For the majority of Egypt’s Christians, the Sisi government is far from ideal, but preferable to any likely alternative. The Copts (“Copt” being derived from the Greek Αἰγύπτιος, “Egyptian”) still suffer from various forms of discrimination, but at least Christians are not formally reduced to the status of dhimmis, second-class citizens under Sharia, which was the stated objective of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood regime. At the time of its collapse, in the summer of 2013, Coptic churches and believers were subjected to the worst violence since the 14th century.
Sisi has dealt a massive, albeit by no means fatal, blow to the Brotherhood. Nevertheless, he has not eliminated various discriminatory practices which were present even under the secularist regimes of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar al-Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak.
The main complaint concerns employment opportunities. Senior positions in the civil service and business corporations are effectively reserved for Muslims, even though the actual work is often done by white-collar Christians, who tend to be better educated. They do not have even a token presence in the military, police, and security agencies. Only two Copts are in the country’s cabinet, and there is just one Coptic governor among 25 governorates.
Another frequent complaint is that the number of Christians is falsely presented as being 10 percent or less in official statistics. Coptic churches have presented convincing evidence, on the basis of data compiled from their parish registers of births and deaths, that the figure is closer to 15 percent. Such claims have never been convincingly refuted.
The position of Christians in Egypt remains precarious, but hardly more so than in any other majority-Muslim country, with the possible exception of Lebanon. This is inevitable because Islam mandates hostility to the infidel. This fact informs attitudes and practices even in those societies which are not formally based on Sharia.
On this issue the Egyptian constitution is unambiguous. It declares that “Islam is the religion of the state…and the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main sources of legislation.” It also states that Cairo’s Al-Azhar University is “the main authority in theology and Islamic affairs” and is responsible for spreading Islam, Islamic doctrine, and the Arabic language in the country and throughout the world.
In Islam, Jews and Christians, as “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitab), may enjoy “protection” by accepting divinely sanctioned inferior status, but only Muslims are fully human and only they can attain salvation. Jews and Christians are distinguished from pagans, but their refusal to accept Muhammad as God’s messenger dooms them to unbelief and eternal suffering (Koran 5:72-73). Christians are mortal sinners and every Christian’s condemnation is irrevocable: “God will forbid him the garden and the fire will be his abode.” (5:75)
“The attitude of the Moslems toward the Christians and the Jews is that of a master towards slaves,” reported the British Vice Consul in Mosul in 1909, “whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed.” Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (The more things change, the more things stay the same.)
It is remarkable that in this age of rampant victimology the persecutions of Christians in majority-Muslim societies is a taboo subject in the West. A complex web of myths, outright lies, and deliberately imposed silence dominates it. Thirteen centuries of religious discrimination, causing suffering and death of countless millions, have been covered by the myth of Islamic “tolerance” that is as hurtful to the few descendants of the victims as it is useless as a means of appeasing Islam. The silence and lies, perpetrated by the Western elite class, facilitates the perpetuation of religious discrimination and persecution in Egypt and elsewhere to this day.
The one crucial difference between the Bible as a whole and the Koran is God’s love and His desire to redeem sinners by way of sacrifice. Without sacrifice there is no forgiveness, no atonement, and no reconciliation that gives meaning to life and creation. Egypt’s Christians know that much. Their lives therefore have meaning regardless of any injustice they suffer, and their faith offers hope of life eternal.
above: A Coptic Christian Church, St. Bishoy Monastery between Cairo and Alexandria. (Wikimedia Commons)