9. Copts.. the reality.. the solution

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9. Copts.. the reality.. the solution


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April 26, 1998
Thirty Egyptian intellectuals personalize


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Watani, a paper owned by Copts which has always advocated Coptic issues, denounces the proposed American Freedom of Religious Persecution Act.
" The use of the terms ’persecution’ and ’racial discrimination’ are very far from the reality of Copts" the paper writes which doesn’t mean there are injustices. " We monitor all this like we monitor all that that poisoned atmosphere produces, which is later used by the extremists to violate the properties and lives of Copts."

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What is said and written about the concerns of Copts does not show the true and just proportions of this issue. Dealing with this crucial issue has become characterized with excessive nervousness and bargaining and lacks objectivity. We appreciate the human and noble intentions that have caused the citizens [of Egypt] who live outside it to stand up against the standards of human rights in Egypt considering it an international and not a local matter. We the Egyptians inside Egypt have stood up in defense of the violation of human rights in Bosnia and Afghanistan. All this is rational and logical. What is illogical and irrational, however, is the attempt to influence the American Congress into making decisions that will impose material and moral sanctions on Egypt. Like we refused foreign intervention in Egypt’s affairs, we say raise your hands of Egypt. We do not want to Lebanonise it.

It is worth noting here that the law that is about to be ratified by the American Congress has no relation to the aid that Egypt gets. Negotiations are under way now between the two concerned parties on how to gradually diminish aid after the Egyptian economy has proved to be growing in the proper direction. The need for the American aid is not as pressing as it used to be. Our rejection of foreign intervention does not mean that human rights are at their most complete in Egypt or that the Copts of Egypt are living the best period of their history, enjoying their full rights and practicing their complete obligations. Yes, equality is granted by the constitution and law but some practices violate this concept. While citizenship is defined as the act of being born on a certain land, we find that it still is violated by subjecting it to classification on the bases of the religious and ethnic identity.

The use of the terms ’persecution’ and ’racial discrimination’ are very far from the reality of Copts because the literal meaning and the historical observations of those two phrases are not applicable to the concerns and worries of the Copts. But if we observe some of the aspects of the current reality we will be in pain to find attempts to assassinate the account of the nationalist movement which was formed throughout a journey of struggle in which the Egyptians spent blood and sweat for 150 years to assert the concept of citizenship. We are in pain to see the attempts at wasting the efforts of the pioneers that have held the lanterns of enlightenment and nationalism starting with Mohammed Ali Pasha and Al-Tahtawi, Saad Zaghloul, Lotfi Al-Sayed, Taha Hussein and Louis Awad. The children of this people have watched with sorrow the drainage of this reserve, timidly since the end of the liberal age in the 50s and then violently in the seventies of this century. How are we still discussing issues that we thought were solved in the 20s. They are again appearing with their ugly face like the issues of the working women, female circumcision, bank interest, the entry or Copts to the army and paying Al-Jizia, the building and repairing of churches, attacking Christianity in the media, ignoring the Coptic civilization in the educational system, marginalising the role of Copts in the political parliamentarian life and the leading positions in the state. We monitor all this like we monitor all that that poisoned atmosphere produces, which is later used by the extremists to violate the properties and lives of Copts.

We suffer from all this and are in pain, not because the Copts are guests in this country but because the bones of our ancestors have been buried together for thousands of years. We suffer from all this but do not accept outside interference or patronage from anyone. If we are aspiring to regain the lost rights of Copts in citizenship and an increase in their participation in the daily matters of running the country, we are not going to achieve this through a series of compliments and memories and grieving over the dear nationalist past.