THE COPTIC QUESTION IS A FUNCTION OF POWER
I have said on another occasion[i] that the Coptic Question in Egypt will not be solved by reducing Egypt’s high illiteracy rate. Egypt’s Muslims will need a cultural change that is not based on Islamic political theory and teachings but on modernity, and what it entails, in order that Egypt solves plenty of its socio-political problems, and on top of that its abuse of human rights in general, maltreatment of its women, and the appalling way it has dealt with its Coptic population. This cultural change, in the absence of an Egyptian Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as we have said, does not seem to be forthcoming any time soon. The thinking that the introduction of technical democracy into Egypt’s political system will solve Egypt’s huge problems is also a myth. The prospect of Egypt developing real democracy is extremely remote when it is severely disabled by high illiteracy and poverty rates and, most importantly, by its Islamic cultural underpinnings. Democracy, deprived of its most important elements, and understood as simple vote casting is only a prelude to majoritarianism, and will not lead to protection of the civil and political rights of all citizens. On the tactical level, it will merely act as Trojan horse for extreme parties to seize Troy, and destroy it from the inside, as the fascists in Germany had once done, and as the Islamists in the Middle East and North Africa are intent to do.
It is evident that the writer does not have much faith in the prospect of solving the long-lasting Coptic Question by reduction in the level of illiteracy in Egypt or the introduction of technical democracy into it. This is because Egypt’s culture, though often cleverly concealed at the surface level, is deeply anticoptic. Anticoptism is enshrined in traditional Islamic literature and maintained by Egypt’s Muslim religious establishment and rulers. This deeply-rooted desire for the Copts to be held under control and be deprived of their rights as equal citizens in a fair State is the only explanation for the prolongation of the Coptic ordeal into the 21st century. Why can’t Egypt treat its most original, and loyal, sons and daughters with respect and allow them to enjoy their cultural and individual rights? Why do we struggle to get our churches built or even repaired? Why are we excluded from all important positions and discriminated against in schools, universities and jobs? Why are we attacked in Upper Egypt, Cairo, Alexandria, and every corner of Egypt; our places of worship and properties looted; and our fellow-religionists beaten, maimed, murdered and even cowardly massacred by Egypt’s army and security forces? Why can’t Egypt produce a brave, progressive and visionary leader who ends with one big decision the suffering of fifteen million of its presumed citizens?
The answer, on one level, as we have seen, is to be found in Egypt’s convictions that are borrowed from the culture of its majority population. Egypt’s Muslim majority holds the Copts in bondage because their Islamic cultural underpinnings require them to do so; because they want to do so; because – and here lies the ultimate answer – they simply can.
The truth is that Egypt’s Coptic Question is a function of power. As I have already said, the Muslims of Egypt deny the Copts equal rights and dignity, on both theoretical and practical levels, because they simply can oppress the Copts. The Copts, being a minority and non-militant in mind and action, are in a weaker position, and that is why they are persecuted and discriminated against.
The solution to the Coptic Question then must be sought in altering that balance of power. It must be realised that we have failed in solving our problem by persuasion, appeals, legal action, and displaying loyalty and support to Egypt’s various Muslim rulers – bad or good – in the hope that they might be induced to improve our lot. It is obvious that Egypt’s rulers, lacking in any real internal drive to protect the Copts and feeling no significant outside pressure on them to do so, are allowing the already appalling situation to continue to deteriorate.
Nothing in the world of politics changes without pressure. This simple truth has been understood by all great peoples and nations who have fought like us for equal rights and freedoms, and have succeeded. Whether it was the Greeks in their 1821 Revolution against the oppressive Turks of the Ottoman Empire, or the American blacks in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, to take but a few examples, all have discovered that supplication and the bending of the knees only led to the prolongation of their suffering; that only with relentless pressure on oppressive systems was change achieved. The moral which we learn from the struggles of these great peoples is that we also need to apply pressure on the system that oppresses us in order to coerce it to change. The fact that it hasn’t changed yet, with what we have done so far, means that we have no enough power – that the pressure we have applied so far is not sufficient.
The Copts must increase their power if they want to liberate themselves from the shackles of this devilish oppression that has, over thirteen hundred years, crushed their body and soul, as individuals and as nation. How they should do that, and what power I am talking about, has to wait for another occasion.
The writer has always made his position very clear when he talks about the Muslims of Egypt – he does not regard all of them the same. There are many good Muslims who are liberal in mind and would like to see Egypt converted to a modern state where all its citizens are regarded as equal, and not distinguished on the basis of religion, race or sex. However, it is not inaccurate to say that, judging from the persistence of the Coptic Problem, and its actual worsening in the recent years, that the majority of Egypt’s Muslims are supportive, one way or the other, passively or actively, of a the current quasi-dhimmitude system or even a return to a fully-fledged dhimmitude state. The writer would be the happiest person if one could prove to him that the majority of Egypt’s Muslims do not actually back any restrictions on the Copts’ civil and political rights; their individual and cultural rights. But then I would only be convinced by results.
[i] THE COPTIC QUESTION WILL NOT BE SOLVED IN EGYPT BY A RISING LITERACY OR SIMPLE EDUCATION OF THE EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS. Find it here: https://copticliterature.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/the-coptic-question-will-not-be-solved-in-egypt-by-a-rising-literacy-or-simple-education-of-the-egyptian-muslims/