Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Isolated Copts

This is a long post, so I will give you my point up front, and if you want to read the rest of it, go for it:

Copts need legal protection.  They don't need to be friends with Muslims and holds hands and hug.  Those are wonderful things, but what Copts need is equality and protection under the law, and only then will the violence against them stop.  And then, probably after many years and maybe after we're all dead, everybody will be friends.

Here is my actual post:

So after this whole Imbaba disaster, I've been reading a lot of commentary and blogs on the topic of sectarianism from a lot of liberal Egyptian bloggers, and what I've noticed is a super-disturbing trend.  A lot of people seem to believe that because Copts isolate themselves, they've helped to make the sectarian situation worse, and that there is an impetus on them to re-join Egyptian society so that people hate them less.

 I've studied discrimination and civil rights law a little bit in the U.S., and it's something I like to read about  on my own time.  And I have never, ever heard the argument that a minority "isolates" itself, making its own situation worse, treated as an actual, legitimate idea before.  The only close example I can think of is something like when anti-immigrant French people bring up this idea that its Muslim immigrants have isolated themselves.  I'm not an expert on France, but I think that even those people realize that France, through a series of bad public policies and a discriminatory society, created that situation, and that France is going to have to fix it, with or without immigrant cooperation.  I could be wrong.  But people don't wake up one morning and say "Today, I think I'll cut myself off from society, just for funsies!"  They do so because they have faced a pattern of discrimination, violence, and hatred from the rest of that society.  The isolation and fear are the result, not the cause, of the majority's actions.

And this is not scientific, but every Copt in Egypt I know has had awful experiences where a Muslim discriminated against them at work, treated them badly at a store, or much, much worse.  Just the looks we get from people on the street can be enough to make you afraid.  Once, my mother and aunts and I went to a shop, and upon seeing us, the ladies working there turned on Koranic verses on full blast.  Like, as loud as possible.  In an underwear shop.  And we were only visiting Egypt for the week.  These types of displays of dominance do NOT make any Copt want to go outside and befriend a Muslim.  Nor, in fact, does telling Copts "you need to be nicer and go make friends with Muslims," after two of their churches have been burned (this month).  This does not convince any Copt to go out and join the community with their Muslim brothers and sisters.  Sorry everybody, scars don't go away that easily.

Nor do all Copts want some separate legal regime from the rest of the country where Pope Shenouda is their king.  I don't know why people have this idea that all the Copts just follow the church leaders around drooling, but it's not terribly accurate.  Pope Shenouda was forced into a pretty obvious Catch-22 situation by the old regime: defy us and your people will get hurt, support us and you'll look like a tool.  He chose the latter option, for historical reasons I won't get into here.  But given the choice, I would bet money that Copts would universally vote for a completely secular government.

Would you like to know what will make Copts want to go out and befriend Muslims?

We would befriend Muslims in a country where any murder of a Copt led to the arrest, trial, and conviction of the murderer.
We would befriend Muslims in a country where we had a chance to get the same jobs as Muslims if we had the same talents.
We would befriend Muslims if we had the exact same rights and protections as everyone else.

Some Copts may want something else, but no one owes them that.  What they are owed is equality, nothing more, nothing less.  That is their human right.  And that equality comes from a clear, specific legal regime where people who perpetrate hate crimes are actually punished.

Give the Copts enforced, LEGAL equality, and only then, and only after MANY YEARS, will they begin trusting society and de-segregating themselves.  It's your right as a human being to socialize and raise your kids however you want and hate whomever you want and love whomever you want.  It is NOT your right to steal from people, loot their stores, kill people, and discriminate against qualified workers with impunity and no punishment.  You should be allowed to hate people, but arrested when you hurt them.

The people who hurt Christians will never stop until this happens.  Never.

I have a lot more to say about this, especially from a legal perspective, but that's for later.


  1. That's too depressing.
    My heart really aches when it comes to any being (human & animal) gets discriminated against.
    I agree that Copts gets discriminated against but I don't agree that the problem is that simple, i.e. muslims discriminating against copts. It's more like ignorance leading to rejection of the other, regardless of his preferences.
    I had my own share of discrimination as well, and I'm a muslim, believe it or not.
    I'll have to bug u with my personal experience to elaborate on that point.
    I used to be your average middle class bikini wearing muslim, I had a life altering experience where I lost faith for a while then converted back to Islam, part of that was wearing the Abaya.
    Then life turned into hell for me, after being on top of my manager's succession plan, looked at as the potential to head the organization I was working for & having zillions of friends..I was suddenly jobless, can't find a job yet & absolutely friendless.
    The isolation part is the most intriguing so I second your words about not waking up to decide that today, just 4 kicks, u'll live in parallel world...
    My friends thought I became so much fun as in me being the fun side of a party "Hahahaha, look at her, she looks hilarious".
    Found a teaching job that I'm overqualified for & got the "hate looks" u talked about. And literally got accused of being a spy for MB & Salafis all at the same time. That was the teacher/student joke when it's in the teacher ethical code that we respect others in front of students even if we hate them.
    Again I had to quit.
    Won't begin with how my family treats me, that would be a shocker. They might've as well sent me to a church :)
    My point is, it's not as simple as laws & legislations. That's the easy part.
    The hard part is getting everyone to understand that human beings r all "human beings"? So stop it everyone..I disagree that religion should b kept at home, whether islam or christiany or those who simply believe in an ethics model. It should be practiced properly instead.
    Education is key to that.
    The problem here is ignorance. It makes u discriminate against the other to feel more special, then u have to find another other 2 discriminate against. It's a vicious circle. It can burn us all.
    I hope this will work out for the best.

  2. wow so much of your post reminds of the black american situation and experience in the USA
    the whole prosecution of the minority thing. not getting the sam jobs for having the same talents...