In the previous article, I talked about the Egyptian Muslims’ opinion on the position of women in society, which was revealed by the Pew Research Center which was conducted in Egypt in 2011/2012 and published in 2014. The result was depressing: most Egyptian Muslims hold no much respect for women, and do not believe they should be treated equal to men.
The study which included 1798 Muslims included both men and women. And the results that I included in the previous article are representative of both women and men. Reading these results without separating views according to sex may be misleading. One would expect women to be keener about women’s rights than men. Is that right for Egypt’s Muslims’ women?
I will rely on the same Pew survey and on the UNESCO’s report on female genital mutilation to assess the position of Muslim women in Egypt on women rights.
FIRST: THE PEW SURVEY “THE WORLD’S MUSLIMS: RELIGION, POLITICS AND SOCIETY” (2014)
As mentioned in the previous article, the survey asked four questions: Must a wife always obey her husband? Should a wife have the right to divorce her husband? Should women decide for themselves if they wear a veil in public or should it be imposed on them? And should sons and daughters have equal inheritance rights? The questions were asked to both men and women. The survey managed to classify the answers by gender in two questions (the veil question and the equal inheritance one); and studying the gender differences in these question is of paramount importance to tell us about the position of the Muslim women on these issues that are strongly related to al woman’s freedom to choose for herself (the veil question) and to equality between men and women (the inheritance question).
Let’s study the answers:
- Should women decide for themselves if they wear a veil in public or should it be imposed on them? Only 46% of Egyptian Muslims said a woman should be free to decide whether she wear a veil in public or not: the majority (54%) do not think women should have that freedom. The graph shows the answers given by Muslims in 39 countries, including Egypt.
Now, let’s study the following table that divides opinion according to gender:
Although the difference between Muslim women and Muslim men is statistically significant (+15%), only 54% of women said that veiling in public should be left for women themselves to decide whether to wear or not. It’s worrying that 46% of Muslim women believe that the veil should be imposed on them by others. Egypt’s Muslim women forfeit their freedom to choose whether to wear or not wear a veil in public.
- Should sons and daughters have equal inheritance rights? Only 26% of Egyptian Muslims answer positively. 74% do not think daughters should be given equal share to boys.
The graph shows that only 26% of Egyptian Muslims (men and women) believe that a daughter should inherit on equal basis to a son. This is very bad result. But do Muslim women score higher on this issue? Is there any indication that they are more for equality between women and men on this issue at least? Here is the table that shows the gender difference:
The result is shocking: the difference between Muslim women’s opinion on this and Muslim men’s opinion is not significant (only a +4% difference): more shocking is that only 28% of Egypt’s Muslim women thought a daughter should inherit equal to a son; and 72% said a girl should not inherit of her father the same share like her brother. Here, Egypt’s Muslim women forfeit their right for equality in inheritance.
SECOND: THE UNESCO REPORT ON FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM) (2013)
The UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) published in July 2013 its Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, and found that the prevalence of FGM in Egypt was 91% in women between 15 and 49 years. Egypt had one of the highest prevalence of FGM in all 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM was concentrated. It was also the country with the most girls and women with FGM (27.2 million at least). You can read my study on this by visiting here.
What do Egyptian women think of FGM? And how many of them support FGM, and do they differ significantly from men in that? One would expect women who are the victims of this barbaric procedure that harms them enormously to be overwhelmingly against it. But, is it? Look at the following table that shows the comparative support for FGM in the age group 15-49 years, who have heard of the procedure, between boys/men and girls/women:
|FGM should continue||57%||54%|
|FGM should stop||26%||35%|
You can immediately see the depressing figures: there is no real big difference between men and women on their support for FGM: more men tend to support it, but the majority of women in Egypt (54%) do too. Only 35% of women in Egypt want the barbaric procedure to stop. On this support/no support for FGM issue, Egypt joins Gambia, Somalia, Sierra Leon, Guinea and Mali.
FGM of course is also prevalent within the Copts, and I have explained in previous articles 1 and 2 how that was introduced into Coptic society in the Middle Ages of Egypt as a matter of societal pressure from the Muslims, whereas in the Muslim society the procedure relies mainly on the Traditions of Muhammad and the religious teachings of the two prevalent mazhabs of fiqh in Egypt: Shafi’ism and Malikism. Within the Copts, there is no religious element to this shameful procedure. While 92% of Muslim women 15-49 years had FGM, 74% of Coptic women of the same age group had it. The future is brighter for the Copts, though. The support for FGM in the age group 15-49 years in boy/men and girls/women who have heard of the procedure is much, much less. Here are the figures for the Copts:
|FGM should continue||20%||22%|
The Egyptian Muslim women, who experience discrimination and oppression, pose us with some difficult questions. As I said, one would expect them to be overwhelmingly against any restrictions on their freedoms and equality with Muslim men. The sad reality is that they are not. Only a minority of Egyptian Muslim women aspire for a freer and equal society that treats men and women alike. These are the ones that continue the great women liberation movement in Egypt that started in the beginning of twentieth century. The majority of Egypt’s Muslim women are resigned to their lot, and accept their inferior position within society, influence in that by Islam.
This is sad on two fronts: first, it is sad as it means Egypt’s Muslim women will continue to be deprived of the type of freedom and equality their men enjoy; second, it is sad because, as I repeatedly said, women’s rights in Egypt are intertwined with that of the Copts: a progress in women’s rights in Egypt means a progress of Coptic rights – and vice versa.
How can one explain the position of Muslim women in Egypt on their rights? The example of the slave, who is reduced by his slavery to a wretched condition in which he loses the confidence in himself and his own worth and entitlement to the same dignity and rights as his master’s, comes to mind. Alternatively, it is the toxic effect of religion that makes a woman accepts her inferior position in society without questioning.
If our rights as Copts and liberal Muslims are to be advanced – nay if Egypt is to progress and become a modern country for all – women’s rights must be respected. But, for the time being, it seems that the worst enemy (or second worst at least) of women’s rights are Muslim women themselves.
In a previous article, I assessed how much Egypt’s Muslims could be classified as extremists. That was based on the Pew survey by the Pew Research Center which was conducted in Egypt in 2011/2012 and published in 2014. The assessment showed that most Egyptian Muslims were extremist in their political and social views and in what they want for Egypt and the Copts (and other faiths).
For a long time I have been pointing to the strong relationship between Egypt’s women rights (regardless of religion) and the rights of the Copts. It is my belief that when Coptic rights progress, women rights follow suit; and on the other hand, when the Copts are oppressed, Egyptian women are oppressed too. The reason for that is clear: Coptic and women rights in Egypt are a function of Islam and Western liberal values in society: the stronger Islam becomes as a political force in society and state (and the weaker liberal values), the lower Coptic and women rights plummet; and the weaker Islam becomes as a political force in society and state (and the stronger liberal values), the higher Coptic and women rights rise to.
Because of the above, I studied also the results of the Pew survey on the position of women in society (Chapter 4). The survey asked four questions:
- Must a wife always obey her husband? (the keyword is ‘always’)
- Should a wife have the right to divorce her husband?
- Should women decide for themselves if they wear a veil in public or should it be imposed on them?
- Should sons and daughters have equal inheritance rights?
The questions are pertinent to Islam. I guess the surveyors wanted to assess the strength of Islamic principles on these issues. For example, according to Quran (4:11), daughters should receive half share of inheritance for every one share given to a son; and all main Islamic schools of jurisprudence (mazahib fiqhia), including the two prominent schools of fiqh in Egypt (Shafi’ism and Malikism) require all women to veil.
Here are the results of Egypt’s Muslims (the study surveyed both men and women) opinion on the position of women in society:
- MUST A WIFE ALWAYS OBEY HER HUSBAND? 85% answered yes.
2. SHOULD A WIFE HAVE THE RIGHT TO DIVORCE HER HUSBAND? 22% only said yes. This is lower than 19 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa: Egypt ties with Jordan, and only Iraq and Malaysia score lower.
3. SHOULD WOMEN DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES IF THEY WEAR A VEIL IN PUBLIC OR SHOULD IT BE IMPOSED ON THEM? Only 46% said a woman should be free to decide whether she wear a veil in public or not: the majority (54%) do not think women should have that freedom.
4. SHOULD SONS AND DAUGHTERS HAVE EQUAL INHERITANCE RIGHTS? Only 26% of Egyptian Muslims answer positively. 74% do not think daughters should be given equal share to boys.
In all questions Egyptian Muslims show there are extremely conservative. Their views are shaped by Sharia and not by modern values that guarantee equal rights to both men and women. In Sharia women are not treated equally: they must obey their husbands always, and if they disobey their husbands in anything, they are beaten, abandoned and the “angels” curse them. Further, in Sharia women do not have the right to divorce their husbands except in very restricted circumstances, which are termed Khol’a, a matter introduced to Egypt only recently and is obtained only with extreme difficulty. In contrast, a man can marry four wives, and can divorce them just by uttering the word “divorce” and throwing it at a wife. Furthermore, in Sharia all women must veil. And last, women inherit only half of their male sibling’s share.
Egyptian Muslim society reflects these unfair attitudes towards women. The survey looked at the effect of Sharia on the answers, and it found that differences between those who want Sharia to be the official law and those who do not are most pronounced when it comes to the role of wives and the position of women. In all four questions above, those who wanted Sharia scored worse than those who didn’t want Sharia to be the law of the land.
We have seen in the previous study the appalling views on Egypt’s Muslims on the Copts; now we see them on women. The fate of the women of Egypt in society and state and that of the Copts in Egypt are entwined.
 Egypt was not included in this study, but the effect of Sharia was tested in 10 countries with all confirming what I have written in the main text.
On April30, 2013, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, of the Pew Research Center, published its unprecedented report: The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. It is based on public opinion surveys conducted between 2008 and 2012 in a total of 39 countries and territories on three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.
Map showing the 39 countries surveyed
The face to face survey included Egypt, where, from 14 November 2011 to 18 December 2012, 1798 Muslims, aged 18 years and above, of both men and women. The sample, which was designed to include 24 of 29 governorates proportional to population size and urban/rural population (the five frontier provinces, containing 2% of the overall population, were excluded), is nationally representative of 98% of the adult population. The survey’s margin of error is +/-3.7 points. The views of the adult Muslims of Egypt revealed by the huge survey, which reflect their opinion on religion, politics, morality, women, and Copts, are very important. It gives us an insight in what they really believe, and can be used by the Copts and outside world to assess extremism in the Muslims of Egypt.
I will not cover all aspects of the survey [for the full report, go here]but will focus on the questions that tell us about the political views of the Muslims of Egypt that are based on religion that affects the lives of the Copts in Egypt and their civil and political rights.
1. % OF MUSLIM EGYPTIANS BELIEVE SHARIA IS THE REVEALED WORD OF GOD; 20% BELIEVE IT IS DEVELOPED BY MEN, BASED ON WORD OF GOD
2. 74% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS FAVOUR MAKING SHARIA THE LAW IN EGYPT
3. 74% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT SAY IT SHOULD BE APPLIED TO BOTH MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS; ONLY 25% SAY IT SHOULD APPLY TO MUSLIMS ONLY
4. 95% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT SAY RELIGIOUS JUDGES SHOULD DECIDE DOMESTIC (FAMILY MATTERS, SUCH AS MARRIAGE, DIVORCE AND INHERITANCE) AND PROPERTY DISPUTES
5. 70% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT FAVOUR CORPORAL PUNISHMENT (HUDUD) FOR CRIMES SUCH AS THEFT (CUTTING OFF HANDS OF THIEF, e.g.)
6. 81% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT FAVOUR STONING AS A PUNISHMENT FOR ADULTERY
7. 86% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT FAVOUR DEATH PENALTY FOR LEAVING ISLAM
8. 56% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY EGYPT’S LAWS DO NOT FOLLOW SHARIA; 39% SAY THEY FOLLOW IT VERY OR SOMEWHAT CLOSELY; 6% DON’T KNOW
9. 69% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAY EGYPT’S LAWS DO NOT FOLLOW SHARIA SAY THIS IS BAD; 25% SAY IT’S GOOD; 8% DON’T KNOW
10. 55% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY ISLAMIC POLITICAL PARTIES ARE BETTER THAN OTHER PARTIES; 36% SAY THEY ARE SAME; 7% SAY THEY ARE WORSE
11. 75% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY RELIGIOUS LEADERS SHOULD HAVE POLITICAL INFLUENCE: 28% SAY LARGE INFLUENCE; 47% SAY SOME INFLUENCE
12. 29% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY SUICIDE BOMBING AGAINST CIVILIANS IN DEFENCE OF ISLAM IF JUSTIFIED (OFTEN, OR SOMETIMES)
13. 96% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY THAT ISLAM ALONE LEAD TO HEAVEN; 3% SAYS MANY RELIGIONS DO
14. 88% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY CONVERTING OTHERS TO ISLAM IS A RELIGIOUS DUTY
15. ONLY 28% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY RELIGIOUS CONFLICT IS A VERY BIG PROBLEM IN EGYPT
16. 50% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY MOST/MANY CHRISTIANS ARE HOSTILE TOWARD MUSLIMS; ONLY 35% OF THEM SAY MUSLIMS ARE HOSTILE TO CHRISTIANS
17. ONLY 22% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY THEY KNOW A GREAT DEAL/SOME ABOUT CHRISTIAN BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
18. 56% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY ARE VERY DIFFERENT; ONLY 30% SAY THEY HAVE A LOT IN COMMON
19. 42% OF THOSE EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAY ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY HAVE A LOT IN COMMON SAY THEIR KNOWLEDGE IS BASED ON A GREAT/SOME KNOWLEDGE; 27% ON NOT VERY MUCH/NOTHING KNOWLEDGE
20. 86% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY ALL OR MOST OF THEIR CLOSE FRIENDS ARE MUSLIMS
21. 17% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY THEY WOULD BE VERY/SOMEWHAT COMFORTABLE WITH THEIR SONS MARRYING A CHRISTIAN; 0% WOULD BE COMFORTABLE WITH THEIR DAUGHTERS MARRYING A CHRISTIAN
22. ONLY 4% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS ATTENDED INTERFAITH MEETINGS WITH CHRISTIANS
23. 31% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS ARE FREE TO PRACTICE THEIR FAITH; 46% SAY MUSLIMS ARE FREE TO PRACTICE ISLAM
24. 77% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAY IT IS GOOD THAT OTHERS ARE VERY FREE TO PRACTICE THEIR FAITH SAY THEY SUPPORT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The results of the Pew Research Center survey which was conducted in Egypt in 2011-2012 in the immediate post-25 January 2011 Revolution tells us much about the Muslims of Egypt. One this which it evidently tells us is that it wasn’t a social revolution in any way along liberal lines. Egyptian Muslims remain extreme in their political and social views that are based on religion; and the Copts, together with liberal Muslims and the outside world must realise that. Before I proceed, I would like to define what I mean by the word “extreme”: by it I mean they take Islam as a political ideology that should regulate all aspects of lives, not just for themselves but for the Copts and other faiths in Egypt.
The vast majority of Egyptian Muslims, who are almost all Sunni, (95%) believe that Sharia is divine, with 75% believing that it is the revealed word of God, and 20% believing that, although it is developed by men, it is based on the word of God. The majority (75%) of all Egyptian Muslims want Sharia to be the law of the land (only 26% don’t want that or don’t have an opinion on it).
Of the three-quarters of the Muslims in Egypt who want Sharia implemented in Egypt, the overwhelming majority want hudud (religiously prescribed punishments): 86% want those who abandon Islam be executed; 81% want adulterers stoned to death; and 70% want the limbs of those who steal or rob cut off. And 95% want religious judges decide on all family matters (like marriage, divorce and inheritance) and property cases.
What is more serious is that the majority (74%) of these Muslims in Egypt who want Sharia be implemented in Egypt, want it applied not just for themselves but for Copts (and other faiths) as well. Only 25% of them think Sharia should be applied to Muslims only. Of the 22 countries in Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Southern-Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa, surveyed about this question, Egypt is the worst in this: the figures of Muslims who want Sharia implemented in, e.g. Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who want Sharia applied to Muslims and Christians (and other faiths) are 43%, 39% and 34% respectively.
56% of all Egyptian Muslims think that the laws in Egypt do not follow Sharia, and 69% believe this is not good. They want Sharia implemented to replace Egyptian laws. This makes 46% only of all Egyptian Muslims believe they are free to practice Islam in Egypt. Clearly, the majority think that they are not given the freedom to practice their religion.
31% of Muslim Egyptians think that non-Muslims are free in Egypt to practice religion; and 77% say it is good that they are doing that. This raises some questions, e.g., do they think the Copts, for instance, should be free to practice their religion? The answer cannot be made without mentioning the typical duplicity that one finds in Muslim society: while they restrict the freedoms of non-Muslims, Muslims often boast that Islam grants non-Muslims the freedom to practice their religion. The concept of religious freedom in the Muslim mind is so restricted: as long as non-Muslims are allowed to survive in a Muslim society, after being subjugated to Islamic rule, and allowed to keep their religion to themselves, it’s religious freedom. This is the basics of Muslim “tolerance”. Let’s capture the meaning of religious freedom in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching” (Article 18). We have seen in the survey evidence that most Egyptian Muslims would like to apply Sharia to the Copts too, and that they would like Muslim converts to Christianity executed. This is hardly religious freedom. The Pew Research Center could have got us meaningful results on this issue had they explored the question of religious freedom more: e.g. do Muslims in Egypt support the building and repairing of churches on equal basis to mosques, or at least without the traditional restrictions imposed on them by Sharia? Do they allow Copts to preach, evangelise and proselytise freely? Do they disagree to discrimination against the Copts which is based on religion?
If these questions are asked, the survey would undoubtedly reveal the prejudice of the majority of the Muslims of Egypt against the Copts, and will tell us that, in fact, the quoted 77% of Muslims in the survey who say it is good that the Copts (and other faiths) are free to practice their religion. And if one touches on the faiths other than Christianity, such as Shi’ism (even this branch of Islam), Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Baha’ism, fair even worse than Christianity.
The fact is that Egypt is one of the countries in which religion is greatly restricted. Copts get it from both sides: government restrictions (such as discrimination in jobs and restrictions on church building) and hostilities from the Muslim society. The following graph, published by Pew Research Center in 2014, explains it better:
With the duplicity of the Muslims of Egypt, it is not surprising that only 25% of them see the religious conflict in Egypt, which is generated by them against the Copts, as not a big problem. But the most revealing statistics is the following: 35% of them see that most/many Muslims hostile to the Christians while 50% see that most/many Christians hostile to the Muslims!
The writer of this article does not in any way paint all Muslims in Egypt by the same brush. There are good Muslims, who suffer with us, but, unfortunately, most are extremists and show in their attitudes no concern for non-Muslims and liberal Muslims. Egypt is deeply Islamically conservative. It has not achieved any liberal progress since 1952 – in fact, as time goes on it gets worse. The notions of citizenship, equality, liberty and human rights in it are seriously damaged by its Islamic tradition and beliefs. We must know this. And on the facts of scientific research, such as this survey, we must build our vision for the future and strategy of work.
THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD ON THE BUILDING OF CHURCHES IN EGYPT: THEY REVEAL THEIR FANATICISM AS THEY THREATEN THE COPTS
On 2 September 2016, the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt published an article in Arabic, “What does the Law of Building Churches mean?” This is in response to the recently approved law on the building of churches in Egypt by the Egyptian Parliament on 30 August 2016. This law does not answer all the Coptic demands on the matter, and many found in it a restricting law rather than a liberating one. Nonetheless, the Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood objected to it. The Salfists, who take their orders from Saudi, we know; the Muslim Brotherhood, however, are still not known very well to the West, and many Western governments still believe they are moderate Islamists.
The Muslim Brotherhood is known of its duplicity – it has two tongues, one to address the Muslims in Egypt, and the other to address the West in their subterfuge. The article – which was written by ‘Amir Shamakh, one of the front leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood – does not appear in the English pages of the organisation. Those who can read Arabic can access it here. For those who can’t, I have translated the article for them quickly before the Muslim Brotherhood does not delete it. The reader will see the ugly fanatic and threatening, almost terrorist, face of the Muslim Brotherhood, and their intentions to the Copts. They will also see what they think of Israel. Western governments may see how this organisation is no way moderate; and hope they will recognise their error in embracing this group that is the womb of all Islamic extremists and terrorist
What does the Law of Building Churches mean?
By ‘Amir Shamakh
The Law of Building Churches that the parliament of the junta has recently approved marks the beginning of sectarian developments that only Allah knows its extent.
From a while and the Nasara (a word of contempt used for Christians) of Egypt feel self-inflated, and raise themselves – and they are a minority that does not exceed 4 million from 90 million – over the Muslims, and aspire to the day in which Egypt will turn Christian – may Allah disappoint them -, and this is dangerous not only on the Muslims but on themselves in the first instance. I always emphasise that the first who will be burnt by the fire of sectarianism are the Nasara; for their existence in the societal fabric [meaning they are scattered amongst Muslims], since they don’t live in enclaves alone, will quicken their eradication, if they sought to execute the plan of the West to partition the country and cause sedition, and take away the rights of the Muslims.
In the beginnings of the 1970s, the previous pope of the Nasara sent a delegation of his priests to defy the Muslims who had refused the building of a church in an illegal way in their area, and as he was dispatching them –they considered themselves in a “jihadi” mission for the Lord – he asked them: “How many are you?” They answered: “160.” He said: “I want only 10% of you to return, and let the rest be martyrs for this building to be erected.” And from that day on, their churches have been established in this way, and the secular military regimes have been encouraging them to do so, and the victims have been the Muslim public. Or they built [the churches] through deceit, as when a Nusrani [singular for Nasara] buys a land from a Muslim to build a construction on it, and as he commence building, the [Muslim] public are surprised by crosses being raised above the construction, and the building converted to a church that no one may enter it.
If you go to al-Ahram circular road, for example, you will be met by five or six churches in that limited area which have been built after the coup, being directly adjacent to the road as if those who built them intended that them to be so visible to make it seem to the passers-by that the area is inhabited by many Copts. This is a myth that the Copts try to export to those who don’t know their conspiracies, and a deceit that correct religions don’t know. There is a big difference between a church built by self-efforts, and with the co-operation of Muslims, and another built by the money of the World Council of Churches – the latter is not used for prayer, but to be a shouting voice for a minority that seeks to appropriate the rights of the Muslim majority.
No one says building places of worship for them should be banned, but, when establishing of these churches and monasteries – which cover an area of thousands of feddans [a unit for land area, roughly 1 acre] – is to change the identity of society and to partition the country, we say no, and a thousand no; and no Muslim will allow the implantation of a Nasrani state in the lands of the Protected [Egypt] on the line of the Jewish State which was implanted in Palestine, and became the propagator of wars and conflict between states, and destroyer of what was civilised.
The danger of this law is that it legalises such actions, which are not related to religion. And if they follow the way of Eisa ibn Mariam [Jesus, son of Mary] – as they claim – they would find their present churches and monasteries sufficient for them – a guy estimated that these churches and monasteries are big enough to accommodate 42 million worshippers. After the enactment of this law there will be no difficulty in building a church each dawn of the morning, particularly as the ones assigned the decision to allow these churches to be built are the governors of the governorates; and these – most are from the army – can be won over easily, either because of their ignorance or their hypocrisy or because they are bought through gifts; and this is a regular thing with the Nasara, for they are people of bribery as the Emir of the Believers Umar [Umar I (634 – 644)], may Allah be pleased with him, has said.
The attainment of licences to build these churches, by the governor’s approval, does not mean that they are going to be built easily, for the [Muslim] inhabitants of the area will almost always protest, which means clashes and sectarian conflict. The military government shall take the blame for these since it submitted to the Nasara and in order to please the West. And this will increase the hate and animosity [of the Muslims towards the Copts] and increase the isolation of the Nasara, and mark them as a group that goes against the Muslims, usurping the rights of the Muslims and ruling over them, defying their beliefs.
If there was a sensible and wise one amongst the leaders of Nasara, let him advise his sectarian followers so that they may take care of what benefits the country first, follow the values of democracy and liberty that they rant about, and pay respect to the Muslim majority. Let them not be happy by what they are doing, for underneath the ashes there are volcanoes of fire, particularly after their leaders had supported the coup, and their backing of those who shed blood [of the Muslim Brotherhood], raped, and imprisoned the pure.
Let the Nasara then calm down, and let them reassure the Muslims and send them messages of reassurance. And these messages must not be verbal but by taking practical positions that make Muslims recognise in them wisdom, sincerity and patriotism.
 The reader can immediately see the contradiction.
A Coptic musician from a fabric from the 6th century
Literature and music are essential requirements for any living society – man does not only live by bread but by literature and music too. That is why all nations have been very keen about promoting and protecting their own literature and music, for these two express the soul of a nation as much as they make it up.
And as in literature, so in music – no one can live in a vacuum of literature or music. A nation that neglects or abandons its literature and music will risk the literature and music of others to encroach on its cultural space and occupy it. The invading literature and music are often those of the nation’s enemy that manages to control its political and cultural life. It was, therefore, extremely credulous and silly of our forefathers of the seventh century who witnessed the Arab invasion of Egypt and stayed passive to think that giving up their political sovereignty will not be followed by surrendering their culture, with its language, literature, music, customs, laws, and even religion.
But what was lost is not lost forever – the flame of cultural resistance which our ancestors had hoped to ward off Arab and Islamic culture still lives. The Copts, resisted politically at certain points of their history, such as during the Bashmurite uprisings in the 8th and 9th centuries, but they constantly and continuous resisted culturally. We lost our language, literature and music but not completely. We can resurrect all these. What are needed are the will and the desire to continue the resistance against Islamic and Arab culture.
We in Coptic Nationalism call upon the Copts not only to revive our language and create new Coptic culture, but to detach themselves from Arabic music and create their own – a music that reflects the Coptic soul and nourishes it; a music in Coptic, for the Copts and by the Copts. And with music, folklore dance always comes: we must develop our own dancing, and our own national dress. It is appalling to see our youth dancing Arab dances, such as belly dancing, on the tunes of a ‘Adawiyya or a Saad al-Sagheer or a Amr Diab.
To those who say, Halim or Kalthoum are universal musical figures and they appeal to all, we say listen to them, as you listen to Sinatra or King, and enjoy them if you will, but that does not negate the fact that their music is not yours – create your own, and help to enrich the world with your own creation.
A last caution: when we talk about Coptic music we don’t mean only religious music, such as the hymns, but all noble music that expresses the religious and the temporal: we must develop our love songs, songs celebrating courage, motherhood, friendship, beauty of nature, mood, and freedom. And we must do that in Coptic.
Copts at home, in happiness or sadness, or when they gather to celebrate, such as in their weddings and parties, should sing in Coptic out of the creation of their own souls – songs of life and hope.
Those who don’t want Copts to sing or dance from a religious point of view, however the song is noble and the dancing decent, ought not to take an opposing stance, for they cannot stop a people from either singing or dancing – and as no nation lives in a musical vacuum, if you don’t develop your own music, upon which you have control, other peoples’ music will creep into your space and force you to sing their songs and dance to their tunes.
This week, we witnessed yet another cowardly attack by the Muslims of Egypt on the peaceful Copts; this time, as often, in Minya Governorate. A Muslim mob attacked the Copts of the little village of Karm, sacked and torched their houses and properties, undressed an elderly Coptic woman in her 70s, and paraded her naked in the streets of the village. This followed a false and unsubstantiated claim that the son of the woman had an affair with a Muslim woman. The Muslim woman, who denied the accusation, had requested divorce from her husband. And, wroth with her for her request, this man accused her of having an affair with the Copt; and he led the attack against the Copts with the Muslims of the village. The police and security forces knew about the intended attack before it had happened as the Copts had warned them of the planned attack a day earlier. They did not take action to protect the Copts of the village; and as the attackers, the following day, ransacked and looted and burned, and attacked the Copts, the “law and order” apparatus in the village stood still to watch.
After the attack, the governor of Minya went to the media, and denied that an attack had happened, or tried to minimize it, even denying that the Coptic elderly woman was humiliated in public. President Sisi, came out to condemn the attack and said that the criminals must be prosecuted. Eight Muslims were arrested but we still have to see the outcome of that. In the past the attackers were often released after a while or passed as “mad”, and, therefore, irresponsible of their actions.
President Sisi must not take the Copts for granted. In 2013, the Copts were prominent in the uprising that called for the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood regime, and supported Sisi in taking over the reins of power in Egypt. The support of the Copts was crucial and still is. But he must not rely on that support for good – Coptic support is not unconditional.
The dynamic relationship between allegiance and protection is rooted in any social contract: no protection of the people, no allegiance. In the Muslim attacks on Copts there are always three levels of responsibility:
- The Muslim attackers, always fired by an Islamic zeal.
- The local “law and order” apparatus, made almost always of Muslims only, often collude with the attackers or stay passive while the attacks are underway.
- The state and the ruling regime, which almost always fail to prosecute the attackers or hold the local authorities responsible for their failure to protect the Copts. And by applying pressure on the Coptic Church, force the Copts to accept “reconciliation” outside the courts and spin the events to make them be seen as sectarian strife between Copts and Muslims, and not attacks by Muslim against Copts.
Here again, we see the three levels of responsibility in demonstration: the Muslims of the village attacked; the police and security forces failed to protect; and the regime tried to calm down the situation by covering up and forcing the Copts to accept reconciliation without holding anyone in authority responsible.
It is about time that Sisi thinks of his position: the Copts supported him in his ascendancy to power, and they know that that gives them power as they proved to be a crucial factor in Egypt’s politics. If Sisi does not deliver by protecting them against the Islamists, the Copts will simply withdraw their support, and his position will be seriously weakened.
And this is the message to President Sisi: protect the Copts or face withdrawal of our support.
Interior of School (Muslim) in Cairo by John Frederick Lewis (1865)
Edward William Lane (1801 – 1876), the British Orientalist was not a friend of the Copts. In fact, he was a notorious anti-Copt, who is responsible for much of the misinformation about the Copts which Europeans got from his book An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, in which he included a chapter about the Copts and another about the Jews in Egypt, but the bulk of the book is about the Muslims. Lane visited Egypt in the years 1825-1828 and 1833-1835, during the reign of Muhammad Ali (1811 – 1848), and wrote his famous book in 1836.
As I said, Lane’s writing about the Copts was inaccurate and prejudiced – he never met Copts to enquire about their customs and manners, and got his information from a hateful man who converted to Islam, and, therefore, had every reason to denigrate the Copts. The reader can read more about that in my article, Edward William Lane and his Responsibility for Demonising the Copts and Misguiding the British about the Copts.
Despite his anti-Coptism, Lane managed to write about some of the practices of the Muslims of Egypt which were directed towards implanting hatred of Copts, and other non-Muslims, in the hearts and minds of the Egyptian from early age. In Chapter 5, Infant and Early Education, Lane describes the education Muslim children got and its purpose:
The parents seldom devote much of their time or attention to the intellectual education of their children; generally contenting themselves with instilling into their young minds a few principles of religion, and then submitting them, if they can afford to do so, to the instruction of a schoolmaster. As early as possible, the child is taught to say, “I testify that there is no deity but God; and I testify that Mohammad is God’s Apostle.” He receives also lessons of religious pride, and learns to hate the Christians, and all other sects but his own, as thoroughly as does the Muslim in advanced age. Most of the children of the higher and middle classes, and some of those of the lower orders, are taught by the schoolmaster to read, and to recite and chant the whole or certain portions of the Koran by memory. They afterwards learn the most common rules of arithmetic.
Again, Lane, in Appendix D, Prayer of Muslim Schoolboys, shows us an example of “hezb” (or prayer), “which the Muslim youths in many of the schools of Cairo recite, before they return to their homes, every day of their attendance, at the period of the “‘asr,” except on Thursday, when they recite it at noon; being allowed to leave the school, on this day, at the early hour of the “duhr,” in consideration of the approach of Friday, their sabbath and holiday.” He observes that this prayer is similar to a portion of the “khutbet en-naat”( خُطْبَة النَّعْت), the sermon which the Muslim Khateebs deliver in all mosques every Friday. The prayer calls for all sorts of misfortunes and catastrophies befalling the non-Muslims. Here is his translation for it:
“I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the accursed. In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. O Allah, aid Islam, and exalt the word of truth, and the faith, by the preservation of thy servant, and the son of thy servant, the Sultan of the two continents, and Khakan of the two seas, the Sultan, son of the Sultan, the Sultan [Mahmud] Khan. O Allah, assist him, and assist his armies, and all the forces of the Muslims: O Lord of the beings of the whole world. O Allah, destroy the infidels and polytheists, thine enemies, the enemies of the religion. O Allah, make their children orphans, and defile their abodes, and cause their feet to slip, and give them and their families and their households and their women and their children and their relations by marriage and their brothers and their friends and their possessions and their race and their wealth and their lands as booty to the Muslims: O Lord of the beings of the whole world.”
The infidels and polytheists include all non-Muslims, native and foreign. That was how Muslim children’s were brought up. But why am I talking about the way home and school education was in the first half of the 19th century when we are now in the 21st century? The reason is that Muslim Egyptian children are still largely brought up within their families to hate Copts – they are almost breastfed this anti-Coptism. Although the hizb described above is not prayed anymore in Egyptian public schools, it still forms part of the khuṭbah (sermon) every Friday in the mosques of Cairo and the rest of the country. Copts and other non-Muslims hear this every Friday; and no one tries to hide it – it is, on the contrary, broadcast from mosques through loud speakers all-over the place. This is coupled by the poisonous education undertaken by Muslim religious leaders everywhere in Egypt, including Al-Azhar.
Of course, not all Muslim Egyptians are brought up the same, but it is reasonable to say that the majority of Muslims are brought up in the same way their 1820s and 1830s predecessors were brought up. The problem is huge – it may get less (just less) with certain political changes, like it is currently under President Sisi, but it is still endemic in Egypt.
Next time, I will write about the “khutbet en-naat”( خُطْبَة النَّعْت), which spits hatred and incites violence every Friday against all non-Muslims.
 I use the 5th Edition of 1960. Edward William Lane, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (London, John Murray, 1960).
 Ibid, pp. 59-60.
 Plural of khateeb (خطيب): the person (usually the imam who leads the prayer) who delivers the khuṭbah (sermon), during the Friday prayer and Eid prayers.
 Europe and Asia.
 Emperor or monarch.
 The Mediterranean and Black seas.
 Sultan Mahmud II was the reigning Sultan then (1808 – 1839), at the time when the above was written.
 An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, p. 575. I have changed God to Allah, El-Islam to Islam, and Mahmood to Mahmud.