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December 5, 2016


Sati’ al-Husri (ساطع الحصري ) (1880 – 1968) was an Ottoman and Syrian writer, considered to be the greatest Arab nationalist thinker in the 20th century: the “intellectual prophet of Arab nationalism,”[1] “ the man who did most to poularize the idea of nationalism among the literate classes of the Arab Middle East.”[2] He influenced the kind of Arab nationalism espoused by President Nasser of Egypt (1952 – 1970), since he was resident of Cairo from 1947, working in the Cultural Directorate of the League of Arab States, and producing most of his works. In 1965, he left Cairo to Iraq, where he died a few years later. If one wants to know the definition and nature of Arab nationalism, one cannot but read Husri. Arab nationalists across the Middle East have come to accept him as the Father of Arab nationalism.

Husri defines Arab nationalism on the lines of language and, to a lesser extent, history. According to Husri, a nation is objectively based through the unity of its linguistic community and the coherence of its history. It is the individual’s language and history, regardless of his own preferences, that determine his national identity.  Echoing the German romantics’ definition of what constitutes a ‘German,’ Husri would contend that people who speak Arabic as their mother tongue are Arabs, the very people who recognize the common thread of their long and distinguished history. The Arab nation is therefore predetermined and eternal. In this understanding of nationalism, there is no place for the will of the people, as the great Renan would emphasise – it is per-determined.[3]

On the attributes of the history, Husri writes:

“Nationalist feeling depends on historical memories more than anything else. … History-related ideas and data play an important role in the life of nations and have a great impact on the direction of historical events. … We do not exaggerate when we say that generally the movements for resurrection and struggle for independence and unity begin only by recalling the past and searching for revelation from history. … Love for independence is nourished by memories of the lost independence; the longing for power and glory begins with a lament for the lost power and diminished glory; faith in the future of the nation derives its strength from the belief in the brilliance of the past; and the longing for unification is increased by the renewal of memories of the last unity.”[4]

Husri sums up his theory on Arab nationalism by saying: “Language is the soul and the life of the nation; history is its memory and its cognizance.”[5] He does not allow, though, for religion to come into his definition of Arab nationalism: he emphasises that his nationalism is secular, and Islam does not constitute a fundamental element of it. Husri tells us that Arab and Islamic history are not co-terminus; that Arabs had existed long before the advent of Islam.[6] He was hopeful of enticing Christians in what is called the “Arab world” to join the folds of Arab nationalism. Somehow he argues that “‘Arab’ Christians are as proud of their Arab heritage as their Muslim brothers.”[7]

Husri proves that advocates of Arab nationalism knew nothing about the feelings of Christians in the Arab world. He might have been misled by the writings of some of the Syrian and Lebanese Christians, such as Michel Aflaq (1910 – 1989), Antun Sa’adeh (1904 – 1949), and Constantine Zuraiq (1909 – 2000), who saw in Arab nationalism a scape from the oppression of Pan-Islamism and the grasp of the Ottoman Empire that relied on the nexus of Islam to base its claim on the governance of Arab countries.

But what about the Copts, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East?  Husri does not talk about the Copts, a strange matter considering his stay in Cairo for 18 years. Most probably he saw that the Copts did not buy his promotion of Arab nationalism: the Copts spoke Arabic not because it was their mother tongue, but a tongue imposed on them by the Arab occupation of Egypt; further, the Copts could not subscribe to Arab nationalism on the basis of history, with Islam as a component or without it. In fact, Arab and Islamic history is diametrically different from Coptic history; and Coptic history cannot be understood without the oppression that Arabs and Muslims brought on the Copts. The Copts cannot feel any pride in Arab history; and they can be excused if they hated it. The Copts are simply not Arabs, and their roots go back to Ancient Egypt and not to Arabia. The Copts reject Arab nationalism as defined by Husri.

But, the outsider may think Husri is actually a very generous nationalist, that his Arab nationalism, as he presented it, is tolerant since it allows Christians in; but, is it? The Copts, as many other Christian minorities in the Middle East, do not subscribe to Arab nationalism, as they have their own nationalism of which they are proud of. Does Husri allow such nationalism within Arab countries? The answer is no. He writes:

“Every Arab-speaking people is an Arab people. Every individual belonging to one of these Arabic-speaking peoples is an Arab. And if he does not recognize this, and if he is not proud of his Arabism, then we must look for the reasons that have made him take this stand. It may be an expression of ignorance; in that case we must teach him the truth. It may spring from an indifference or false consciousness; in that case we must enlighten him and lead him to the right path. It may result from extreme egoism; in that case we must limit his egoism. But under no circumstances, should we say: ‘As long as he does not wish to be an Arab, and as long as he is disdainful of his Arabness, then he is not an Arab.’ He is an Arab regardless of his own wishes. Whether ignorant, indifferent, undutiful, or disloyal, he is an Arab, but an Arab without consciousness or feeling, and perhaps even without conscience.[8]

In fact, Arab nationalism, as defined by Husri, and taken by the Nasserists and Ba’athists, is a very oppressive and tyrannical type of nationalism – it does not allow any other nationalism within Arab-dominated countries except Arab nationalism. Those, like the Copts who speak Arabic must be forced to accept Arabic nationalism: no Copt has the free will to choose or reject Arab nationalism – it’s predetermined. And one must understand that our nationalism is determined not exactly by language and history but by Arab despotism.

And this is not a theoretical matter. The Nasser’s regime applied it in practice: Copts were not allowed to propagate the feelings of Coptic nationalism; and while in the pre-1952 Copts wrote and expressed themselves as a Coptic nation, we see in the post-1952 no such thing. That was because Nasser and his Arab nationalists were not tolerant of any nationalism other than Arab nationalism, which they imposed on Arabs and non-Arabs. There can be nothing more suffocating that Arab nationalism.


[1] Adeed Dawisha, Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair (Princeton and Oxford, 2003); p. 49.

[2] Ibid; p. 50.

[3] Ibid; p. 72.

[4] Ibid; p. 67.

[5] Ibid; p. 68.

[6] Ibid; p. 70.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid; p. 72.


November 30, 2016

squatting-clarkThe sculpture of the Seated Scribe or Squatting Scribe; 4th Dynasty, 2620 – 2500 BC (the Louvre Museum in Paris)

The Copts must start cutting off all connection with Arab/Muslim culture by shaving their facial hair. This can be a good beginning. Yes, Copts must be clean shaven. I advocate this even if they are priests unless they are monks – and this should be optional.

I cannot understand the culture that puts in the mind of people that a mustache or a beard is a sign of manhood. This culture is foreign to us; and we must resist it.

The Pharaohs, our ancestors, were clean shaven – and so we must. In Ancient Egyptian art, an Egyptian is differentiated from a Libyan or Asian by the absence of facial hair.

I understand individual choice but for the phenomenon to be widely spread, one must come to the conclusion that it’s based on culture. You and I may have tried to grow a beard or mustache in the past without understanding the cultural significance of it – now you know! Shave!



October 31, 2016


The Coptic thinker, Salama Moussa

Salama Moussa (1887 – 1958) was a great Coptic thinker. During his childhood and early youth, in the town of Zagazig where he was born, he was, like almost other Copts, close to the Church, being brought up in a traditional Coptic family. When he went to France and England, he fell under the influence of Marxism, and took Darwinism as his ‘religion’; and, gradually, he became estranged from Christianity and his Coptic roots took a marginal place in his thinking. As Egypt mounted its 1919 revolution against the British rule under the leadership of Saad Zaghlul, Copts were hopeful of a new Egypt where Muslims and Copts are treated equally. This dream was not to survive the 1930s and 1940s as Islam became a strong factor in Egyptian politics and society; and anti-Coptic rhetoric pervaded society and attacks on Copts multiplied. And, like many Copts, Moussa despaired as he saw Egyptian Muslims increasingly prefer Islamism over ‘Egyptianity’, and the citizenship bond weakened.

Particularly from the 1940, Moussa started returning to his Coptic roots; and he found in ‘Coptism’ a real connection to Egypt’s true values and history. From now on, we see Moussa engaged with his Coptic brethren and working with them to improve the situation of the Copts without his previous ideologies restricting him.

I dare to say that Moussa, being disheartened by the betrayal he saw from the Muslims, became a Coptic nationalist, seeing the Copts as a unique nation within a multinational Egypt – Egypt proved to be not a one-nation. Here is a good example of evidence: an article in Masr paper, dated 7 January 1948:

“We, the Copts, are distinguished by a nationality; have a different physiognomy, and we are unique in having a morality that distinguishes us all wherever we are, so much so that it is easy to say about one of us when seen for the first time, ‘This is a Copt in whom is no guile.’ And we have a religion that penetrated into the marrow of our bones, and changed our human nature into the Christian one – a religion that has taught us traditions, and directed our morals in a way that made the dealings of a Coptic man with his wife and a Coptic woman with her son based on the values of kindness, tenderness and generosity; something which makes the Coptic family a strong unit, with a model structure and behaviour.”


October 9, 2016

ON THIS DAY, 9 10 2011, 27 of our people went out to the Maspero state broadcasting building on the Nile Corniche in central Cairo in order to protest the increasing attacks on the Coptic churches by some of Egypt Muslims. That was following the Egyptian Revolution of 25th January that overthrew Mubarak, and the army, represented in its superior command, took over power for a transitory period.

What happened as the Copts were peacefully protesting and demanding protection from the state and religious freedom shook the nation: the Egyptian Army shot at the Copts and ran them over by their heavy military vehicles, and 27 Copts were massacred on the Corniche just outside Hilton Ramsey. 

While the Copts were being massacred, the state television, broadcasting from its Maspero building, kept agitating Muslims to attack Copts, as it claimed the non-armed and peacefully protesting Copts were attacking the Egyptian Army! The result was that Muslims across Cairo and allover Egypt started attacking Copts, and Copts everywhere hid themselves. 

Until now, the Egyptian Army has not acknowledged it’s responsibility of the massacre or apologised; neither has the official media; and the Egyptian Muslim journalist, Rasha Magdi, who incited the wide-spread violence against the Copts, has not been brought to justice.

Coptic Nationalism demands that all responsible be brought to justice. 


October 4, 2016

The Coptic Museum in Old Cairo which founded by Marcus Simaika in the early part of the 20th century, and is house to many Coptic artifacts and works of art, that help to preserve Coptic history and identity, has its name written on its front gate in Arabic and English only, as the picture shows. I say, shame! That must be rectified: the name should be written in Coptic first, then Arabic, and, third, English.


September 28, 2016

In the two previous articles, I spoke about the two opposing views on the matter of ethnic relationship between the Copts and Muslims of Egypt, and then on the study by Henn et al which showed for the first time the genetic structure of the Muslims of Egypt and compared it with those of neighbouring populations to show the effect of “back-to-Africa” gene flow, Arab migration and sub-Saharan slave trade in their blood.

Today, I publish here a quest article by Zack Shenouda on the important 2015 study by Dobon et al, which found that the Coptic genetic structure of the Copts is distinguishable from that of Egyptian Muslims.

Here is his article:

Dobon et al study was published in 2015. This study primarily analyzed 6 ethnic groups in Sudan. These include Copts, Beja, Ethiopians, Arabs, Nubians, and Darfurians. For clarity, the study also mentions that the Coptic population in Sudan, is the product of recent migration from Egypt. A previous 2008 study H.Y. Hassan et al, further corroborates Dobon’s point, by stating that the highly effective population size of the Coptic population in Sudan is the product of recent migrations from Egypt.  Basically, the authors in both these studies, make it a point to clarify that the origin of this Coptic population, is from Egypt.  The author in the 2015 study also makes this clear by demonstrating that Copts cluster closely together and they cluster in a way that remains differentiated from all other Sudanese groups in this study.





Dobon et al study compared this Coptic population to the Egyptian non-Coptic population.

This study used the external data from the Henn et al study, which provided information on the genomic data for Egyptian Muslims.


Dobon makes a comparative analysis between the Coptic sample and the non-Coptic Egyptian population(Egyptian Muslims). This non-Coptic Egyptian population is referenced as Egypt in his study. The study conducts this comparative analysis by using ADMIXTURE.  Below were the ADMIXTURE results:




The ancestral components were labeled by five colors. These include North African/Middle Eastern (dark blue), Sub-Saharan (light blue), Coptic (dark green), Nilo-Saharan (light green) and Fulani (pink). As the analysis proceeds from K=2 to K=5, more details gradually emerge.


The study indicates that Copts show their own component and this is demonstrated at the K=4. The study claims that Copts specifically lack influence from Qatar, which is present in the Egyptian population. The author in this study believes that this discovery suggests, “Copts have a genetic composition that could resemble the ancestral Egyptian population, without the present strong Arab influence.”


Below are the components for Copts, Egypt (Egyptian Muslim), and Qatar at K=4.

s4                                                                               Qatar                         Egypt                      Copts


While all three of these components still demonstrate the North Africa/Middle-Eastern ancestral component (dark blue) at K=4, we also we begin to notice sharp differences, with Copts demonstrating significantly more of the Coptic component (dark green) than both Qatari & the non-Coptic Egyptian population. We also notice that the Egyptian Muslim and the Qatari population demonstrate some Sub-Saharan Africa component (light blue). On the other hand, Copts don’t demonstrate any Sub-Saharan African component.   It’s telling that when the analysis gets more detailed at K=4, we begin to see that the Egyptian non-Coptic population shows more similarities with the Qatar population, than with the Coptic population.


Why is this important? It’s been repeated in the past, that Copts and Egyptian Muslim are genetically indistinguishable. These claims were based on old studies, which have not explored genetics in the adequate amount exploration and detail required. Sameness claims are easy to make because they don’t require much exploration. For example in 2002, one study found that humans in general were 99.9% genetically identical [See here].


Sameness claims deceptive by omission. The level of detail is simply less, which yields a sameness conclusion.  Sameness is claimed due to the incapability of finding the difference and missing the difference [See here].


It is now clear that as technology advances, we being to have the opportunity to explore the genome in a deeper manner and identify the genetic differences between Copts and Egyptian Muslims. Dobon’s study was one of the first to demonstrate just that and we can expect more to come in the future.


We still don’t have all the answers, but what we do know is Copts and Egyptian Muslims are genetically distinguishable.  To deny this difference is to deny data. And for one group to demonstrate more of a component than the other is one way to demonstrate this difference. In other words, even if all groups have the same components, the frequencies of these components are what yield difference.


Copts and Egyptian Muslims are genetically distinguishable.








September 27, 2016

In Part 1, we discussed the opposing claims on the matter of the ethnicity of the Copts and Muslims of Egypt, we showed that they were based mainly on political, historical and anthropometric considerations, and we said that only recently have genetics really entered as a tool to decide the debate. Here, in this part, we review an important study that gave us the genetic structure of Muslim Egyptians based on their single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – a study that formed a good basis for further studies. The study was published in 2012 in PLOS Genetics, and authored by Henn et al, Genomic Ancestry of North Africans Supports Back-to-Africa Migrations.[1] The authors introduced their study by telling us that, prior to their study, little is known about the genetic make-up of Mediterranean North Africa, a huge area inhabited by over 160 million people. They, hence, set themselves up to analyse the genetic structure of seven North African populations, spanning from Egypt to Morocco: Egyptian, Libyan, Tunisian, Algerian, North Moroccan, South Moroccan and Sahrawi (from Western Sahara).[2] The study was designed for more than just determining the genetic structure of these populations: it analysed also the genetic influence of migrants from neighbouring countries in the genomes of these populations. The authors, therefore, included in their study nine populations from Africa, Asia and Europe for comparison: 6 populations from sub-Saharan Africa (4 populations from western Africans [from Nigeria: Yoruba, Hausa, Bulala and Fulani], and 2 populations from eastern Africa [from Kenya: Luhya and Maasai], 2 populations from Europe (Spanish Basque and Italian Tuscans), and one population from Asia (Near East [Qatari]).[3] This was done to test three proposed migrations into North Africa from neighbouring regions:

  1. A migration (what is called “back-to-Africa gene flow”) from Eurasia in the Palaeolithic Era – an era also called Old Stone Age,[4] and lies in prehistory, from about 2.6 million years ago to around 10,000 BC (exactly 10,300 BC).
  2. An Arabic migration across the whole of North Africa 1,400 years ago (i.e., since the Arab invasion of the area in the seventh century).
  3. A trans-Saharan transport of slaves from sub-Saharan Africa.

The authors analysed ~730,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from across the human genome of the seven North African populations. And, by using ADMIXTURE, a computational unsupervised clustering algorithm for estimation of ancestry, [5] they analysed the common autosomal SNP loci of the 16 populations [based on approximately 300 K autosomal SNP loci in common]. They were able to describe the effect of the hypothesised migrations from the Near East, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa into North Africa; and so they identified:

  1. A gradient of likely autochthonous (indigenous, native) ancestry that decreases from west to east across northern Africa: high in the Sahrawi population and less in the Egyptian population) . The indigenous North African ancestry (which the authors call “Maghrebi ancestry”) is more frequent in populations with historical Berber ethnicity. And they concluded that this ancestry was likely derived from “back-to-Africa” gene flow more than 12,000 years ago.[6]
  2. A gradient of Near Eastern Arabic ancestry that decreases from east to west: high in the Egyptian population and less in the Sahrawi population. The study showed a substantial shared ancestry with the Near East.
  3. Significant signatures of sub-Saharan African ancestry in the seven Northern African populations that vary substantially among them. These sub-Saharan ancestries appear to be recent introduction into North African populations; and they vary in time, source and destination, possibly reflecting the patterns of the trans-Saharan slave trade:
    1. There is genetic evidence of western African migration into southern Morocco that began about 1,200 years ago.
    2. In Egypt, the evidence points to a migration of individuals with Nilotic ancestry into Egypt that occurred about 750 years ago (which corresponds to the beginning of the Bahri Mamelukes).

The following figure [A] shows, i. a map with the locations of the 7 North African populations and the 9 neighbouring populations in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Near East; ii. the population structure analysis of the 7 North African populations (with the Qatari also shown), and the two distinct, opposite gradients of ancestry [as shown at k=8]: the indigenous Maghrebi ancestry decreasing in proportion from west to east (indicated by the light blue colour) and the Arab ancestry from the Near East (Qatar) decreasing in proportion from east to west (indicated by the green colour).  The other colours in the population structure analysis match those colours of the populations in the open circles in the map.


Figure B shows the population structure analysis (at k=2, 4, 6 and 8) of the 16 populations:[7]


The genetic structure of the Egyptian Muslims with their ancestry composition is represented below (k=6) is shown below in a magnified form (each bar represents an individual in the sample population):


We see that the Muslim Egyptians have indigenous Maghrebi component, which resulted from an ancient “back-to-Africa” gene flow a long time ago (shown here in light blue colour), a stronger Arab (Qatari) component in a larger proportion that resulted from gene flow since the Arab invasion of Egypt in the 7th century (shown here in green colour), a significant genetic signature from east Africa (Maasai and Luhya from Kenya) that was introduced in the late 13th century, as result of the slave trade that started heavily in the late 13th century (shown in orange and red).

This is the first time that genome-wide SNP genotyping array data for Egyptians has been analysed to study the genetic make-up of Egyptians and identify their ancestry components. The Copts were not included in the Henn et al’s study but at least we have now the genetic structure of the Egyptian Muslims, and, as we can see in the next article, others analysed the genetic structure of some Copts and, using the data for the Egyptian Muslims obtained from Hen et al, were able to compare the genetic composition of the Copts v. Egyptian Muslims, with very interesting result.

We shall study that in the next part.







[1] Henn BM , Botigué LR , Gravel S , Wang W , Brisbin A , et al. Genomic Ancestry of North Africans Supports Back-to-Africa Migrations. PLoS Genet. 8(1): e1002397 (2012).

[2] The study included 152 individuals representing the seven different North African populations. After quality control filtering, 125 individuals remained, with 19 from Egypt, 17 from Libya, 18 from Tunisia, 19 from Algeria, 18 from North Morocco, 16 from South Morocco and 18 from Western Sahara.

[3] Apart from the Spanish population, the genome-wide SNP genotyping array data were available from previous studied. The authors had to analyse that of the Spanish population (Basque Country) together with the seven North African populations as no prior study analysed its genetic structure.

[4] The Palaeolithic Era (Old Stone Age) was followed by the Neolithic Era (New Stone Age), which began around 10,000 BC and ended in Egypt in 3,000 BC, when the Egyptians discovered writing, and history began. Both the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods are part of Pre-history, and both comprise the Stone Age. In the Palaeolithic period that lasted for over 1 ½ million, the Earth was inhabited by many human species, who were nomadic hunter-gatherers; in the Neolithic period, only Homo sapiens sapiens remained, who were largely settled and survived on growing crops and animals that they were able to domesticate.

[5] It estimates of ancestry in unrelated individuals. For more on ADMIXTURE, read: Alexander et al (2009), Fast model-based estimation of ancestry in unrelated individuals. Genome Res 19: 1655.

[6] That is in the Upper Palaeolithic Era (the Upper part of the Palaeolithic Era is the period extending from 126,000 to 11,700 years ago).

[7] The authors successfully analysed nine ancestral clusters (k=2 through 10) of the 16 populations.

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