population of Egypt is 76 million, 93 percent are Sunni Muslim, and 6 percent are Christians (mainly Coptic Orthodox), 1 percent or less are others. Most Christians live in Upper Egypt and Cairo. Christians and Muslims share, to a great extent, Egyptian social culture, like feasts which have been held since the time of the ancient Egyptians.”
Muná al-Mallakh, “A Coptic party facing the Brotherhood,” Al-Muṣawwar in Arab West Report, Week 39, Art 26, September 23, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-39/26-coptic-party-facing-brotherhood.
“Interview with Mamdouh Nakhla, founder of Hizb al-Ummah al-Misrīya (The Egyptian Nation Party) formerly known as Hizb Misr al-Qibtī (Egypt’s Coptic Party).
According to the latest statistics, Nakhla states that only 1% of the Copts in Egypt, representing 10-15% of the total of population, participate in political parties. Thus they considered establishing a secular party that would integrate minorities into political life and so far they have 800 Coptic and 100 Muslim founding members.
Mamdouh Nakhla states that there are no prominent members of the party to avoid celebrities being lured away, leaving the party in chaos as happened when Dr. Muna Makram ‘Ubayd left al-Ghad party. The majority of members are 20-30 years-old from Assiut, Souhāj, Alexandria, Banī Suwayf, al-Fayyoum and Cairo. The law stipulates that a party should comprises at least 1000 members and the party still needs more members from the other governorates so that the party can be officially established by next October.”
Girgis Hilmi ‘Azir, “Changing Christian denominations on the black market,” Al-Jumhūrīyah in Arab West Report, Week 40, Art 56, September 29, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-40/56-changing-christian-denominations-black-market.
“An international radio station [no name given] broadcasted a study conducted by Professor of Sociology at the American University in Cairo, Dr. Sa‘īd Sādiq, which reveals that 95,000 Christians have converted to Islam in the recent period. [Editor: Country not mentioned but probably Egypt]. The news was repeated in a way that apparently intended to incite. However, not a single Copt turned a hair.”
Adil Najib Rizq, “Egypt’s Copts reject interference by expatriate Copts,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 40, Art 47, October 3, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-40/47-egypts-copts-reject-interference-expatriate-copts.
“‘Ādil Najib Rizq accepts that Egypt has serious problems, but that the only way to eradicate them is to join forces’ Muslims and Copts. He accepts that there have been clashes between Muslims and Christians, but argues that this does not mean that there is persecution targeting the Copts.
He states that the Coptic activists allege that 15-20% of the Copts have emigrated due to persecution. He states that this is untrue as many Muslims have also emigrated and states that there are many reasons for emigration.
In reality, hundreds of thousands of young people apply to military colleges every year, of which Copts make up a paltry 2%. As regards admission, one may easily discover that the acceptance rate of Copts is reaching 4% and this provokes Copts to write about injustice and persecution.”
Sayyid Ghannam, “Pope Shenouda: No Church nominations for parliament,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 41, Art 44, October 5, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-41/44-pope-shenouda-no-church-nominations-parliament.
“Pope Shenouda III has denied rumors that the Orthodox Church will nominate 30 Copts for the coming parliamentary elections, telling Rose al-Yousuf that the Church does not nominate candidates for elections. He added, "We held two seats in the outgoing parliament of 444 members. Does this represent the percentage of Copts in Egypt?"
‘Abd al-Ghani ‘Abd al-Ghani, “The battle over Islamic shari‘a in Egypt,” Al-Aḥrār in Arab West Report, Week 41, Art 9, October 9, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-41/9-battle-over-islamic-shar299ca-egypt.
“94% of the population in Egypt are Muslim, according to the data of Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
In an opinion poll in 1985, the Cairo-based National Center for Social and Criminal Studies found that 98% of Muslims and 68% of Christians approved application of the Islamic sharī‘a (Editor: It is not likely they ’approved’ but it is more likely ’they did not object’). ‘Abd al-Ghanī ‘Abd al-Ghanī therefore states that the application of the Islamic sharī‘a is an Egyptian popular demand (Editor: See earlier comment, not on basis of the given figures). The author accepts that the Copts of 1985 differ from those of 2005, but he argues that a considerable number of Egyptian Christians are still want to keep the sharī‘a as a frame of reference.”
Sulayman Shafiq, “Can’t we see how ugly we are?” Watani in Arab-West Report, Week 41, Art 31, October 9, 2005. URL:http://www.arabwestreport.info/node/8157.
Sulaymān Shafīq argues that according to the 1995 statistics [Reviewer's note: The author perhaps was mistaken because the statistics were conducted in 1996, not 1995, as Christian surveys are usually made every 10 years and the last ones took place in 1986], Copts represent 22.5 percent of the national wealth, and make nearly 10 percent of the total population, but with a political representation of a paltry 1 percent.
Ahmad Pasha, “Copts reject quota in parliament,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 41, Art 33, October 9, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-41/33-copts-reject-quota-parliament.
“The head of the Coptic church has made public statements about the political representation quota system, which Copts have rejected, fearing an increase in sectarian tensions and arguing that the quota system runs counter to the principle of citizenship.
Set against the background of statements by Pope Shenouda III about a quota system for Coptic representation in parliament, Copts have vehemently rejected the suggestion, fearing such demands could augment sectarian sentiments and would run counter to the principle of citizenship (Editor: This discussion is not new. Pope Shenouda commented in 2002 on the election of only three Christians in the 444-seat parliament and then asked "Do Christians have not the right to be fairly represented in parliament?" Pope Shenouda’s request for a "fair representation” in the parliament has been interpreted by several authors as a request for a quota system which was subsequently rejected but the Pope then had not explicitly asked for a quota system (RNSAW, 2002, Week 44, Art. 7).
Expatriate Christians (Editor: a small minority of them) have called for 15 percent of the parliamentary seats to be assigned to Copts, and Ahmed Pāshā states that the statements show the identical agendas of Copts abroad and the Coptic Church in Egypt (Editor: that is too simplistic. Copts in the countries of emigration are not united and neither are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Pope Shenouda’s request for ’fair representation’ should not be interpreted as a call for a quota system and certainly not the call for a quota of 15%. It is obvious from previous discussions that not many Christians support a fixed quota for Christians which would mean a Lebonization of the country, splitting up Egypt according to religious lines. It has all appearance that those advocating a quota system represent only a small minority).”
“Should Copts have quota of parliamentary seats?” Al-Jumhūrīyah in Arab West Report, Week 42, Art 26, October 13, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-42/26-should-copts-have-quota-parliamentary-seats.
“The decree appointing 10 deputies in parliament always intended to appoint several Copts, but Copts believe that if elections were held in a free and fair atmosphere, they would get at least 10% of the seats.
Coptic member of Parliament Munīr Fakhrī ‘Abd al-Nour, member of parliament for the Wafd Party, said he is entirely against the quota system on the grounds that it violates the principle of citizenship.
MP Jourjīt Subhī said she has always called for seats for women in the Egyptian parliament, but she would not go for dedicating seats for Copts.
Bibāwi (Nabīl Louqā Bibāwī, Deputy Head of the Culture and Information Committee in the Shoura Council) pointed out that it is not the regime’s fault that the Copts are not represented. He states that the Copts themselves are to blame, since despite there being 12 million Copts, there are at least 7 million Copts above the age of 18, who do not register to vote (Editor: those numbers are exaggerated, see earlier comments in AWR).”
George Ishaq, Dr. Hanna Gries, Rev. Ikram Lam‘i, Engineer Munir ‘Ayyad, Samih Fawzi, Samir Marqus, “Messages from Egyptian Copts to expatriate Copts,” October (Magazine) in Arab West Report, Week 42, Art 42, October 15, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-42/42-messages-egyptian-copts-expatriate-copts.
“A number of Egyptian Copts and clergy respond to ‘Adlī Abādīr’s invitation to the Washington conference, scheduled for November 17.
The recommendations of the conference included the freedom to build houses of worship [referring to churches] and specifying a percentage of 15% for Coptic political representation in the parliament. These issues should be discussed inside Egypt because they are related to Egyptian Muslims and Christians in the first place.
"Abādīr’s proposals are a pie in the sky. He is calling for a regional self-government in Upper Egypt...He has no idea what self-government is.” Fawzī added.”
Yusuf Sidhum, “Problems on hold. Once more ...Why in Washington,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 42, Art 47, October 16, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-42/47-problems-hold-once-more-why-washington.
“A discussion of the political rights of the Copts.
[…] while the president states that Copts amount to some ten percent of the population, their share of appointments to State posts is in no way remotely close to then percent- in some cases zero.
CH (May 2012): I do not know of any source where the president has made such a statement.
Official statistics confirm that under the free schooling system in Egypt, Coptic pupils and students from around then percent of the total student body from primary to high education. It would around the same proportion of the State workforce that is if they are given the same opportunities at appointments and promotions.
To prove my point, I cite data from ten presidential decrees, which were issued in the interval from January to August 2005, to approve appointments to State posts. These included administrative prosecution, delegates and assistant delegates to the State Council, assistant councilors to the State Council, deputies to the head of the State Council, and different appointments to the State Court Authority. Out of a total 1727 appointees, only 31 were Christians, their proportion ranging between 3.5 percent in some posts and zero percent in others. No Christian was appointed as assistant councilor at the State Council, deputy to the head of the State Council, or deputy to the head of the State Court Authority.
The above-mentioned figures illustrate that the disproportionately meager share of Copts in State posts begins with their insignificant numbers in the lower ranks, decreases steadily in the higher ranks, and recedes completely in leadership ranks.”
CH (May 2012): AWR places articles from Watani International as they were published by Watani International, including language errors that may have been published by Watani International.
‘Adil Jindi, “Egypt Front is ‘the Solution’ for vanquishing this party,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 43, Art 51, October 23, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-43/51-egypt-front-solution-vanquishing-party.
“The National Democratic Party’s (NDP) 444 candidates in the parliamentary elections included only seven women and two Copts, one of them a civil servant in the degree of minister.
‘Ādil Jindī states that this party is clearly neither national nor democratic, for democracy rests on values of freedom, equality and the representation of all groups in society.
He suggests that Copts appointed to the new parliament, usually not exceeding three or four in number, refuse their appointments or tender a collective resignation.”
Hamdi al-Husayni, “Coptic candidates mostly depending on Muslim votes,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 44, Art 58, October 29, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-44/58-coptic-candidates-mostly-depending-muslim-votes.
“Hamdī al-Husaynī states that for half a century, Egyptian Copts have kept their distance from politics and have preferred to focus economic activities. As a result though, Copts’ political representation in parliament has been exclusive to appointment by the political leadership. Yet in the current elections, a number of Copts have decided to run in the People’s Assembly election on the National Front for Change slates.
In response to Pope Shenouda III, the Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, thousands of Copts participated in the first multi-candidate elections witnessed by Egypt.
The author states that one might have expected the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to pay gratitude to the Copts in the parliamentary elections, but in fact only one Copt was nominated by the NDP. Māhir Khilla was nominated in the Ghurbāl constituency in Alexandria, but he threatened to withdraw his nomination due to the recent incidents and Muslim demonstrations in front of the Mar Girgis Church in Muharram Bik area of the city.
Hamdī al-Husaynī states that the Nasserite Party also failed to present a single strong Coptic candidate to run in the constituencies they were sure to win. The Tajammu‘ Party is the only party that has nominated more than five Copts among its 51 candidates. The Wafd Party has three Coptic candidates from a total of 124 candidates.”
Tangi Salan, “Once More, Copts Are Targeted in Egypt,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 44, Art 49, October 30, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-44/49-once-more-copts-are-targeted-egypt.
“The sectarian tensions in Alexandria are linked by the author to the electoral campaign between Copts and Muslims in Alexandria.
Maher Khella, one of the two Coptic candidates of the ruling National Democratic Party (out of a total of 444), requested the withdrawal of his candidacy "to help drop the tension". The legislative elections, programmed in three phases between November 9 and December 7, will be held November the 20 and 26 in Alexandria. Egypt is composed of Sunni Moslems (86.5%) and Christians (13%), including Protestants (0.8%) and Catholics (0.4%).” (Editor: AWR: the estimate of the percentage of Christians is too high, it is more likely between 6 and 8%, see earlier comments in AWR.)
Timothy C. Morgan, “Copts’ Night of Terror: Rioting chills Muslim-Christian relations as new parliament is elected,” Christianity Today in Arab West Report, Week 46, Art 25, November 10, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-46/25-copts-night-terror-rioting-chills-muslim-christian-relations-new-parliament.
An investigation, carried out with help of AWR Editor-in-Chief, Cornelis Hulsman, into the events surrounding the riots in Alexandria on Friday, October 21, 2005, among other things what is discussed is the political tensions:
There were two Christian candidates in Alexandria on the November ballot: Maher Khella of the ruling National Democratic Party and George Gabra, an independent. Some Christian leaders believe that political opponents of Khella (from Muharram Bey) played a role in stimulating the riots.
There are few other Coptic candidates running for office elsewhere in Egypt. The National Democrats have only two Christians out of 444 candidates on the ballot. Political science professor Mona Makram Ebeid, who as a woman and a Copt is a rarity in Egyptian politics, lost in the first round of elections in a predominantly Christian electoral district.
Despite many limitations on Christianity in Egypt, Copts represent up to eight percent of the population and many are deeply integrated into Egyptian society. Of Egypt’s 77 million people, about 5 million or 6 million are Coptic Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant. The Christian population has its greatest concentration in rural Upper Egypt, hundreds of miles south of Cairo along the Nile river.”
Amr al-Misri, Coptic conference in U.S. demands power-sharing deal like in southern Sudan. Al-Ahrām, Al-Maydān, Al-Usbū‘, October (Magazine) , Rose al-Yūsuf , Waṭanī in Arab-West Report, Week 47, Art 47, November 16, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-47/47-coptic-conference-us-demands-power-sharing-deal-southern-sudan.
At a Coptic conference in the U.S. Iskandar expressed his “concern about the proliferation of the Coptic affair,” which involves actors that have nothing to do with Egyptian interests, he says.
Maurice Sadiq, another expatriate Copt, who attended the conference called for the formation of a neutral organization to conduct an accurate census of Christians in Egypt.
Organizers of the conference called “for reserving 15 percent of the high-level and ministerial positions to Copts as well as another 15 percent of parliamentary seats in order to have a fair representation of the Copts in Egypt (Editor: suggesting Copts make 15% of Egyptian population which is not true, see earlier comments in AWR).”
“In an interview with Radio Monte Carlo, leader of expatriate Copts, Abādīr, said the conference was held in order to do something about the marginalization suffered by Copts in Egypt, alleging that there are about 500,000 Copts living in cemeteries, receiving second-class treatment and crushed under a rate of unemployment that is four times more than that of Muslims (Editor: Abadir provides no evidence for these claims.).”
‘Atif Hilmi, “Why do Copts fail in parliamentary elections?” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 47, Art 51, November 19-25, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-47/51-why-do-copts-fail-parliamentary-elections.
The article looks at various Coptic candidates failure in the elections:
“Since the July 1952 revolution, no Copt from outside the NDP has ever managed to enter the parliament except for a singe one: Jamal As‘ad ‘Abd al-Malāk, who entered the election two times, first in 1984 on the Tajammu‘ Party list. The Tajammu‘ then succeeded in Assiut, but failed to garner the 8 percent needed for the party’s representation in parliament.”
Majdi Khalil, “Democracy and minority rights,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 47, Art 29, November 20, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-47/29-democracy-and-minority-rights.
“The author discusses the persecution of Copts in Egypt and his hopes that democracy in Egypt will improve the Copts’ situation.
In accordance with the concept of representative democracy, the Copts should comprise 15% of the legislative councils as well as political posts and state administrative positions [Editor: This claim presumes Copts make up 15% of Egyptian society. This is certainly not true, but more likely to be between 6 and 8%, see earlier discussions in AWR. This claim also suggests a kind of Lebanization, a fixed percentage of Christians in certain positions based on an imaginary percentage of Christians, which is a recipe for civil strife]. This representative democracy reflects the efficiency, vitality and health of the political process.”
Yusuf Sidhum, “In Washington,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 47, Art 48, November 20, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-47/48-washington.
“The author predicts some of the resolutions that might come out of the Washington Conference on "Supporting democratic change for Muslims and Christians in Egypt.”
Following an interim correctional policy to remedy the marginalisation of Copts" ”as in the case of women and young people" ”modeled after the affirmative distinction accorded to peasants and workers by granting them 50 per cent of Parliament seats. Copts could be granted a 10 "“ 15 per cent proportion of seats in the Parliament, local councils, leadership posts and top positions in the State, in order to consolidate equality and participation on the groundwork of common citizenship.”
Samir Marqus, “Copts...total flop,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 49, Art 47, November 30, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-49/47-coptstotal-flop.
“Samīr Marqus states that as far as Coptic representation is concerned, the recent parliamentary elections brought nothing new. Over the last 40 years, no more than one percent of members of parliament have been Copts, the only exception being in 1987, when six Copts were elected to parliament out of a total number of 444, raising the rate to roughly 2%, with the exclusion of the Copts appointed by virtue of a presidential decree.”
Husayn ‘Abd al-Raziq, “For the sake of the country, not the Copts,” Al-Wafd in Arab West Report, Week 49, Art 15, December 2, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-49/15-sake-country-not-copts.
“Head of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies, Dr. Sa‘d al-Dīn Ibrāhīm, has always referred to the discriminatory practices against Copts in Egypt. The author states that despite forming about 10% of the total population [Editor: That estimate is too high, the number of Copts is more likely around 6 to 8%, see earlier comments in AWR] and owning about 20% of the country’s wealth, the Egyptian government is still taking a negative attitude towards the Copts. History curricula and textbooks deliberately ignore the Coptic history that lasted from 70 through 641 AD. (See AWR 2002, 43, art. 15 for Wolfram Reiss’s comment about Egyptian curricula’s treatment of Christian history.)”
Majdi Khalil, “Democracy and the rights of minorities: The Coptic case,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 49, Art 21, December 4, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-49/21-democracy-and-rights-minorities-coptic-case.
“The first concept is Representative Democracy: a form of democracy in which voters choose (in free, secret, multi-party elections) representatives to act in their interests. According to that concept any democratic system that does not include an adequate representation of the different segments and groups that constitute the society is a flawed and faulty system.
The second concept is Representative Bureaucracy, which is a theory that suggests that organizations perform better if their workforces reflect the characteristics of their constituent populations. In a real democracy, there should be a place within the different levels of the political structure (from bottom to peak) for each and all groups that constitute the society; otherwise the democratic system is also flawed and deficient.
When a political system is missing one or both of those concepts, it has to resort to "affirmative action” measures that would allow the democratic system to remedy the situation and correct itself in the future.
Based on that, 15% percent of the seats in legislative councils should be reserved for Copts [Editor: Asking for a fixed percentage would lead to Lebanonization, that is giving religious affiliation priority over being qualified for a particular function and second, 15% is an over-estimate of the number of Copts in Egypt, somewhere between 6 and 8%. This in turn would fuel religious conflicts in Egypt], and 30% for women, and the same should apply to political posts and public administrative positions. These measures will rectify the course of the Egyptian political system, and will enable it, in the future, to make the necessary adjustments to evolve into a modern democratic regime.”
Nabil Luqa Bibawi, “Proportional representation of Copts in parliament,” Al-Akhbār in Arab West Report, Week 51, Art 39, December 14, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-51/39-proportional-representation-copts-parliament.
“Dr. Nabīl Louqā Bibāwī writes that many Egyptians, especially Copts, consider election day to be a national holiday. According to the author, the lack of Coptic representation in parliament urged late President Jamāl ‘Abd al-Nāsir to amend Article 87 of the Egyptian constitution, granting the president the authority to appoint 10 members of parliament.
Five Copts were appointed as members of parliament in 1984, four Copts in 1987 and six Copts in 1990 and in 1995.
Due to Copts’ passivity, the author argues, it has become quite impossible for any Coptic candidate to win in parliamentary elections and the 2005 voting is a case in point.”
Mahmud Nafi‘, “Muslims, Christians united,” Al-Jumhūrīyah in Arab West Report, Week 51, Art 18, December 15, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-51/18-muslims-christians-united.
The author praises President Husnī Mubārak’s decision to authorize governors to give permission for the building and renovation of churches.
According to the new presidential decree, Nāfi‘ clarifies, the government has 30 days during which to approve church requests for renovations. Moreover, governors entrusted with making church-related decisions must justify a rejection.
By canceling the Hamayouni Decree, an Ottoman law dating back to 1856 which required the president’s personal approval for the simplest of repairs, Nāfi‘ argues that Mubārak has put an end to sedition in Egypt.
Less than one week after this decree, President Mubārak appointed five Copts to parliament among the 10 members he is constitutionally mandated to appoint (Muslim or Copt, to bring in skills that might be important in parliamentary discussions).
Nāfi‘ writes that despite the new decree to make church repairs easier, "sedition mongers have accused President Mubārak of making the situation even more worse, arguing that according to the new decree, the matter has been referred to 26 governors, with all the related bureaucracy.”
Manal Mahran, “Head of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics: No sectarianism in Egypt,” Al-Usbū‘ in Arab West Report, Week 51, Art 25, December 19, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-51/25-head-central-agency-public-mobilization-and-statistics-no-sectarianism-egypt.
“Head of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMS) Major General Abu Bakr al-Jindī has denied all allegations of sectarianism on the part of the agency.
Asked about the number of churches in Egypt, al-Jindī says that there are about 1950 churches and monasteries nationwide. Latest statistics, collected last August, show that there are 92,611 mosques in Egypt. Al-Jindī has also pointed out that the central agency is the only official authority in charge of collecting data and presenting statistics.”
Nabil Luqa Bibawi, “The Copts and the weeping policy,” Al-Akhbār in Arab West Report, Week 52, Art 31, December 21, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-52/31-copts-and-weeping-policy.
“Nabīl Luqa Babawī, author of the article, blames the Copts for their stance towards the elections. He says that all the Copts, both inside and outside Egypt, wail and weep. He believes that it is their own fault if their political role is marginalized. He estimates the number of the Copts at 12,000,000 people of which 6,000,000 are over 18 years old and can be registered to vote. (Editor: these figures are nonsense. The number of Copts is estimated to be between 6 and 8% of population, which provides with a population of 75 million people perhaps 6 million Coptic Christians.)
‘Azīz, Andrāwus, “The census of the Copts by the Church, a religious sin?” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab-West Report, Week 52, Art 32, December 21, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-52/32-census-copts-church-religious-sin.
Andrāwus ‘Azīz comments on the claims that there are an estimated 10 or 12 million Copts in Egypt, which is linked to claims the Copts deserve a quota of parliamentary seats and high offices in ministries and universities. He wonders how the church could conduct such a census. He states that this is against the spiritual role of the Church and raises doubts about the purpose this census will serve. He also argues that we do not need know the exact number, because it would encourage foreign interference on the pretext of protecting minorities. He argues that the census of the Copts by the Church is a religious sin that incurs divine wrath, referring to 2 Samuel 24:1.
CH (May 2012): the linkage of an estimate of the number of Copts to political claims is correct but the argument that counting would encourage foreign intervention is an populist argument that is also used in government circles.
Rushdi al-Daqn, “Copts: Slogans of the banned group denied us equal rights in elections,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 52, Art 44, December 21, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2005/week-52/44-copts-slogans-banned-group-denied-us-equal-rights-elections.
“About 34 Coptic candidates ran for the recent parliamentary elections, two of whom were nominated by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP); Minister of Finance, Dr. Yousuf Butrus Ghālī and Māhir Nakhla [no information mentioned about him]. Opposition parties nominated 15 Coptic candidates, none of whom managed to secure a seat in the parliament. The Ghad Party nominated 17 Copts whereas the Wafd nominated only five.
The Tajammu‘ Party candidate for the Mīnyā constituency, Dr. Wajīh Shukrī, said that the Muslim Brotherhood’s religious slogans contributed to his loss in the election, despite around 25 percent of the population of the [electoral] district being Coptic, he said (is this estimate accurate? Was this the reason why he lost?)”
Diana al-Dab‘, “Rev. Safwat al-Bayyadi to Rose al-Yousuf: Mubarak’s decree to entrust governors with making church-related decisions came at the right moment,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 53, Art 27, December 28, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/27-rev-safwat-al-bayy257d299-rose-al-yousuf-mub257raks-decree-entrust-governors-making-church.
“This year, the Evangelical Church celebrates 150 years of ministry in Egypt [See AWR 2005, 47, art. 44]. Diana al-Dabc writes that since the church was first established in Egypt, it has become part and parcel of Egyptian society.
Asked about the number of Evangelicals in Egypt, Rev. al-Bayyādī estimates it at around 750,000 [Editor: This number seems to be much too high]. Throughout its 150-year history in Egypt, the Evangelical denomination has established 1200 Evangelical churches. Since 1854, he adds, the church has placed social work among its priorities. It has opened schools and classes to overcome adult illiteracy and provided medical services to a number of poor villages. Rev. al-Bayyādi makes it clear these education and health services are provided to all Egyptians, regardless of religion or sex.”
Musafá Rajab, “Personal relations behind the increasing number of Christian employees. U.S. embassy denies sacking 20 Muslim Egyptian employees,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 53, Art 16, December 30, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/16-personal-relations-behind-increasing-number-christian-employees-us-embassy-denies-sacking-20.
“The U.S. Embassy in Cairo (http://egypt.usembassy.gov/) has denied rumors published on an internet website, al-Misrīyoun (Reviewer: No link found), that it has been under pressure to dismiss 20 Muslim employees working at the embassy.”
“Al-Misrīyoun (Egyptians) website, close to the suspended Egyptian Labor Party and the banned Muslim Brotherhood published yesterday a report entitled "Pressures by expatriate Copts to sack 20 Muslim employees from U.S. Embassy in Cairo."
Janique Blattmann, “Christian Solidarity International claiming forced conversion of Coptic girls to Islam,” Arab-West Report, Week 53, Art 8, December 31, 2005. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/8-christian-solidarity-international-claiming-forced-conversion-coptic-girls-islam.
Between 1995 and today, staff members of Arab-West Report (formerly called Religious News Service from the Arab World (RNSAW)) have investigated around 200 of claims of forced conversion of Christian girls in Egypt and found not a single one of them to involve kidnap, i.e. the use of physical force to get young Coptic girls to convert to Islam. (The most comprehensive material is the report “Forced Conversions or not?” New York Council of Churches, June 28, 1999 (RNSAW 1999, 26A, art. 37. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-1999/week-26/37-forced-conversions-or-not), the report “Conversions of Christians to Islam,” by Dr. Rodolph Yanney, January 9, 2001 (RNSAW 2001, 01A, art. 4) and the “Open letter to former US Congressman Pastor Ed McNeely” (AWR 2003, 30, art. 34). Also see AWR 2004, 28, arts. 21-22, 37-38, and AWR 2004, 36, art. 28 for the case of Injī Edward Nājī) In most cases, it was rather the male members of the family who claimed that their daughter was kidnapped in order to save the honor of the family and cover the shame it means for them that their daughter had a relationship with a Muslim man. Several girls have been found to see marriage with a Muslim man as the easiest way of escape from social problems, poverty or violence in their own family.”
Tal‘at Jad Allah, “Citizenship: Base for civil state,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 5, Art 69, January 12, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-5/69-citizenship-base-civil-state.
“Tal‘at Jād Allāh states that Egyptian Copts are marginalized on the political scene and are thus deprived of some of their basic citizenship rights.
The author makes it clear that the marginalization of Copts has increased the sense of injustice they harbor. It has also disgraced Egypt as a country that adopts a discriminative policy against certain minorities.
The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has nominated only two Copts on its slate for parliament, which included 444 candidates. The author claims that the NDP is fully satisfied with the marginalization of Copts, and makes no effort to secure a proportional representation of Copts in the legislative council.
According to the author, the Shoura (legislative) Council adopts the same policy of marginalization against Copts. Under the Egyptian constitution, the government elects one-third of the Shoura Council’s members. (Reviewer: It is the president who appoints this one-third! The author refers to the president as the government. Are they one and the same?)”
Majdi Khalil, “Christians oppressed,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 5, Art 40, January 29, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-5/40-christians-oppressed.
“Coptic activist Majdī Khalīl claims discrimination against Copts in Egypt and cites a number of incidents where Copts are openly discriminated against and treated unfairly by authorities.
Copts "have in the last half-century experienced institutionalized discrimination that renders them little more than second-class citizens.” This was different during the liberal age prior to the Egyptian revolution of 1952. Since that year, "Copts have been largely excluded from the top echelons of political and administrative bodies.” There has been only one Christian governor, of Sinai, for one period of two years. "Not one has since held a key cabinet portfolio; not one has even been appointed mayor of a city or town. Currently, Copts are sorely underrepresented in parliament, occupying only seven of 454 seats. They are also underrepresented in academia, especially state universities; despite the vast numbers of qualified and respected Coptic scholars, not one has been appointed rector of a university or dean of a college.”
Hani al-A‘sar, “10,000,000 Copts, 8,000 churches in Egypt: Too many or too few churches?” Al-Dustūr in Arab West Report, Week 8, Art 32, February 15, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-8/32-10000000-copts-8000-churches-egypt-too-many-or-too-few-churches.
“Recent statistics published by al-Majlis al-Mīllī have revealed that there are an estimated 11,000 churches in Egypt, whereas latest official governmental statistics show that there are about 8,000 churches in Egypt (Editor: The numbers seem to be too high).
[…] Given the population of Copts in Egypt, estimated at 10,000,000 (Reviewer: No source given for this figure. We stated in earlier comments that the number of Copts in Egypt is estimated to be between 6 and 8% of population, which is, with an Egyptian population of 75 million, between 4,5 and 6 million), and the fact that there are some villages with a Coptic majority and no single church, many Christians complain about the restrictions on building churches and are calling urgently for a unified law on the construction of houses of worship.”
Wail Lutfi, “Nation-devastating sects,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 10, Art 27, March 4-10, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-10/27-nation-devastating-sects.
“In comparison to countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Egypt's religions and doctrines are homogenous in that there is a large unified bloc, and other groups that do not pose a threat, holds Wā'il Lutfī. Muslims in Egypt make (Editor: AWR's estimate is roughly 92% Muslim and 6 - 8% Christian. Lutfī's estimate may be accurate though in terms of how many people are actively religious.) 75% of the population; the majority of them are Sunnis, with a thin minority of Shi'ites that does not exceed 000.1 percent, said author Wā'il Lutfī in an article.
The same thing applies to the Copts, he says. The majority of Christian population is Coptic Orthodox, with small minorities of Evangelicals and Catholics.”
Majdi Khalil, “The Muslim Brotherhood and the Copts,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 11, Art 20, March 12, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-11/20-muslim-brotherhood-and-copts.
“An article about the Muslim Brotherhood’s intent to establish a state that has a religious, and not civil nature, and the attitude of the Muslim Brotherhood towards the Copts.
The Muslim Brotherhood and their allies insist that the Coptic population amounts to only 6% of Egypt’s total population, in spite of a recent official declaration by Osama Al-Baz that the Copts constitute 12.5% of Egypt’s population, and despite the fact that other organizations have estimated the number of Copts to be 15 millions, i.e., 20% of the population. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood claims that the Shi’a amount to 30% of the total population of Iraq, while it is a well-known fact that they constitute 50-60% of the population (Mona Al-Tahawi, Asharq Al-Awsat, 8 Aug 2005). This purposeful twisting of numbers and percentages is a strategy used by the Muslim Brotherhood to deny the rights of their opponents, and on this point, they are worse in deceit compared to the current Egyptian regime.”
“Coptic schools … Egypt’s future,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 12, Art 39, March 13, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-12/39-coptic-schools-egypts-future.
“Father Youhannā Nasīf from Alexandria tackles the expansion of the number of Coptic schools in Egypt. He suggests building new Coptic schools to eliminate fanatical ideologies and to increase acceptance of ‘the other’
In the middle of the nineteenth century, around 50% of the schools in Egypt were Coptic schools. All who received their education there witnessed peaceful coexistence and love between Muslim and Christian students. After the July 1952 revolution, all educational standards deteriorated in schools in general, according to Youhannā Nasīf. In parallel, the Copts neglected their schools and did not build any new schools. The author thinks that this helped to spread fanaticism in governmental schools which might have led to terrorism or at least have torn the nation apart.”
“Playing with fire: Ridda cases in the State Council,” Al-Wafd in Arab West Report, Week 12, Art 6, March 17, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-12/6-playing-fire-ridda-cases-state-council.
“Wahīd Sha‘bān discusses the important problem of Christians who convert to Islam and then change their minds and want to return back to Christianity. There have been more than 250 lawsuits before the Egyptian judicial system in the last couple of weeks, whereby people wishing to return to Christianity ask to change their names and religion on their identity cards. The author states that these kind of cases are increasing in a strange manner.
These lawsuits have been raised against the prime minister, the minister of justice and the minister of interior affairs, and claim that those Christians who convert to Islam and then wish to return to Christianity face a lot of problems. Those people turn to the Coptic church and the church accepts their return to Christianity, but when they return to the official records they find themselves still registered as Muslims and officials refuse to change their data, which Wahīd Sha‘bān claims is an unconstitional and illegal way of forcing them to stay as Muslims.”
‘Imad Nasif, “The upcoming Maglis Melli [Majlis al-Milli ] elections, steering in the same direction,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 13, Art 46, March 26, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-13/46-upcoming-maglis-melli-majlis-al-m299ll299-elections-steering-same-direction.
“Discussion of the history of the Majlis al-Mīllī, the Coptic Orthodox denominational council, and the current problems it faces. The present Mīllī Council ended its term on 20 March, and elections for a new council will be duly conducted. Tharwat Bassili, deputy of the current council, is urging Copts to vote. Copts, he told Watani, are notorious for their apathy not only in the political life, but also as far as the Mīllī Council elections are concerned.
However, there is some progress, since the number of Coptic registered voters has this year risen to some 5000, but the number still remains far below effective Coptic representation.
Many Coptic liberals wish for a more active role for the future Mīllī Council. Mamdouh Ramzi, vice-president of the Dostouri (Constitutional) liberal political party and a well-known lawyer, says that the Melli Council’s role in the management of Coptic secular issues has shrunk lately. In the elections, Pope Shenouda III usually draws up a list of 24 candidates of his supporters from among the various nominees, which he calls the St Mark list and which he backs. Many voters feel they are under a moral obligation to vote for the candidates on the Pope’s list.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Bishop Marqus commenting on Bishop Munir’s lecture,” Arab-West Report, Week 13, Art 32, March 28, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-13/32-bishop-marqus-commenting-bishop-mun299rs-lecture.
The debate, however, concentrates on the estimate of the number of Christians in Egypt. Estimates generally range anywhere from 5 to 20% of the Egyptian population. Bishop Munīr estimates the number of Christians at around 6% to 7% of population. Bishop Marqus believes it is more likely to be 15%.
With such wide differences in estimating the number of Christians in Egypt it is understandable that these numbers are frequently the basis for debate. The cause is that many Egyptian Christians have little confidence in government statistics about their numbers, believing them to be politically motivated. On the other hand there is good reason to believe that the higher estimates about the number of Christians in Egypt are also politically motivated. The higher estimates are found with some clergy and Christian advocacy organizations, who often use their figures to argue that Christians are under-represented in various sectors of Egyptian society.
The Middle East and North Africa, 1976-1977, Europa Publications Ltd, London, 1976, presented the following demographics for 1975. A total Egyptian population of 37,230,000, including over 1,250,000 Christians. That makes a percentage of 3.36% of the total population.
Twenty years later the Middle East and North Africa presents a population of 48,254,000 with three million Christians according to government statistics, making a percentage of 6,2% of the Egyptian population. This reference work also states that Coptic sources give estimates ranging between 6 and 7 million, with 1 million for other Christian denominations, providing an estimate ranging between 14,5 to 16,5%.
Human Rights Watch mentions that Christians claim that the Egyptian state has consistently and deliberately under-estimated the number of Christians in Egypt.
The allegations about the government deliberately underestimating the number of Christians in Egypt made Nabil Osman, head of the State Information Service in the mid-1990s, explain to the author that CAPMAS, the Egyptian statistical agency, would no longer publish the number of Christians in its statistics. Nabil Osman, however, had seen statistics and stated that a figure of around 6% is reliable.
US government figures:
The US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2000 estimate that approximately 10 percent of the Egyptian population is Christian. The CIA World Fact Book in the mid-1990s presented a figure of 6%. Numbers, however, changed and the US International Religious Freedom Report 2004 estimates that “approximately 8 to 10 percent of citizens are Christians” and the CIA World Fact Book 2006 states that 9% of the Egyptian population is Coptic Christian and 1% belongs to non-specified other denominations (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/eg.html).
Metropolitan Bīshoy, Secretary of the Holy Synod, gave an estimate of 10% of the population of Egypt being Christian, RNSAW 2002, 47A, art. 16.
The French scholar Philippe Farges researched the statistics of Christians in the Arab world and suggests that in Egypt, based on demographic methods, an estimated 5-6% of the population are Christian. A Catholic priest in al-Minia has systematically asked young Christian men who were called to serve in the army how many Christians served in their unit. The assumption is that regulations to serve in the army are equal for both Muslims and Christians. The conclusion after over 15 years of systematic work was that the Christian conscripts made up around 5% of the total number of conscripts. The results of both investigations make a Christian percentage of 5 to 6% of the total population more likely.
If we assume that Egyptian and US government estimates of the number of Christians in Egypt could be politically-motivated, then we should also be cautious about the national estimates presented by the higher clergy of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The discussion about statistics is not new and in the mid-1980s I therefore went to bishops in Upper Egypt, Cairo and the Delta to collect local statistics about the number of Christians in dioceses in the belief that local bishops are closer to their flock and are thus more likely to reflect reality. I computed those figures and then came to a percentage of around 8%. I showed those figures to Dr. Otto Meinardus and Dr. Milād Hannā who then stated that the 8% seemed to be realistic.
The figure presented by diocesan bishops is, however, still inflated. There is the tendency of bishops and priests to include Christians from their diocese who migrated to Cairo, Alexandria or other cities as still belonging to the diocese in which they were born, and thus there is the risk that some Christians are double calculated.
There is no doubt that the percentage of Christians in Egypt is declining. An estimated 75% of all Egyptians who have emigrated to Western countries since the 1970s are Christian. Bishop Marqus pointed to Muslims generally having larger families then Christians. Another factor is Christians converting to Islam. That number is debatable, but certainly a few thousand young Christians convert to Islam annually, while the number of Muslims leaving Islam is very small.
AWR generally estimates the percentage of Christians in Egypt to range between 6 and 8% of the population. The total population is likely to be around 75 million, giving an estimated number of 4.5 to 6 million Christians.
Cornelis Hulsman and Elizabeth Yell, “Polemics discussion paper,” Arab-West Report, Week 17, Art 56, April 26, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-17/56-polemics-discussion-paper.
Concerning population statistics, Patrick Johnstone (1993) says that the percentage of Christians is ‘14,2%, officially 6%. Some Christians claim 20%.’ He doesn’t give the source for the figure of 14.2%. I have been corresponding with the author about this figure and provided arguments based on academic research, and my own investigative work in 1985 when I systematically asked Egyptian bishops for statistics in their diocese and Egyptian sources which, based on the figures the bishops then provided, made that the percentage to be more likely around 6-8%. Johnstone chose to neglect the figures I then presented.
Ramzi Zaqlamah, “When the sense of belonging is absent,” Al-Wafd in Arab-West Report, Week 19, Art 78, May 6, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-19/78-when-sense-belonging-absent.
Egyptians lose the sense of belonging to their motherland as many young men are forced, due to moribund economic conditions, to leave their own country to seek a decent living standard abroad, something their own country has failed to provide. Many youths have run into unimaginable debts in search of a decent life abroad but unfortunately they ended up drowning off the Libyan or Greek coasts or being imprisoned inside Italian jails on charges of illegal immigration.
CH: Interesting this prominent Coptic author, unlike many Coptic activists in the West, only refers to economic motives and not freedom of religion or other human rights related factors.
The Free Copts, “The Montreal Conference for Coptic associations and activists,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 19, Art 71, May 7, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-19/71-montreal-conference-coptic-associations-and-activists.
“A group of activists and members of Coptic associations met during April 7-9, 2006, in Montreal, Canada, to review and debate the situation of the Copts in Egypt and the future of Coptic activism. The participants have agreed on the following:
3. To put an end to the policy that has been long been applied against the Copts setting a ceiling that doesn’t usually exceed 1-2% for their job entitlements. Practical measures, requiring no more than some orders by the top officials of the state, must be taken to ensure that admissions to military academies, judiciary and diplomatic corps, university teaching staff, and police agencies include within their ranks no less than 15% of Copts. Acts of religious discrimination must be prohibited and punished by law
4. To amend the constitution and electoral laws so as to ensure a proportional representation of the Copts -- at no less than 15% - in all representative councils (People’s Assembly, Shura Council and local councils). That would be in application of the Affirmative Action measures; keeping in mind that the same principle has been applied as regards to workers and farmers, and is currently being contemplated in regards to women.”
Nirmin Jamal, “Interior minister accuses Copts who convert back to Christianity of igniting sectarian sedition,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 19, Art 53, May 8, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-19/53-interior-minister-accuses-copts-who-convert-back-christianity-igniting.
The Egyptian minister of interior, Major General Habīb al-‘Ādlī, Tuesday submitted a memorandum to the Administrative Judicial Court, headed by Judge Fārouq ‘Abd al-Qādir, asking the court to dismiss the lawsuits filed by 150 Copts who embraced Islam and afterwards decided to convert back to Christianity and accusing the converts of igniting sectarian sedition and threatening the national unity of Egypt. In his memorandum to the court, the minister said that those who want to convert back to Christianity should first be referred to the Civil Status Department [Maslahat al-Ahwāl al- Madanīya], under article 46 of law no. 143 of the year 1994. Al-‘Ādlī indicated that “Islam is the religion of the state and that the principles of the Islamic sharī‘a are the main source of legislation in Egypt.
Mukhtar Sidhum, “Egypt’s sectarian problem would never develop into another Lebanon,” Al-Qāhirah in Arab West Report, Week 20, Art 89, May 16, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-20/89-egypts-sectarian-problem-would-never-develop-another-lebanon.
“The author reviews on a full page three books by three different writers dealing with the Copts of Egypt and the history of their relations with Muslims.
[…] the ties binding Muslims and Christians in Egypt saw perfection during the period from 1923 to 1952.
Dr. Hannā elaborated that this period of Egypt’s history witnessed the largest political participation of Copts, pointing out that Coptic ministers in some Wafd Party governments made up to 20 percent and that this period also witnessed the first "“ and the last "“ Coptic speaker of parliament, Wīsā Wāsif.”
Jamil Wasfi, “Overseas Copts, their role and duties,” Waṭanī in Arab-West Report, Week 21, Art 48, May 21, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-21/48-overseas-copts-their-role-and-duties.
The writer states that many reasons have led to the waves of Coptic emigration; their economic status was greatly influenced by the nationalization and political decisions made by ‘Abd al-Nāsir.The second wave of emigration took place at the time of President Sādāt with the rise of the Islamic fundamentalist groups in combination with economic openness and the migration of many Egyptians to the Gulf. Middle class Copts suddenly found themselves at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
Copts should be pulled out of isolation and encouraged to participate in Egypt’s political and social life. He also suggests development projects and Coptic investments such projects. Overseas Copts should provide Coptic churches and organizations with required tools and plans and could serve their fellow citizens, either through donations or through useful projects. The writer thinks that the Islamic–Christian dialogue is essential to avoid fanaticism. Cooperation between overseas Copts and the state is extremely important.
Muná al-Mallakh, “Divorce your wife for 10,000 pounds only!” Al-Muṣawwar in Arab West Report, Week 23, Art 48, June 2, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-23/48-divorce-your-wife-10000-pounds-only.
According to Pope Shenouda III, Girgis Hilmī ‘Āzir, more Evangelical churches, 35 in Egypt, have been selling these certificates. The Greek Orthodox Church sells each certificate for 200EGP. He adds that another former bishop, Bishop Boulus in Hilwān, a southern Cairo suburb, used to issue such certificates as well until Pope Shenouda III assumed his duties and prohibited divorce except in cases of adultery.
‘Āzir states that until now, some lawyers still issue these kinds of certificates. He believes that the only solution for this problem is another prohibition from the Holy Synod of the Egyptian church. As for the Catholic Church, Father Rafīq Jirīsh thinks that it is a cheap way of trading with the hallowed. He believes that Egyptian laws are the reason behind the practice, since it does not allow every denomination to apply its rules regarding personal status issues.
Najīb Jibrāīl, a lawyer, reports at least 4000 cases of changes of denominations to get a divorce. He believes that the unified draft law for Christians’ personal status, which was presented to the Ministry of Justice since 1998, is the only solution.
‘Ila ‘Adil, “Secret churches in Egypt,” Al-Fajr in Arab West Report, Week 25, Art 46, June 19, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-25/46-secret-churches-egypt.
“There are around fifty time bombs spread out in the Egyptian streets, ‘Ulā ‘Ādil said, asserting that these time bombs are the secret churches. These churches were built without any governmental licenses, due to the inflexibility of the government in providing such licenses, she added.”
“Some Coptic sources asserted that Cairo alone has more than 20 secret churches, mainly in al-Sharabiyā and al-Wāylī suburbs, in addition to other churches in the new Cairo suburb, Shibīn al-Koum governorate as well as in the Bishīl suburb. Souhāj governorate has the biggest number of secret churches in the Upper Egypt, mainly in the city of Tamā, the author stated,
underling that the security forces had managed to close one of these churches.”
‘Imad Basili, “Copts in Egypt: 30% in Asyout, 25% in al-Minya,” Al-Maydān in Arab-West Report, Week 26, Art 56, June 22, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-26/56-copts-egypt-30-asyout-25-al-miny257.
“Imad Basili argues that the government’s culture of secrecy has disguised the true number of Copts in Egypt. While official statistics indicate that Copts constitute 7 to 10% of Egypt’s population, the Coptic Orthodox Church says that there are an estimated 10 million Copts in Egypt.”
Samih Sami, “Continuous dialogue with the government and focus on internal issues in order to achieve full citizenship,” Waṭanīin Arab-West Report, Week 26, Art 33, June 25, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-26/33-continuous-dialogue-government-and-focus-internal-issues-order-achieve-full.
The author interviewed Engineer Sāmī al-Bihirī, Copt and described as a cynical writer, about his motivations to emigrate. “I was in the United States during the September 11 attacks, and was deeply touched by this cruel crime. I then decided to stay in the States and help young people keep away from extremism.” Reviewer Sawsan Mustafa disagrees with him and states “many emigrants to the West state noble motives, but in fact migrated because living in the West offers better economical and living opportunities.” This is a “formulation made for public consumption.” Later developments in Egypt are for him a confirmation that he made the right decision. This includes a victory of Muslim Brotherhood candidatesin the Egyptian parliamentary elections. “As a child, I felt the unequal treatment of Copts in Egypt. On the popular level, Muslims consider us inferior (Sawsan Mustafa finds that a generalization) and on the government level, we are denied access to some specific government positions. There could be solutions if Copts unite among themselves, and both the Muslims and the government show their willingness to engage in real dialogue.”
Labib Halim, “The electoral list is unconstitutional and violates church laws,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 27, Art 42, July 1-4, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-27/42-electoral-list-unconstitutional-and-violates-church-laws.
“The author (a judge) argues that the articles, which regulate the election of the Coptic Patriarch are unconstitutional and violate the laws of the Apostles as well as church laws which oblige all Copts to choose their pastor and pope. Article eight of the patriarch electoral list stipulates that the voter, in order to be registered on the electoral roll, must be an Egyptian Copt and not less than thirty-five years of age. He must hold a bachelor’s degree and must be a current or a former public servant, a bank or a company employee, or a literate taxpayer. While article nine of the electoral list stipulates that bishops, archbishops, the heads of monasteries, its secretaries and its agents, members of the spiritual council, the agents of the archdioceses, 24 priests from Cairo, seven priests from Alexandria, current and former Coptic ministers, former and current members and deputies of al-Majlis al-Millī (Reviewer: the Community Council) and the owners of newspapers and journalists who are members of the Press Syndicate are the only persons entitled to be registered on the electoral roll.
Kamal Zakhir Musá, “The future of the Coptic Church is at stake,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 27, Art 51, July 1-7, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-27/51-future-coptic-church-stake.
“The author says that the future of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church will remain an obsession preoccupying everyone concerned with the church, and even a public affair because the church is one of the institutions that has an effect on fine-tuning the nation’s stability.
He notes that this is not merely because the church is a religious institution encompassing about 10 million Egyptian Christians (Editor: this number is too high. The following Western studies show convincingly that the percentage of Christians is not likely to be much higher than 6%.).”
Kamal Zakhir Musá, “Reconsidering the regulations of the Coptic Church is required,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab-West Report, Week 27, Art 52, July 1-7, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-27/52-reconsidering-regulations-coptic-church-required.
“The author states that the Coptic Orthodox Church is a vital religious and political institution in Egypt, bringing together about 10 million Christians,” without providing a reference.
Majid ‘Atiyah, “The thanawiya ‘amma and Copts…absent for the first time,” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 30, Art 4, July 23, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-30/4-th257naw299ya-camma-and-coptsabsent-first-time.
“The author says that throughout the past 50 years the lists of the top 10 students in the thānawīya ‘amma (Egyptian high school) have never been void of two or three Copts and have always included at least one.
However this year the list contained 36 names without a single Coptic student amongst them. He wonders whether there was some tampering with the criteria of selecting the top-notch students of the thānawīya ‘amma. He notes that the education ministry announced that 70 students had attained 100% degrees but later the number was reduced to 36. The author again wondered which students were selected and which were excluded.
The author also notes that he does not rule out this possibility because when 216 persons were promoted within the education ministry, including 80 educators, there was not a single Copt among them. When 136 persons were promoted in the ministry’s administrative sector, only nine Copts were included.
On the other hand, 600 persons were promoted in the State Lawsuits Authority, 71 new members were appointed and 25 persons were promoted to a deputy chairman position. However this only included one Copt. Furthermore 72 persons were promoted to the under secretary position including two Copts only.”
Tal‘at Radwan, “Quota system or secularism to rescue citizenship?” Waṭanī in Arab West Report, Week 30, Art 46, July 23, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-30/46-quota-system-or-secularism-rescue-citizenship.
“The author argues that the quota system for Egyptian Christians in parliamentary and state positions will not offer a good solution to the problem of religious fanaticism […]. Habīb has actually said "the Brotherhood rejects any constitution that stands on secular or civil laws and accordingly the Copts may not form a political entity in this country." Habīb, in statements to al-Zamān newspaper dated May 17, 2005, added "when the Brotherhood comes to power they will replace the current constitution with an Islamic one that will deny non-Muslims top state and armed forces positions, which will be exclusively for Muslims."
The controversy unfolded when some liberals demanded a fair quota of 10 to 15 percent of governmental positions and parliamentary seats for Copts. If it materializes, this demand will not solve the problem of religious fanaticism amongst the citizens of the Egyptian nation but rather will consolidate the status quo. The author wonders whether Christians appointed by the government to parliament would represent Christian citizens or the Egyptian nation, adding that this is one of the reasons he rejects this sectarian demand which could lead to further disintegration of Egypt.”
Hermann Veenhof, “Also ‘Christian persecution’ needs to be checked,” Nederlands Dagblad in Arab West Report, Week 32, Art 3, August 5, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-32/3-also-christian-persecution-needs-be-checked.
“The author discusses the prevalence of rumors in Egypt and how often the consequences of such rumors are more serious than their original cause. He notes the work of Hulsman in researching the factual events of claims of Christian persecution and Muslim outrage and in providing an electronic databank and translation service so that the Western and Arab world can become acquainted with each other’s media.
Hulsman sees much disaster in the long run. By the year 2050 Egypt will count 140 million inhabitants and will be ten times as densely populated as The Netherlands. Around twenty percent of Egyptians are middle class or rich. In this mostly well-educated group there are rarely problems between Christians and Muslims (4). They also live mixed in well-to-do quarters as Maadi in Cairo. Three quarters of the population is poor or even lives below subsistence level. The social problems present in villages or slums sometimes develop into religious strife. You also see this with so-called religious riots. Christians are in fact angry because Muslims placed their street stands right in front of their shops. The context is social-cultural, not always religious.” Some of the bishops, priests, imāms and Muslim Brotherhood exploit the social powder barrel for their own interests. The Muslim Brotherhood has occupied 88 of the 454 seats in the Egyptian parliament since the elections of December , which is dominated by the party of President Mubarak. But the influence of this Islamic society is much bigger.
Hulsman: “They build a clinic besides a mosque, provide advice, help the needy.” The Coptic Christians (mostly Orthodox, some eight percent of the population, besides some groups of Catholic and Evangelical Copts) do this as well. “The situation is different from quarter to quarter, depending on the acts of a local pastor.”(5)
(4) The word ‘rarely’ is not accurate. The quarter Muharam Bey in Alexandria is middle class, not poor. It would be better to say that problems are often related to social class, appearing more frequently in lower social classes than higher social classes
(5) And local shaykh
“International Religious Freedom Report 2006 (Original in English, not edited by AWR), Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in Arab West Report, Week 12, Art 69, September 15, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-12/69-international-religious-freedom-report-2006-original-english-not-edited-awr.
“The country has an area of 370,308 square miles, and its population, as of June 2006, was approximately 73.7 million, of whom almost 90 percent were estimated to be Sunni Muslims. Shi’a Muslims constituted less than 1 percent of the population. Estimates of the percentage of Christians in the population ranged from 8 percent to 15 percent, or between 6 to 11 million, the majority of whom belonged to the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Other Christian communities included the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic (Armenian, Chaldean, Greek, Melkite, Roman, and Syrian Catholic), Maronite, and Orthodox (Greek and Syrian) churches. An evangelical Protestant church, established in the middle of the nineteenth century, included sixteen Protestant denominations. There also were followers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was granted legal status in the 1960s. There were small numbers of Mormons and members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the Government does not recognize either group. The non-Muslim, non-Coptic Orthodox communities ranged in size from several thousand to hundreds of thousands. The number of Baha’is was estimated at between 500 and 2 thousand persons. The Jewish community numbered fewer than 200 persons.
Christians were dispersed throughout the country, although the percentage of Christians tended to be higher in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country) and some sections of Cairo and Alexandria.”
John Nasif, “Coptic monastic orders in the present time,” Watani International in Arab West Report, Week 39, Art 53, September 24, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-39/53-coptic-monastic-orders-present-time.
“The author emphasizes the importance of monastic life for the Coptic Orthodox Church. It describes its history and gives suggestions for boosting monastic life.
This period was followed, however, by a time of oppression, ignorance and destruction, which rendered monastic life and the Coptic church very weak. When Pope Shenouda III’s tenure started there were hardly fifteen active monasteries left. Thanks to a lot of support, courage and special devotion from the pope, many monasteries have been built and rebuilt in the past 35 years, which has brought its number up to around 200 or one monk for every 4000 to 5000 Copts. This is a huge improvement but doesn’t satisfy the author. He calls for further invigoration of monastic life by building more monasteries and by using better the capacities of existing ones.”
‘Ala’ al-Jamal, “Copts abduct a Christian young man after he embraced Islam. Security forces impose curfew on Assuit’s village of Bahij,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 41, Art 61, October 9, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-41/61-copts-abduct-christian-young-man-after-he-embraced-islam-security-forces-impose.
“According to al-Jamal, Bahīj village, with a population of around 25,000 people, among which 600 are Copts, has no history of sectarian tension. Over the past few years many Coptic families have converted to Islam and lived in peace with their Christian neighbors.”
Marqus ‘Aziz Khalil, “Coptic thinker accuses the pastor of the Hanging Church of igniting sedition: Judas… between yesterday and today,” Al-Maydān in Arab West Report, Week 42, Art 78, October 11, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-42/78-coptic-thinker-accuses-pastor-hanging-church-igniting-sedition-judas-between.
In this article, Father Khalīl, the pastor of the Hanging Church, examines and responds to As‘ad’s claims.
"He also accused me of claiming that 95% of Egyptian Copts do not have enough churches to pray in. As a matter of fact, I said that the number of worshippers does not exceed 5% of the total Christian population in Egypt and the number of churches does not meet our needs. It is a simple calculation. What is the number of Copts and what is the number of churches in Egypt? Pope Shenouda said in the popular TV program, ‘al-‘Āshirah Masā’an’ [Reviewer: 10 p.m.], that there are nearly 1000 churches in Egypt. The average capacity of each church is 250-300 worshippers… Egyptian churches can accordingly hold 250,000 to 300,000 worshippers… Let’s say that the population of Egyptian Copts is 1,000,000, that means that churches can only accommodate one fourth of Egyptian Copts. But even at a conservative estimate of 10 to 15 million Copts (Editor: a highly exaggerated number), one can evaluate that churches in Egypt can hold less than 5% of the Coptic population," Father Khalīl elaborates.
Ayaan Hirsi ‘Ali, “Europe’s immigration quagmire,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 44, Art 39, October 29, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-44/39-europes-immigration-quagmire.
Even after the recent amnesty, Spain has an estimated 1 million illegal immigrants. Britain has roughly half a million. France, 200,000 to 400,000, if you trust the French. I think there are more. Germany has about 1 million. Fearing that the debate on pluralism in Europe will be hijacked by two uncompromising extremes: whites’ power fascism and Islamic fascism.
In a best-case scenario, the EU will implement an assimilation program guided by the lessons learned from our failed attempts at multiculturalism. It will acknowledge that the basic tenets of Islam are a major obstacle to integration. In practice, Muslims will continue to enjoy religious freedom, as long as exercising that precious right does not infringe upon the freedoms of others, including daughters and wives. In a best-case scenario, EU policymakers will invest in girls and women, protect them from violence and punish those who try to limit their freedoms. Those policymakers will reform the welfare state; regulations pertaining to the hiring and firing of employees will be made more flexible, making it easier for migrants to enter the labor market.
CH: It is interesting that a Coptic publication published this article. Coptic activists in the West often argue against immigration of Muslims to Western countries because basic tenets of Islam are believed to be incompatible with personal freedoms in Western countries.
Muhammad Khayr, “The Conference of the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East: the mass migration of Copts because of the state,” Al-Dustūr in Arab-West Report, Week 45, Art 54, November 1, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-45/54-conference-council-catholic-patriarchs-east-mass-migration-copts-because-state.
The 16th conference of the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East, held in Lebanon, discussed the rapid migration of Christians from the Arab World. It referred to the practices of the state in Egypt toward Copts as being the main reason behind Coptic emigration. Journalist Jean ‘Azīz, from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbār, reported that Egypt eliminates Copts from high positions; such as taking ministers, faculty deans, ambassadors, and judges. It also imposes restrictions on building, repairing or expanding churches. Egypt witnesses one of the largest rates of Christian migration in the Arab World.
Coptic researcher Sāmih Fawzī states: “The problem is not the number of Christians, but how the government is handling the issue because Copts are still Egyptian citizens. ‘There are several inconsistent theories about the count of Copts, the church says they are 15%, others say 9%, while some officials say that Copt represent 10% of the population.’” Father Rafīq Griesh states that the number of Catholic Christians in Egypt is 300,000. Ikrām Lam‘ī, a professor of Evangelical theology, believes that Copts exaggerate when estimating their number.
Mahmud Mitwalli, “‘I reject any Coptic political party,’ says Michael Meunier,” Ākhir Sā‘ah in Arab West Report, Week 46, Art 36, November 8, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-46/36-i-reject-any-coptic-political-party-says-michael-meunier.
“[…] the head of the U.S. Copts Association, Michael Meunier, urges Copts to participate more effectively in political activities with other Muslims as a solution to their problems.
He refers to the problems of Copts in Egypt as being their complete absence of apolitical role in society.
Meunier admits to the development that has happened with the status of Copts in recent years. However, he asserts the lack of citizenship and human rights that hurt all Egyptians, especially Copts. He also praises the suggestion of a law that unifies the regulations on the building and restoration of houses of worship, both mosques and churches. He stresses that the law should prevent any security interventions in building churches, which eliminates the Copts’ freedom of belief, adding: "Some fear that Copts plan to build 100 thousand churches once restrictions are removed, which is illogical.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Interview with Kamal Zakhir Musá about his conviction in the need for church reform,” Arab-West Report, Week 46, Art 48, November 8, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-46/48-interview-kam257l-z257khir-m363s225-about-his-conviction-need-church-reform.
“Q – How many Bishoprics are there in Egypt?
KZM – Between 70 to 80.
Q – So multiplied by 12, you have roughly 1000 electors.
KZM – Add to this former and current ministers and businessmen from Cairo. The total number of electors perhaps reaches 2000; representing 8 to 10 million Orthodox Copts [Editor: The number of Copts given is, as usual, too high]. So this is a sample, not a real representation of the Christian society.
Q – Is this not more an issue of culture then related to core religious teachings? Over 90% of the population of Egypt is Muslim. Father Matta al-Maskeen once said that if Egypt would have been a country of 90% Christians and 10% Muslims, Egyptian culture would be more or less similar with the majority of Christians behaving the same way as the majority of Muslims does today and vice versa.
KZM – If Christians would have been able to show Jesus Christ in the correct light, most Muslims would not be against us. They could have remained moderate Muslims comparable to the leaders of the Wafd Party before July of 1952.”
Ashley Maqqar, “Others among us: Understanding migration,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 46, Art 10, November 12, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-46/10-others-among-us-understanding-migration.
Coptic-Ghanan journalist Samia Nkrumah wrote a price winning article on the integration of immigrants in Italian society, published in Al-Ahram Weekly last year.
William Dalrymple, “Disappearing Christianity in the Middle East; Transcript of a lecture at the American University in Cairo,” Arab-West Report, Week 48, Art 2, November 17, 2006. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2006/week-48/2-disappearing-christianity-middle-east-transcript-lecture-american-university.
Christianity in the Middle East is continuously declining, but no figures for countries today are provided.
William Dalrymple, “From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the shadow of Byzantium,” Arab-West Report, Week 47, Art 3, November 19, 2006. URL: