Special Dispatch Series - No. 1587                       May 16, 2007


Egyptian Muslim Intellectual Criticizes Egypt's Treatment of Copts

Against the backdrop of the recent tension between Muslims and Copts in Egypt, Egyptian Muslim intellectual Tarek Heggy wrote an article titled "If I Were a Copt" in which he sharply criticized the Egyptian regime's policy towards its Coptic Christian population.

The following are the main points of the article: [1]

"If I were a Copt, I would flood Egypt, and the world, with the facts about the overall atmosphere that is pressuring the Copts in Egypt today.

"If I were a Copt, I would familiarize the world with the injustices caused to many Copts in Egypt since [the Free Officers Revolution in] 1952. They don't get the high-level political posts and executive positions that they deserve, not to mention their sparse [representation] in parliament.

"If I were a Copt, I would create a ruckus in Egypt, and in the world, over the fact that I pay taxes with which the state funds Al-Azhar University, while [Al-Azhar] does not permit Copts to attend any of its institutes.

"If I were a Copt, I would make a huge commotion in the world, because my taxes fund the construction of dozens of mosques, but, since 1952, the Egyptian state has not participated in the building of a single church, except for president Gamal Abd Al-Nasser's participation in funding the construction of the St. Marc Cathedral in Al-'Abasiyya, 40 years ago...

"If I were a Copt, I would publish articles, one after another, about how the [Egyptian] media ignores matters [concerning me] and my religious holidays - as if I and the Copts did not exist in Egypt.

"If I were a Copt, I would tell the entire world [how] the Coptic history of Egypt [is handled] in the Egyptian curriculum, and how the study material for the Arabic language no longer [includes] literary texts, qasidahs, poetry, stories, plays, and legends, but [only] Islamic texts which [belong] with the study material for religion [class] for Muslim pupils.

"If I were a Copt, I would flood the world with complaints about the suffering Copts go through [merely] in order to obtain a license to build a church - with their own funds, not with the public taxes that [they] participate in paying.

"If I were a Copt, I would bring the world to its feet because of the terrible things that some Muslim writers write and disseminate - about how a Copt should not be permitted to be the head of state, on [how a Copt should pay] the jizya [poll tax paid by protected non-Muslims under Islam], and how Copts should not be drafted into the military... [such as] the idiotic statements by Dr. Muhammad 'Imara [from Al-Azhar] - whose budget comes from the taxpayers, including the Copts... [2]

"If I were a Copt, I would conduct a campaign within [Egypt], and outside it, to abolish the 'religion' entry on the Egyptian identity card. Why should someone who conducts a relationship with me on the general and public level want to know what my religion is?...

"If I were a Copt, I would make the world understand that the issue of the Copts in Egypt is one of the symptoms of a [certain] mentality, whose influence has spread through this region of the world, and that all humanity must force [those] with this mentality to reconsider this discriminatory path."

[1] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), May 12, 2007.

[2] Dr. Muhammad 'Imara's book, Fitnat Al-Takfir Bayna Al-Shi'a Wal-Wahhabiyya Wal-Sufiyya ("The Civil Strife of Takfir Between Shi'ism, Wahhabism, and Sufism"), published in December 2006 by the Supreme Council for Muslim Affairs of the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments, accused the Christians of heresy and permitted the killing of non-Muslims. Following the subsequent uproar, 'Imara apologized and explained that he had only been quoting ancient sources permitting the killing of non-Muslims. Al-Qahira, (Egypt), February 6, 2007.

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