October 6, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 2071

Egyptian Liberal: Hostility Towards Minorities Will Lead to Internal War

October 6, 2008
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 2071

In light of the recent increase in hostile incidents and attacks on the Copts in Egypt, Nabil Sharaf Al-Din, an Egyptian liberal representing the online journal Elaph, wrote in the Egyptian independent oppositionist paper Al-Masri Al-Yawm[1] warning that enmity towards minorities, which he says dates back to the expulsion of the Jews from Egypt and has recently been directed against the Copts, is bound to culminate in serious intra-Muslim conflict.

Following are excerpts from the article:

"Today is Saturday, And We're Striking the Jews; Tomorrow, Sunday, We'll Strike the Christians"

"'They dominate the economy; they are a fifth column; they are Israel's agents.' These are examples of accusations rampant several decades ago against Egyptian Jews, whose presence in this country dates back to the time of the Prophet Moses…

"Today, many [Egyptians] are making the same accusations, albeit against the Christians. [The Christians] are not called Israel's agents; instead they are accused of sympathizing with the Americans, and their economic success has come to be viewed as dishonor - as if their money was acquired through larceny.

"Those expert in [making up] excuses and obfuscating problems are expected to object to these opinions, contending that there is a big difference between the two cases, [that is,] between the Jews and the Copts. [However,] I see no difference between them. Even from the standpoint of Muslim law, they both [i.e. the Jews and the Christians, are considered] 'the people of the Book.' The laws that apply to the Jews also apply to the Christians - not to mention [the fact] that in Egypt, Judaism preceded Christianity by hundreds of years…

"'Today is Saturday, and we are striking the Jews; tomorrow, Sunday, we'll strike the Christians.' This simple but perceptive adage was uttered by Aizek, an Egyptian Jew who emigrated to France [several] decades ago, as a prophecy regarding the destiny of the Egyptian Copts. Aizek would reminisce longingly about his childhood [in Cairo's Jewish-Christian] neighborhood of] Al-Zaher, about holiday celebrations in the Al-'Abasiyyah synagogue, about the trips he and his schoolmates used to take to Fayoum and Alexandria, and, finally, how overnight he was compelled [to leave Egypt] without [the possibility] of returning. Nevertheless, he and his wife have continued speaking the Egyptian vernacular at home, have taught it to their children, and have on several occasions taken them to visit Egypt."

"Can Such A Woeful Fate [As Expulsion] Await Our Coptic Brothers [As Well?]"

"Can such a woeful fate await our Coptic brothers [as well]? The answer is that [such a scenario] is not so farfetched - especially when one considers [the following:] the cancerous spread of Salafi ideology in Egyptian society; the country's surrender to blackmail by Islamists; the proliferation of hypocrisy - for instance, a mark on the forehead [taken as a sign of assiduousness in prayer] or a woman wearing the isdal, which is essentially the Iranian chador; incendiary speeches by some mosque preachers and propagandists on satellite television who try to outdo each other in presenting the Christian faith as an abomination and in disparaging the New Testament as a forgery.

"In addition, morality has sunk so low that a certain individual, whose articles appear weekly in [the Egyptian government daily] Al-Ahram, [2] has called [the New Testament] 'the Book of Moneybags' [3] - thus, the Christians are being abused on account of their wealth. To the best of my knowledge, Al-Ahram is funded by the Egyptian taxpayer."

"Citizenship [Laws] Must Be Implemented By Abolishing The Clause in the Constitution That Sets Islam as [Egypt's] National Religion - Because the State is an Entity Devoid Of Religion"

"It began in 1952, with the July 23 revolution, which was supported by the Muslim Brotherhood and resulted in the emigration of millions of Copts - the best of minds - to every corner of the world, where they invariably succeeded [in establishing themselves]. Since then, the stream of Coptic emigration has gained momentum.

"Today, I find it necessary to warn of the danger [to Egypt's economy] posed by the removal of their capital from the country. The present extremist climate cannot be changed through inactivity or by coaxing. [Rather,] citizenship [laws] must be implemented by abolishing the clause in the constitution that sets Islam as [Egypt's] national religion - because the state is an entity devoid of religion. The clause on religion should likewise be eliminated from all official documents.

"In addition, social Islamization activity, currently underway in full force, must be curtailed. For example, who needs fatwas prohibiting smoking? Isn't it enough to say that smoking is harmful to one's health? Why say that financial transactions, e.g. mortgages, are based on the shari'a? Aren't all these exaggerations that are bound to lead us to an unfathomable disaster?

"And why do government press and state television channels give such ample ground to demagogues and hatemongers? Why are we getting ourselves in trouble by lending support to dangerous phenomena, including Salafi and Wahhabi propagandists, even after they have been expelled by their own countries? Isn't that tantamount to preparing the ground for extremists, who in time will take up arms against us?"

The Day Is Near When the Muslims Will "Devour One Another"

"It must be stated that a society that does not allow pluralism or debate is a society in crisis. [ Egyptian society] has repudiated its Jewish population and is now discriminating against Christians; next will come a new phase in which Muslims devour one another. [They will say:] This one is a Sufi, who makes pilgrimages to tombs; that one is a Rafidi Shi'ite; and those over there are secular apostates.

"And so on, and so forth, until we turn into the wicked of this world - if this has not actually happened to us already."

[1] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), August 12, 2008.

[2]The reference here is to columnist Zaghlul Al-Naggar. See, August 27, 2008. For an interview with Al-Naggar, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2055, "Internationally Recognized Egyptian Geologist/Cleric Zaghloul Al-Naggar on Al-Jazeera: Old, New Testaments Are Forgeries," September 18, 2008, Internationally Recognized Egyptian Geologist/Cleric Zaghloul Al-Naggar on Al-Jazeera: Old, New Testaments Are Forgeries ; see also MEMRI-TV Clip No. 1849,

[3] This epithet is based on a pun: in Arabic, the words 'holy' (muqadas) and 'a pile of money' (mukadas) sound similar.

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