Saturday, October 20, 2007

Egypt’s Coptic Crisis


Approximately 10% of Egypt’s population consists of Coptic Christians. Contrary to government reports, tensions are on the rise between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt. A recent play in which a Coptic boy converts to Islam and then back to Christianity angered the Muslim community. The play did depict the Muslim religion in a negative light. Muslim protestors demanded the Coptic Church apologize. However, the church refused and protests became violent. In fact, several Copts and Muslims were injured. The incident caused the largest Muslim protest in Egypt.

Many Copts were insulted and outraged by the Muslim community’s behavior and reaction to the play. Some Copts have felt that they have received insults daily, but never receive apologies from the Muslims. Realistically, Copts have been insulted in Muslim churches as being described as “unbelievers.” Copts are regularly ridiculed in films. On university campuses, Copts are isolated and avoided by Muslim students.

Violent incidents among Egypt’s Copts have been on the rise since the play. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights believes a reason for this is the government’s lack of involvement during crises. Youssef Sidhom, editor of the only Coptic newspaper in Egypt, accuses the government of excluding Copts from the political involvement. There were only 2 Copt names for candidates in parliamentary elections. Many government officials have made bare statements about guaranteeing peace to minority communities in Egypt. As a result of the Copts lack of political involvement, they are reduced simply to a minority religious group, ignored by the majority of the Egyptian community.

In reality, many across the world have been ignorant to the news that Coptic Christians in Egypt are a minority and fear violence. The Egyptians have tried to keep silent on the issue hoping that the incidents would dissolve on its own. As a result of the silent behavior, lack of involvement may have caused the silence to turn into violent noises.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights offers a solution by creating a committee for religious affairs in parliament. The committee would deal with issues and come up with practical solutions to stop the continuing conflict between different religions. If no solutions are found soon, the Copts may find themselves as outsiders in their home country. More and more Copts have found it difficult to get jobs in government and public sectors. The issue is in the heart of Egypt, where equal rights are not implemented.

Discussion questions:
Will government involvement solve the equal rights issue? Has any country been able to cure discrimination?

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