Speaking of the Copts . . .
In their recent article for the New York Times, "Promise of Arab Uprisings Is Threatened by Divisions" (May 21, 2011), Anthony Shadid and David D. Kirkpatrick have reported on Egypt's religious tensions in a somewhat oblique manner:
In Cairo, the sense of national identity that surged at the moment of revolution -- when hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths celebrated in Tahrir Square with chants of "Hold your head high, you are an Egyptian" -- has given way to a week of religious violence pitting the Coptic Christian minority against their Muslim neighbors, reflecting long-smoldering tensions that an authoritarian state may have muted, or let fester.One has to read rather carefully to recognize the unlikelihood that a Christian minority of merely 10 percent -- unlike those peaceful "people of all [other] faiths" -- could accurately be described as adopting violence that's "pitting the Coptic Christian minority against their Muslim neighbors." Let's rewrite the passage to reflect reality:
In Cairo, the sense of national identity that surged at the moment of revolution -- when hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths celebrated in Tahrir Square with chants of "Hold your head high, you are an Egyptian" -- has given way to a week of religious violence pitting the Muslim majority against the Coptic Christian minority, reflecting long-smoldering tensions that an authoritarian state may have muted, or let fester.That would more accurately portray what is really happening in Egypt between the Copts and their Islamist opponents. But denial is a river in Egypt, and here is what instead gets reported:
At a rally this month in Tahrir Square to call for unity, Coptic Christians were conspicuously absent, thousands of them gathering nearby for a rally of their own. And even among some Muslims at the unity rally, suspicions were pronounced.I am skeptical that many sheiks are "always" pressing the Muslim faithful "to be good to Christians," but be that as it may, the Copts are the original Egyptians, and their liturgical language derives from the ancient Egyptian language.
"As Muslims, our sheiks are always telling us to be good to Christians, but we don't think that is happening on the other side," said Ibrahim Sakr, 56, a chemistry professor, who asserted that Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the population, still consider themselves "the original" Egyptians because their presence predates Islam.
As for the unidentified "rally of their own," I suspect that the Copts were rallying to protest the recent attacks upon several of their churches, one of which was set ablaze. Little wonder that the "Coptic Christians were conspicuously absent" from the "rally this month in Tahrir Square."
And what of those "hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths" who had previously "celebrated"? Did they all show up for the unity rally? Of course not. There is no "all faiths" in Egypt. Aside from infinitesimally tiny slivers of other religions like the Bahá'í, who are scarcely worth counting, there are only the 90 percent Muslim majority and the 10 percent Christian minority -- and Egypt's Islamists would like to see that 10 percent whittled down to a mere sliver, too.
Will Copts go the way of Iraq's Christians and flee their native country in reaction to Islamist violence? I suppose that we'll find out.