Monday, February 13, 2012

If I Were A Copt

  • If I were a Copt I would have split the skies of Egypt and the world with the sound of my voice decrying the oppressive climate in which Egypt's Copts are living today.
  • If I were a Copt I would have let the world know of the inequity that has plagued the lives of many Copts since 1952 and kept them from occupying the political and senior administrative posts they deserve.
  • If I were a Copt I would have cried out against the gross injustice of making me pay taxes allocated by the State to Al-Azhar which does not admit Copts to any of its faculties.
  • If I were a Copt I would have vented my anger at being forced to pay taxes that are used to build tens of mosques when the Egyptian state has not paid a penny in the construction of a single church since 1952, with the exception of a donation made by President Nasser forty years ago towards the costs of building St. Mark's Cathedral in Abbaseya.
  • If I were a Copt I would have raised my voice against the absence of a single Copt from many legislative councils in Egypt today.
  • If I were a Copt I would have written one article after another about the way the mass media ignore my concerns and religious feasts as though Egypt's Coptic population does not exist.
  • If I were a Copt I would have let the whole world know how Egypt's Coptic history is not given its rightful due in Egyptian educational curricula and how the study of the Arabic language in schools is no longer the study of literary texts, poetry, novels, plays and short stories but of Islamic scripture which rightfully belongs in classes teaching religion to Muslim students.
  • If I were a Copt I would have made the world sit up and take notice of the difficulties Copts have in obtaining a license to build a church [out of their own funds, not from the proceeds of the taxes to which they contribute].
  • If I were a Copt I would have brought to the attention of international public opinion the outrageous comments made by some Muslim writers about Copts, such as their contention that Copts should never assume public governance, that they should pay the gezya [a special tax imposed on non-Muslims in medieval times], and that they should not serve in the armed forces. I would have translated obscurantist writings like the nonsense published by Dr. Mohamed Emara with funding from Al-Azhar, whose budget is made up of the contributions of taxpayers, including Copts, who are then vilified in books published at the expense of the state.
  • If I were a Copt I would have led a campaign both inside the country and abroad demanding the removal of the box marked "Religion" from the Egyptian identity card. For why should any person dealing with me need to know what religion I belong to?
  • If I were a Copt I would have led a campaign against the Egyptian bureaucracy that has allowed the Personal Status Law for non-Muslims to fester in closed drawers for nearly a quarter of a century, leading Copts to refer to it jokingly as the Personal Disaster Law instead of the Personal Status Law (a play on the letter "h" in the Arabic word ahwal, or status which, depending on whether it is pronounced gutturally or glottally, gives these two very different meanings].
  • If I were a Copt I would have let the world know the Coptic issue in Egypt is but one manifestation of a mindset that has taken hold in this region of the world, and called upon humanity as a whole to force it to retreat from its dark and dangerous path.


  1. Rightfull reflexions and truth spoken out about copts. I think that the situation of copts in Egypt has been voiced by many many authors and by Mr Tarek Heggy years ago and continues doing so. My point is that intellectuals who read these articles know these facts and confirm them. To me right now what is important to do is to speak up in all possible occasions with simple people, in order to counter all the misleading and blasphemous teachings the Imams do in all occasions in mosks in radio stations in telvision stations etc.....

  2. Tarek Heggy 's comments are emphasizing a sad reality.
    Although I agree with his comments I would like to emphasize one little thing. Tarek Heggy condemns the fact that the study of the arabic language is no longer based on arabic poetry and literature but is focused instead on Islamic texts. I would respectfully add that the study of the arabic language is relatively irrelevant to the history and language of the copts (whether literary or islamic arabic), since the language of the copts is (or rather was) coptic, the last evolution of the Egyptian language through its various scripts (hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic and finally coptic). Coptic is basically plainly the Egyptian language (in its last linguistic evolution) with a major orthographic simplification through the use of the 24 Greek alphabet characters and seven Demotic Egyptian characters for sounds proper to the Egyptian language. This Coptic egyptian alphabet (unlike the hieroglyphic, hieratic & demotic egyptian scripts) provided for the first time a clear indication of Egyptian phonology (the more than 400 Demotic Egyptian signs were mostly ideograms that did not represent phonems (sounds)). This last evolution of the Egyptian language was the language of ALL Egyptians. In the 8th century an arab leader decreed that only arabic could be used as an official language of administration. Coptic remained, nevertheless the main language of Egyptians till the 10th century. Then it declined gradually by lack of political will to preserve it and also due to the increased influence of Mamluks (often Turks). By the 17th century the Egyptian language (Coptic) had completely given to Arabic. According to several scholars and linguists, the Egyptian language (Coptic in its final stage) had it survived would have had the longest documented history of any language (for instance, Greek has the longest documented history amongst the Indo-European family of languages). By persecuting Copts, their history and language, Egypt is persecuting its own historical and linguistic roots, which is somewhat paradoxal.