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September 1, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10777

Pan-Arab Nationalists, Islamists Strongly Criticize Organizers And Supporters Of The 'Egyptians Not Arabs' Campaign, Accusing Them Of Fostering Divisions Among Arabs And Promoting Western Agendas

September 1, 2023
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 10777

On August 3, 2023, Kmt Boutique, a printing service shop self-described as "the first Egyptian nationalist brand dedicated to promoting the Egyptian identity," made an announcement that it was introducing new t-shirts celebrating figures, characters, and the Hieroglyphic script of ancient Egyptian civilization. Some of these shirts featured the statement "Egyptians not Arabs." Within a few days, this statement evolved into a trending hashtag, sparking a fervent debate between proponents of the campaign and those who opposed it, including pan-Arab Nationalists and Islamists.

In their critique of the campaign against Egyptian nationalism, pan-Arab Nationalists and Islamists accuse the campaign's organizers of exacerbating divisions among Arabs, rejecting Islam, and advancing foreign agendas. They even ridiculed the campaign organizers for using the Arabic alphabet instead of the ancient Egyptian language.

However, supporters of the campaign, like Egypt-Awareness, which identifies itself as "the pulse of the Egyptian Nationalist Stream," clarified that Egyptian nationalism transcends religious or ideological affiliations. They emphasized that "language, as a singular standard, does not dictate the identities of peoples. Therefore, considering the people of West Africa as French solely because of their native language, French, is implausible." They further asserted that Egyptian nationalism is disconnected from fascism, isolationism, racism, animosity toward other peoples, or any other unsubstantiated and recurrent accusations.

This report will review the criticisms leveled by Pan-Arab Nationalists and Islamists against the campaign organizers and supporters, while also highlighting the responses and counterarguments presented by Egyptian nationalists and the campaign supporters.

While condemning the campaign and using on the platform X, formerly called Twitter, the hashtag "Egyptians not Arabs," Syrian jihadi cleric Abu Yahya Al-Shami wrote on August 21, 2023: "An ignorant claim written by a detached opportunist in the Arabic language. Following Lebanon's claim of Phoenician heritage, Morocco's claim of Amazigh heritage, and Turkey's claim of Turkish heritage, along with the war waged against the Arabic language, in Egypt, the claim of Coptic or Egyptian Pharaonic heritage has emerged."[1]

In a subsequent post, Al-Shami further claimed that the goal of the campaign "is not to reject or fight Arab nationalism, but rather Islam and its timeless language," stating: "How can a Muslim be content with denying Arabic, not taking pride in it, despite it being the language of the Quran? Unless they are estranged, following what the devils dictate. And perhaps this person is of Arab origin yet remains unaware of their heritage. Arabs have spread from China to Andalusia and are among the most prolific nations in terms of reproduction."[2]

Egypt-born American Islamic preacher Fadel Soliman accused the campaign of having a malicious objective to prove that Egyptian Christians are the indigenous people of Egypt. He wrote on August 27, 2023: "The #Egyptian_Not_Arabs campaign has a malicious objective aimed at achieving one result: that Christians are the original people of Egypt. Based on this, the description of 'indigenous peoples' applies to them, along with the support programs designed for them by the United Nations."[3]

Among the critics is also the Egyptian writer Yassir Abd Al-Aziz, who published an article on Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera.net on August 27, 2023. In the article, he accused the campaign organizers of "being extreme in excluding other civilizations while capitalizing on the sharp decline in awareness and the weakening of the protective Islamic movement of this nation's identity." Abd Al-Aziz also asserted that this campaign is timed similarly to the campaigns "I am Syriac, not Arab" in Syria and "I am Assyrian, not Arab" in Iraq.

Abd Al-Aziz further elaborated on his opposition to the campaign, stating: "It is Islam, not nationalism, that safeguards and will continue to safeguard the identity of this nation. It protects and will continue to protect its unity and strength from such destructive calls. These calls, which have not achieved any results or advancements due to various factors, have altered the premises of that alleged issue, assuming that such an issue exists in the first place."

The writer then pointed out that it was "strange" for the campaign organizers to launch their campaign in Arabic. He argued that the Egyptians and Copts they intended to appeal to are no longer the same people who built the Egyptian civilization.

After defending the Arabic and Islamic identity, which he described as "the cornerstone" holding Egypt together, Abd Al-Aziz concluded by condemning those who supported the campaign. He stated that if "they understood the motivations behind this call as a source of discord within Egypt, let alone for the Arabs and Muslims, they would not have tweeted nonsensically, serving enemies' interests. Because God has chosen this country for a role that it will fulfill, and until Allah inherits the land and those upon it, Egyptians will remain the torchbearers of Arab identity and Islam..."[4]

In response to these criticisms and accusations, campaign supporters defended their stance and presented several counterarguments. For instance, an Egyptian user on the X platform, Captain_Kiroo, expressed pride in being Egyptian and not Arab. In a post dated August 25, 2023, Captain_Kiroo stated: "Of course, I'm #Egyptian_Not_Arab #Egyptians_Are_Not_Arabs. I'm genuinely surprised by Egyptians who associate themselves with Arabs solely because we currently speak Arabic. My dear, Brazilians speak Portuguese, yet they do not assert they're Europeans, and Argentinians speak Spanish without considering themselves Spanish."[5]

"Nationalism Awakening" accounts on social media platforms like X, Facebook, and Instagram are also staunch supporters of the campaign. The account posted an extensive message under the hashtag" #Egyptians_Not_Arabs" on August 23, 2023, in which it debunked false historical and religious information propagated by critics of the campaign. According to the account, the following are "fundamental principles that everyone should be aware of": "Egyptian nationalism has no affiliation with religion. It is an inclusive movement for all Egyptians regardless of their beliefs, whether they are Muslims, Christians, or others; Language alone is not a definitive identity marker, and it might not even be a valid criterion. By the same logic, inhabitants of West Africa would be French because they speak French, and Americans would be English because they speak English. Can you imagine the absurdity of such an argument? The shift of Egyptians to the Arabic language was gradual and driven by political reasons unrelated to the conversion of Egyptians to Islam. The majority of Muslims worldwide do not speak Arabic as their native language. We've previously explained, using historical Arabic sources like Ibn Kathir, Tabari, Al-Maqrizi, and others, how the Egyptian language transitioned to Arabic with an Egyptian dialect.

"Egyptian nationalism doesn't advocate isolationism or fascism. It has never promoted isolation from the world. Embracing openness doesn't imply we should label Egypt as Pharaonic, Greek, Arab, African, or any other identity at will. Foreign occupation should never be considered as changing the identity of Egyptians. No colonial power can alter the essence of a nation's identity. Egypt is Egyptian. It's one of the oldest civilizations in history, predating the Arab nation by 4,000 years, the African nations by 5,000 years, and the European nations by 4,500 years. Egypt is a distinct nation, unlike any other around it. All geneticists and anthropologists worldwide unanimously agree that contemporary Egyptians are the descendants of ancient Egyptians, with a genetic continuity rate exceeding 80%, and reaching up to 91% in some genetic studies. The Egyptian people have absorbed external genetic influences while maintaining their distinct Egyptian identity."[6]

In defense of the campaign, Eman El-Shaarawy, an Egyptian user on the X platform with over 18,000  followers, argued in an August 27, 2023 post that the critics of the campaign "tremble at the unveiling of the truth behind the distortion, manipulation, and demonization of Egypt's history. It's an attempt to erase our identity that has been shaped through the accumulation of civilizations and cultures over thousands of years."[7]

Saudi user Badr Al-Saadoun, with 59,000  followers, agreed with the campaign: "Egypt is not Arab. Ethnicity, history, and civilization assert that #Egypt is not Arab. The mixture of its peoples (The Pharaohs and ancient Egyptians) began speaking Arabic only after the entry of Amr Ibn Al-'Aas to Egypt 600 years ago, and the Arab lineage is only a minority on the eastern side of Canaan land."[8]

Within the ongoing discussion about the campaign, some have chosen to condemn both sides. They blame Egyptian nationalists for exerting a sense of superiority and suggest that they should focus more on accomplishing their own goals rather than seeking pride solely in the achievements of their ancestors. On the other hand, critics of the campaign are accused of being extremists, labeling those who associate themselves with Egyptian civilization as infidels.

This specific argument was articulated by Egyptian novelist Mohammad Khalid in a video he shared with his 906,000  followers on Facebook on August 26, 2023. Addressing Egyptian nationalists, Khalid said, "No matter how great it may have been, all of this history is part of the past and a former civilization that has run its course. When those who come to us seem amazed by our civilization, they return to their countries and continue building their own. We should refrain from fixating on history and boasting about our ancestors' deeds."

He proceeded to criticize those opposing the campaign who label ancient Egyptians as unbelievers, stating, "Who told you they were unbelievers? How can you judge an entire civilization that extended for thousands of years as heretical? Only Allah has the authority to make such judgments."

Khalid then concluded that "Being Egyptian never contradicts carrying Arab blood. In fact, the world's most exquisite horse breeds emerged from crossbreeding Egyptian and Arabian horses. Additionally, remember that Hagar, the mother of Ismael and forefather of the Arabs, was Egyptian. This indicates that the roots of Arabs trace back to Egypt. I advise against taking sides that could lead to accusations of extremism. Stand in the middle, think moderately, and take pride in belonging to an authentic Egyptian civilization that has taught the world the essence of civilization. Simultaneously, recognize that you are among those whom God entrusted with delivering His message to all of humanity."[9]

Khalid’s argument was swiftly countered by an Egyptian awakening account, which posted an extensive statement on Platform X on August 27. The post rebuffed the claim that Egyptian nationalists are radical, asserting: "I wonder what extremism there is in simply stating historical facts as they are, without manipulation or distortion of words? If you were to consult any historical reference from the Middle Ages, such as ibn Kathir's Al-Bidaya Wa Al-Nihaya or 'Fada'il Misr Al-Mahrousa' by Ibn Al-Kendi, for instance, you would discover that everything we mention in terms of information aligns with them. Mohammed seems to regard presenting facts as they are as extremism, whereas withholding certain information embodies moderation and balance."

Additionally, the post emphasized that "Egyptian nationalism is deeply committed to correcting the confusion, identity disturbances, and the dissemination of inaccurate historical information (which lacks any basis in historical texts) within the collective awareness of Egyptians spanning decades. This has escalated to a point where merely referencing historical facts or stating that we are 'just Egyptians' is deemed extremist and unnecessary discussion."[10]

 

[1] Twitter.com/borwjj/status/1693660007252840575, August 21, 2023.

[2] Twitter.com/borwjj/status/1693660010738336047, August 21, 2023.

[3] Twitter.com/FadelSoliman/status/1695776190294790462, August 27, 2023

[4] Aljazeera.net/blogs/2023/8/27/أنا-مصري-مش-عربي, August 27, 2023.

[5] Twitter.com/Captain_Kiroo/status/1695081696683528478, August 25, 2023.

[6] Facebook.com/sahwa.eg/posts/pfbid0m279W1upgYxsKmtdweTZ3vwkepeF1dVY6Exv6eSKXEy24VG4NHvMkQ2dvwvFxNZrl, August 23, 2023.

[7] Twitter.com/shaarawy_eman/status/1695850011399946555, August 27, 2023.

[8] Twitter.com/bas_ksa_/status/1693369494767353878, August 20, 2023.

[9] Facebook.com/watch/?v=860965968756704, August 26, 2023.

[10] Twitter.com/sahwaeg/status/1695815631357042875, August 27, 2023.

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