GAUGING THE EXTENT OF ISLAMISM, AND, THEREFORE, ANTI-COPTISM, IN EGYPT مدى إنتشار الإسلاميين وكراهية الأقباط في مصر
Figure 1: Egyptian protestors at Tahrir Square during the anti-Mubarak protests, 1 February 2011. How many exactly are Islamists, and how many Moderate Muslims; how many are anti-Copts, and how many are friends with the Copts. (Mohammed Abed/Getty Images)
ONE QUESTION has so far begged an answer: How many Egyptians exactly are extreme Muslims and how many are moderate Muslims? Hitherto we, as Coptic nationalists, have been reluctant to play the numbers or ratio game. Many Copts, however, have been sure from the outset that the majority of Egyptian Muslims were fanatic Muslims – they felt the racial and religious discrimination at every walk of their lives – at the hands of Muslim children at schools, colleagues at work, and the mobs on the streets of Egypt. This feeling was intensified even further by the failure of successive governments of Egypt in curbing the anti-Coptic elements in Egyptian society – instead, we have seen the discrimination and violence against the Copts intensifying, and anti-Coptic culture spreading in schools, mosques, and the media.
But while the daily experiences of Copts up and down the Nile Valley have given the Copts this impression that the majority of the Muslims in Egypt are prejudiced against, and hostile to, them, this has not been ascertained by way of any kind of statistical calculation. However, since the collapse of the Mubarak regime, on 11 February 2011, we have resort to some figures that can be used as a proxy to the prevalence of Islamism, and hence anti-Coptism, in Egypt. Egyptian Islamism is the political ideology that rests on political Islam, and seeks to implement Sharia law in Egypt and convert the country into an Islamic State, as first step towards establishment of a Caliphate Empire, that works to subdue the whole world under the rule of Islam. This they call in their political literature, the Islamic Project. Islamism in Egypt is inherently anti-Coptic, anti-women, and anti-human rights in general. The basic means by which they seek to bring about that ‘dream’ are violent, as their history testifies to. But, in accordance with their taqiyya (subterfuge) doctrine, the Islamists are willing, while they are comparatively weak, to reach their goal by other means – and this includes masquerading in the rhetoric of human rights and freedoms, and using democracy (basically the democratic vote) as their horse of Troy to seize power. This realisation of their relative weakness, vis-à-vis the internal and external forces against them, is what has driven the Islamists of Egypt to accept the democratic game – a game the principles of which are in direct conflict with Sharia and political Islam, as evidenced by their own literature.[i]
The statistics show that the percentage of Islamists in Muslim Egyptian society is 81.2%, while the Moderate Muslims can be estimated at 18.8%. It can also be said that 81.2% of Egyptian Muslims are anti-Copt: at least 1 in 5 Muslim Egyptians do not believe that the Copts should be equal in rights and duties to the Muslims. The Copts must use these statistics to formulate policies.
Thanks to the participation of the Islamists in the post-Mubarak’s political process we can now gauge their numerical strength. The best indicator so far to the strength of Islamism in Egypt, and therefore anti-Coptism, is the result of the 2011-2012 Egyptian parliamentary elections.[ii] Several Egyptian parties shared in those elections. Some observers have ridiculously labelled some of these parties as centre-right, centrist, liberal democratic, liberal, secularist, centre-left, socialist, independent, etc. The truth is that these parties are often mercurial, unprincipled, intellectually limited, and ideologically naive; and, so, using Western labels to designate them can be misleading. A more accurate way in classifying them is to designate them as either Islamist or non-Islamist, since what dominates the political debate in Egypt is religion rather than anything else, and since the real single factor that differentiate the various parties is their stance on whether Egypt should become an Islamic state or not. The fundamental question has been this: should religion determine Egypt’s identity; its civil and criminal codes; the legal status of various Egyptians within it; its allegiances, alliances, and enemies; or not? This Islamist/non-Islamist designation, in addition to its value in the study of other attributes of Egyptian society, serves our purpose very well as we attempt to gauge the strength of anti-Coptism in Egypt – a matter which can be deduced from the vote share which various parties in the Parliamentary Elections have secured.
The Egyptian Election Commission has announced that 62% of eligible Egyptian voters have participated in the Parliamentary Elections 2011-2012. This represents a large number of the Egyptian population, and can be used to represent the political leanings of the Egyptian people in general. We know from the results that 37.5% voted for the Democratic Alliance, which is led by the Muslim Brotherhood political party, Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Another 27.8% voted for the Salafist, the Islamist Blog, which was led by Al-Nour. This makes 69% of the voters voting for Islamist parties that seek to implement Sharia, and establish an Islamic state in Egypt. The 69% of Egyptians, who voted in the Parliamentary Election for Islamist parties, can reasonably be described as Islamists. This may actually be an underestimate, as other parties which were voted in, such as Al-Wasat, which secured 3.7% of the vote, also want to implement Sharia, but try to represent itself as “moderate Islamist”, which, in my opinion, is an oxymoron.
Figure 2 Share of vote between Islamist and Non-Islamist political parties in Egypt’s Parliamentary Election 2011-2012, considering all Egyptian voters, Muslims and Copts.
But we know that the Copts represent around 15% of Egypt’s population. We presume that 15% of those who voted in the elections were Copts. We also assume that almost all Copts voted to non-Islamist parties, which is reasonable assumption. If we want to gauge the strength of Islamism, and, therefore, anti-Coptism, within the Muslim Egyptian population, we must then take away the Coptic share in the vote. With a little adjustment in the calculation, this will leave us with 81.2% of Muslim Egyptians voting for Islamists, and 18.8% of them voting for non-Islamist parties.
Figure 3: Share of vote between Islamist and Non-Islamist political parties in Egypt’s Parliamentary Election 2011-2012, considering Muslim Egyptians only (taking 15% out, which represents the Coptic percentage in the population).
Here we go then: 81.2% of Egyptian Muslims can reasonably be described as Islamists, while only 18.8% of them are moderate Muslims – that is Muslims who do not want the implementation of Sharia law or the conversion of Egypt into Islamic State. We are aware that these statistics can change, and may not be absolutely accurate, but their fundamentals remain true, and can explain to us why the hostility in Egypt towards the Copts has remained high, even though successive governments, since 1805 AD, have tried, with various degrees of truthfulness, to modernise Egypt, and undermine the underpinnings of political Islam that differentiate between the Muslim and non-Muslim. These figures confirm to us what the simple Copt – whether at the school, or place of work, or on the streets of Egypt – has always felt; that the majority of Egyptian Muslims are extremist and prejudiced against him or her. The conclusion is painful, and many Muslim Egyptians may argue against it. All we can say to them is: prove it in reality that most Egyptian Muslims are moderate and regard the Copts as equal to them.
It is important for the Copts to contemplate on such statistics and their possible implications. They must know who they are dealing with and their size. The future of Egypt and theirs depends on the extent of the influence of the Islamists in Egypt, greater or lesser. But the Copts should not ponder upon these figures to lament their fate, or languish in fear and depression. These figures can show for the first time, and with reasonable degree of accuracy, the extent of anti-Coptism within the Muslim Egyptian society. Previously we had only impression of its extent – now we have the statistics of it. It should make the Copts formulate policies based on scientific evidence; and think carefully of what other options could be available for them other than being reduced to a position of dhimmittude once again. This may mean that the Copts should intensify their efforts to join forces with the 18.8% moderate Muslims, and gradually win more Egyptians to the camp of those who want to see Egypt secular and democratic; but it may also mean that the Copts should start at least to think of secession as a possible alternative if all hopes for equality and freedom are dashed.
[i] The evidence for that is legion, and one can refer to many original and secondary sources to support that. I will, however, mention only one document here: The Secret Document of the Muslim Brotherhood الوثيقة السرية للإخوان المسلمين. This has recently been published by Al-Tahrir (19 May 2012). The reader can read it in Arabic here: http://tahrirnews.com/%D9%85%D9%84%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AA/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%84%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%86/#.T7dVInTX47M.twitter
[ii] The parliamentary election to the People’s Assembly of Egypt was held from 28 November 2011 to 11 January 2012.