January 17, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1804

Egyptian Liberal Hisham Al-Tukhi:"I Have a Dream"

January 17, 2008
Special Dispatch No. 1804

In an article published recently on the Arab liberal websites Aafaq, Middle East Transparent, and Modern Discussion, Egyptian liberal Hisham Al-Tukhi adapted Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech for the Egyptian context, urging full civil rights and equality for Egyptian minorities.

The following are excerpts:

"Fifty Years Ago, A Great Egyptian Declared 'Religion Belongs to Allah and the Homeland Belongs to All'"

"Fifty years ago, a great Egyptian, [the leader of a] generation that sowed the seeds of freedom that we enjoy today in our land, declared: "Religion belongs to Allah, and the homeland belongs to all."[1] This momentous declaration was a great beacon of hope to millions of marginalized members of religious minorities, who had for years been seared in the flames of withering Ottoman oppression and of injustices of ancient times and of the Middle Ages. This declaration came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their degrading marginalization.

"But 100 years later, we must face the sad truth! The Copts, the Baha'i, the Shi'ites, the Koranists,[2] and members of other religious minorities are still sadly crippled by the manacles of sectarian isolation and chains of religious fundamentalism. One hundred years later, [they] still live on an island within the vast Egyptian mainland, yet isolated from it, [although Egypt] could also welcome, alongside the Sunni Muslims, the Copts, the Shi'ites, the Baha'i, the Mormons, the Jews, the atheists, the Buddhists and the Hindus – if the souls [of the people] expelled [the idea of] segregation and instead became filled with justice. One hundred years later, the member of a religious minority still languishes in the corners of Egyptian society, and finds himself an exile in his own land – unless, through a divine or natural intervention, he is delivered from this fate."

"Egypt Has Given the Copts, the Baha'i, the Shi'ites, and the Koranists a Bad Check"

"And so today I speak to you to dramatize this shameful condition.

"In the 1960s, 60,000 Egyptian Jews were unable to cash the check [given to them by the state]! And today:

"Millions of Christian Egyptians are unable to cash the check given to them by the state!

"Thousands of Baha'i Egyptians are unable to cash their check!

"Thousands of Shi'ite Egyptians are unable to cash their check!

"Thousands of Egyptian Koranists, Jews and atheists are unable to cash their check!

"It is inconceivable that today the checks of these Egyptians are refused, just as in the past, those of the Egyptian Jews were.

"Those who proclaimed our country's independence, sovereignty, and freedom signed, with their own blood, a promissory note which every Egyptian was to inherit. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of freedom and the pursuit of happiness, and that no one would be deprived of these rights.

"It is obvious today that Egypt has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as religious minorities are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, Egypt has given the Copts, the Baha'i, the Shi'ites, and the Koranists a bad check – a check that has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'

"But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there is not enough justice in the great vaults of this country, which was the first to own vaults of justice in thousands of years!

"This is no time to throw sand in the creditors' eyes, to conduct regular negotiations towards reconciliation, or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism in settling the issue of rights."

"We Will Not Be Satisfied As Long As Egypt's People's Assembly Is Not an Assembly for All the Egyptian People"

"Now is the time to either make real the promises of justice or announce the annulment of the state and of the law! Now is the time for us to rise up from the dark and desolate valley of ethnic segregation to the sunlit path of religious justice. Now is the time for us to open the doors of opportunity to all sons of the homeland, the sons of Egypt. Now is the time for us to lift our nation from the quicksand of discrimination to the solid rock of brotherhood and citizenship.

"It would be fatal for the state to overlook the urgency of the moment or to underestimate the outcry of its citizens who suffer humiliation on a daily basis… The winter of discontent will not pass until spring arrives, reviving the hopes of freedom and equality!

"The year 2008 is not an end – it is a beginning. Those who hoped that the Copt would hold back his anger and acquiesce to the status quo will tomorrow have a rude awakening, if the nation persists in its current state of unconsciousness. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in Egypt until every citizen is granted his citizenship rights. Whirlwinds will continue to shake the foundations of the state until the bright day of justice dawns for all!

"But there is something we must say to the oppressed sons of our people, who are standing on a smoldering threshold, crying out in the hope that their grievances reach the palace of justice. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for justice by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. The oppressed cannot walk alone. The cups of the scale of justice are reason and love.

"There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights: 'When will you be satisfied?' We will not be satisfied as long as the Copts are subjected to unspeakable terror every time a war cry is sounded against them in villages and towns by the supporters of sectarianism. We will not be satisfied as long as the ignorant riffraff perpetrate acts of violence against their homes, shops and places of worship. We will not be satisfied as long as Egypt's People's Assembly is not an assembly for all the Egyptian people in the real sense…"

"We Will Not Be Satisfied Until Justice in Egypt Rolls Down Like Waters, and Righteousness Like the Mighty Nile"

"No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice in Egypt rolls down like waters, and righteousness like the mighty Nile.

"Oh, wretched people in the broad streets of Cairo and Alexandria! Oh, grieving people of Esna and of the poor and suffering neighborhoods of our towns and villages! Know that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today: Despite the difficulties and the obstacles that our country endures – along with many other sons of this nation, whose history dates back thousands of years – I have a dream. It is a dream that is deeply rooted in the nature of every honorable man.

"I have a dream that one day our country will rise up and live out the true meaning of human values, saying: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal.' I have a dream that some day, in the schools of the Mahram Bey [neighborhood], the children of the Copts will resume their games, joining their little hands with those of Muslim boys and girls, and they will all walk back home to their mothers together, filled with brotherly love. I have a dream that some day all segregation will be removed, every kind of oppression will cease, all Egyptians will be equal, and 'the religion will be for Allah, and the homeland for all'…

"If Egypt ever wants to become a great nation, this day must truly come."[3]


[1] Tukhi is referring here to Sa'ad Zaghlul (1859-1927), one of the founders of the Egyptian nationalist movement.

[2] Members of the Koranist sect hold that the Koran is the sole authority in Islam and reject the hadith.

[3], December 24, 2007;, December 24, 2007;, December 25, 2007.

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