ANTICOPTISM (معاداة الأقباط, المعاداة للأقباط), THE ANTISEMETISM OF EGYPT
Anticoptism (anti-coptism or anti-Coptism) معاداة الأقباط, المعاداة للأقباط، معاداة القبطية, ضـد القبطية: is the antisemitism of Egypt,[i] but that is not enough to define it. Let us first start by defining a much better known concept – anti-Semitism, and from there try to define anticoptism.
Antisemitism (anti-semitism or anti-Semitism): معاداة السامية, ضـد السامية, معاداة اليهود, المعاداة لليهود
I will simply copy the definitions given by major English language dictionaries and encyclopaedias:
- Cambridge Dictionary: the strong dislike or cruel and unfair treatment of Jewish people.[ii]
- Oxford Dictionary: hostility to or prejudice against Jews.[iii]
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.[iv]
- The Holocaust Encyclopedia: prejudice against or hatred of Jews.[v] تعني عبارة “معاداة السامية” أفكاراً مسبقة معادية وكرهاً لليهود[vi]
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group.[vii]
- Wikipedia: Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism) is prejudice against or hostility towards Jews often rooted in hatred of their ethnic background, culture, and/or religion. In its extreme form, it “attributes to the Jews an exceptional position among all other civilizations, defames them as an inferior group and denies their being part of the nation[s]” in which they reside. A person who holds such views is called an “antisemite”. Antisemitism may be manifested in many ways, ranging from individual expressions of hatred and discrimination against individual Jews to organized violent attacks by mobs, or even state police, or military attacks on entire Jewish communities.[viii]
Arabic dictionaries and encyclopaedias largely tend to ignore the term altogether, and where it is mentioned, it just gives the equivalent term in Arabic:
- A New English Dictionary for Speakers of Arabic:[ix] does not mention the word.
- Al-Munjid fil lugha wal a-alam (37th ed.):[x] does not mention the word.
- Al-Mawrid Al-Waset (4th ed.):[xi] simply gives the equivalent words to anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic, which are المعاداة لليهود و معادٍ لليهود , respectively.
- Wikipedia: معاداة السامية أو معاداة اليهود (in English: Anti-Semitism) هو مصطلح يعطى لمعاداة اليهودية كمجموعة عرقية ودينية وإثنية. والمعنى الحرفي أو المعجمـي للعبارة هو “ضـد السامية”، وتُترجَم أحياناً إلى “اللاسامية”.[xii]
From the above, one can see that antisemitism is traditionally defined in terms of the emotions and behaviour of the aggressors: it consists of intense dislike and hatred of the Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group; and these harboured emotions lead to hostile acts against the Jews in the form of prejudice, discrimination or cruel and unfair treatment. Here lies the core meaning of all hate and hostility directed against a religious, ethnic or racial group by another group – and this central meaning shall constitute our definition of anticoptism. One will immediately note from the definitions of both antisemetism, and anticoptism which we will come to in a moment, the basic fault and evilness that motivate those who practise them: haters of Jews and Copts do not believe that the latters are brothers and sisters in humanity or that are deserving of equal t dignity and rights to them.
As I already said, anticoptism is the anti-Semitism for Egypt. Of course there are differences: anti-Semitism is universal while anticoptism is localised mainly to Egypt; anti-Semitism is practised by people from all over the world and with various religious backgrounds, while anticoptism seems to be a phenomenon restricted to the Muslims of Egypt.[xiii] But the differences stop there: both are nasty and hateful phenomena that have caused quite a lot of suffering and misery to millions of people for centuries and centuries. It is essential that we take account of both the differences and the similarities when we try to define this newly-coined word.
Anticoptism is the intense dislike and hate by the Egyptian Muslim of the Copts which leads him or her to express it in diver hostile ways, including written and verbal lies and insults, segregation, discrimination and other cruel treatment.
The anticopt (المعادي للأقباط، الكاره للأقباط ) is the Egyptian Muslim who harbours or practises antocoptism – i.e. an Egyptian Muslim who hates the Copts and this may lead him or her to hostile attitude towards them that may be expressed in literature, speech or actions of segregation, discrimination and other cruelty.
This is not the place to cite examples of anticoptism. Whoever wants to find more about anticoptism in action let him review the history of the Copts and their experience with the Muslims since 639 AD. Three qualifications must be said:
- Not all Muslims are anticopts or have expressed anticoptism. We acknowledge that there are Muslims who have resisted their cultural inheritance and looked at the Copts as fellow-human beings and co-patriots. These, together, we call moderate Muslims, and Coptic nationalists do not deny their presence or role. The coined words ‘anticoptism’ and ‘anticopt’ are not designed to demonise all Egyptian Muslims but to highlight a serious religiosity problem that is deeply ingrained in Egyptian Muslim culture and history, and must be exposed, acknowledged and dealt with, by the Muslims of Egypt themselves before any other.
- The manifestations of anticoptism range from the mild to the severe, and while one may show the mildest form of it another will show its worst manifestation.
- It is acknowledged that certain periods in Egypt’s history since the Arab invasion have witnessed the worst manifestations of anticoptism while other periods have been comparatively mild. This must not distract us from the fact that even during good periods an undercurrent of anticoptism survived
Anticoptism was more acutely and severely practised in the past – it is, however, still prevalent in Egypt. Those who deny its existence only want to perpetuate its practice and to maintain their religious prejudices; those who acknowledge its existence are the ones who want to create a modern, democratic country that holds it true that all Egyptians are human beings and co-patriots; that all of them are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that all of them are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.[xiv] One must be frank here: the first group is the one which holds religion above anything else – Islam dictates to them what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust; they do not use their minds or employ their conscience and reason to guide them into what is really right and just, and what is really wrong and unjust. They are happy to live with all the contradictions in their world and to use twisted logic in maintaining the incompatibility between their beliefs and the concepts of universal brotherhood, equal dignity for all and the fundamental freedoms and human rights that the rest of the world upholds. These are the Islamists who are the responsible for justifying, propagating and practising anticoptism. The other group is the moderate Muslims who aware of the dictates of modernity; and keen to use their reason in establishing a just and peaceful society they abandon the cultural underpinnings that are the basis of anticoptism, or try to develop a new interpretation of their religion so that it is not glaringly incompatible with the modern notions of human rights and citizenship. These moderate Muslims are the ones on whom one pins his hopes of fighting anticoptism.
As already stated, anticoptism is still alive and kicking in Egyptian society – and it is bound to survive strong unless it is fought by education and legislation. This is the responsibility of the moderate Muslims and the Egyptian State; and it requires a tremendous degree of honesty, courage and resolve. While one hopes the educational effort will be led by various individuals, groups and institutions of Egypt’s civil society, one relies much on both the educational and deterrent values of the law the State alone can enact. Anticoptism, in all its manifestations, mild or severe, must be criminalised by the Egyptian State. This must be the ultimate objective of all Coptic nationalists and their moderate Muslim friends.
Human rights issues, however, are not an exclusively internal matter. The international community has equal interest and responsibility in ensuring that all forms of racism and religiosity anywhere in our world are banned – and in Egypt there seem to be none that is more deserving of banning than anticoptism. Coptic nationalists will, therefore, engage and cooperate with the moderate Muslims of Egypt, the Egyptian State and the international community in getting rid, once and for all, of this evil of anticoptism which has for many long centuries pressed hard on the Copts’ soul and body.
[i] This article does not want to minimise the problem of antisemetism in Egypt but it wants to highlight the very specific problem of hate and discrimination which is local to Egypt and affect several millions of native Egyptians.
[ix] First published 1991 by Lund Humphries Publishers Limited, 16 Pembridge Road, London W11 3HL.
[x] المنجد في اللغة والأعلام، المكتبة الشرقية، ١٩٨٦، بيروت – لبنان
[xi] Al-Mawrid al-Waset; a Concise English-Arabic Dictionary; 4th ed.; by Munir Ba’albaki; Dar El-Ilm Lil-Malayen; Berut; 1979.
[xiii] As antisemetism is not exercised by all members of communities within which Jews lived, so anticoptism was, and is, not exercised by all Muslims of Egypt. I state this here so that no one tries to allege that this writer taints all Muslims of Egypt with the same brush. Having said that, it is undeniable that anticoptism was, and remains, a widespread phenomenon in Egypt with varying degrees of manifestation. For more, read the body of the article.