THE COPTIC NATIONALISTS AND THE COPTIC RELIGIOUS FAR RIGHT
My dear, focus on fighting the Islamists, our common enemy, but make alliances with anti-Islamist Muslims, our friends. Learn politics.
There is no denying to it – we too have a religious far right, small but lunatic and toxic in its own way; and the recent events around the affair of the Innocence of the Muslims film have rudely proven that to us, and in the most tragic way. We knew of their existence all along, and we warned of their irresponsible, stupid activity – activity that is destructive, first and foremost, to the Coptic cause and the legitimate aspirations of our people.
In short, this lunatic Coptic far right fringe believes in the following:
- That the Coptic struggle is between Coptic Christians and Muslims – all Muslims.
- That our fight is with Islam as a religion in all its aspects, non-political and political alike.
- That the only solution to the Coptic Question is to destroy Islam as a religion by exposing its defects and outlining Muhammad’s violent and sexual history.
- That Muslim Egyptians, once the true nature of Islam is exposed to them, will convert to Christianity and baptise in the River Nile; and, so, in this way, Egypt will revert back to Christ.
The Coptic nationalists disagree with all that, and condemn it as naïve, distracting from real work, dangerous and counterproductive: there can be nothing befitting the title of political immaturity than this kind of work. The Coptic nationalists, in contrast, believe in the following:
- Our fight is not with Islam in its entirety or the Muslims as a whole: our fight is with political Islam and the Islamists’ political creed not with the non-political parts of Islam (those bits that are privately held and practised between the Muslim and his or her Allah, and which have nothing to do with politics) or with moderate Muslims.
- We do not demonise all Muslims – we do believe that there are good Muslims as there are bad Christians; that the almighty and just God blesses all good peoples and rejects all bad peoples, regardless of their religion or creed.
- Moderate Muslims are not our adversaries – rather, they are allies in fighting Islamists and working for a just and progressive Egypt that embraces all.
- We do not see our struggle in terms of a religious war but as a fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms – a fight with which all freedom-loving peoples can identify.
This, in our opinion, is mature, prudent way of approaching the Coptic Question and seeking a solution to it – it is the right way to get the essential support of third parties, whether moderate Muslims, the West or the rest of the international community, that we need, and that we cannot win without. But before that, it is the only way that befits our Christian teachings. The religious far right, though they express excessive Christian zeal, do not realise that any political movement of ours that is devoid of moral principles will only be born a stillbirth or else die soon after birth. A man is defeated only when he is defeated internally – if we don’t follow a noble and ethical way of resistance that is consistent with our religious beliefs we shall collapse from the inside. It is remarkable how the Coptic religious far right misreads and misunderstands the fundamental principles of the West and the prevailing political values in our modern world: in their political naivety they think that the West is bothered by religion; that it is Christian; that it is anti-Islam; that it can be addressed on religious terms; that we can make it empathise with our suffering because we are Christians being persecuted by Muslims. In all this, they are received, nurtured and encouraged by the West’s own indigenous religious far right.
The political reality is of course different: the West is not interested in peoples’ religions; it does genuinely believe in religious tolerance and liberty even if that religion is Islam; it abhors all religious extremism and fundamentalism whether it comes from Muslims, Jews, Evangelicals or Coptic Christians. The only way to the heart and mind of the West is through addressing its public and politicians on a human rights and fundamental freedoms platform, and not to be seen as bigoted against any religion or religion followers. Furthermore, the West is understandably driven by its national interests: it is not enough to scream persecution and the infringement of our human rights – it is essential that we make ourselves useful to the West. This is what is called the meeting or intersection of interests – all alliances, even with small nations like our, are built on this principle; and all interventions to help have been driven by it. While our enemies have understood all that, we are still struggling with it: there is no doubt that the Coptic religious far right has not yet comprehended the fundamentals of politics or understood the prevailing political conditions in the world, and that is why we accuse them of political immaturity.
But before we end this article, one has to caution the reader of a potential major misunderstanding on his or her part: though we have been rightly harsh on our Coptic lunatics and described them as toxic, the reader should not equate them with Muslim extremists (Islamists) neither in size nor in the kind and degree of their toxicity. The Coptic religious extreme remains small and isolated. Further, no Coptic religious extremist has ever called for the beheading of Muslims who oppress or insult Copts and their religion, or engaged in acts of violence or terrorism. Their toxicity is mainly in their rhetoric and approach to politics. They are irresponsible nincompoops but their harm is essentially restricted to their own people by alienating the moderate Muslims and the West, and putting off reasonable people who find prejudice, in either way, distasteful and unacceptable.
At the end, the reader must try to understand that the Copts have lived under unimaginable suffering and oppression that included insults, intimidation, terrorism, extortion, economic exploitation, restriction of religious freedom, discrimination at education, jobs, etc., deportation, torture, forced conversion, destruction of properties and churches, and pogroms. The fact that some Copts have become extremists in their own way must not surprise or shock anyone – what ought to really surprise is the fact that the overwhelming majority of Copts, despite fourteen centuries of persecution, support a restrained and peaceful approach to their problem.