Were we all fantasizing, naive and foolish when the recent peaceful and civilized Egyptian revolution led by the new youthful generation made us and the whole world believe that its prime objectives were stability, freedom, justice, peace, equality, democracy, openness, respect for human rights, a dignified life with no oppression, education about hatred and discrimination and a secular constitution that secures equality in rights and obligations for all Egyptians citizens of all religions?
Like many others, we are enraged, disappointed and sad because the “Higher Military Egyptian Council” that assumed power after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak and his government, has badly covertly and overtly adopted all the previous Egyptian regimes’ despicable inhuman practices, intolerance, discrimination, injustice and persecution of the Christian Copts. Not only that, but against all logic, patriotism, and obligations towards other Arab countries has embraced the Iranian mullahs’ fundamentalist and terrorist regime, undeterred by its flagrant terrorism, hostility, and interference in the internal affairs of the Gulf Arab States, Lebanon and Iraq. One wonders if the only achievement of the Egyptian revolution was the replacement of one Pharaoh with another.
Sadly, so far, nothing substantial has changed in Egypt, except in the camouflaged firing, hiring and arrest of a number of high ranking officials, mainly ministers, army intelligence officers and governors.
The first and major failure and setback committed by the “Higher Military Egyptian Council” members was in their stubborn clinging to Article Two in the country’s constitution that legalizes discrimination and apartheid. It states verbatim: “Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language, and the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation”.
In this realm of discrimination, the Council refused to appoint Christians and women in the judicial committee that was designated to study and propose constitutional amendments. The approved amendments were few, insubstantial and merely decorative and cosmetic.
Constitutions in all free and democratic countries are secular and not based on any religion because a free and democratic state does not require the protection of any one religion, but its institutions assume the responsibility of protecting and facilitating the religious rights and freedom for all citizens. Religion must be a free personal choice and should not by any means be forced on any individual no matter what, while no one legally or morally has the right to impose any religious lifestyle or beliefs on others.
Article Two preaches, fosters and fortifies racism and discriminates between the citizens of Egypt according to their religious beliefs. It cultivates and nurtures par excellence feelings of hostility, grudges, inequality and a sense of superiority for Muslims and inferiority among Christians.
The Council refused to amend this discriminating article without giving any justifications; and while the majority of the Egyptians are Sunni Muslims, there are more than 15 million Christians, more than one million Shiite Muslims, as well Baha’is, Jews and even atheists.
The racist Article Two has been for many, many years encouraging the Egyptian Muslim Salafists and other Islamic fundamentalists to deal with their fellow Christian citizens with superiority, contempt, humiliation, hostility, intolerance, ongoing bloody violent infringements on the Coptic faith, rituals, everyday lifestyle, property, freedom of work, residence, movement, family affairs, and churches.
In reality, Egyptian authorities have always turned a blind eye on the fanatical assailants and perpetrators, protected their violent acts and ignored enforcing the law on them. Earlier this month (08.05.11), Coptic Christians in the area of Embaba (Cairo) were massively attacked by 3,000 Muslim Salafists continuously for 14 hours without any police or army intervention. The attackers fired guns and rifles and hurled Molotov cocktails at Coptic churches, houses and businesses. Twelve Copts were killed and 232 wounded. The Higher Military Egyptian Council did not assume its national duties, declined from protecting the Copts and just passively watched while the Copts were being slaughtered.
The Free World countries and UN have a moral obligation to intervene by all available means and on all levels in a bid to protect the Egyptian Copts and to condemn the stance of dire indifference that the actual new military rulers of Egypt are taking, while the fanatical Muslim Salafists are attacking the Copts, invading their homes, killing them, burning their churches and threatening to kill their clergy including the Coptic Pope Shenouda.
Apparently, the Council has abandoned its security obligations and it is either not interfering at all or succumbing to the Salafist fundementalists’ threats. Last month, the Salafists challenged the Council when it appointed a Christian Governor and through violent demonstrations it was forced to retreat and rescind the appointment.
It’s really a huge insult to the new Egyptian rulers and to all the Arab countries when the persecuted, threatened, scared and abandoned Copts need to call on the UN and Free World countries to step in and protect them from their own rulers, army and people.
In conclusion, it’s the national duty of the Egyptian state and people to produce an effective legal, social and security apparatus through which the safety, freedom, faith, churches and property of the Copts are safeguarded from the savagery of the Salafists and other fanatics. Meanwhile, all Copts’ rights as equal Egyptian citizens should be fully honored without racism, discrimination or injustice. And most importantly, both Article Two of the Egyptian constitution and the “Hamayoni Decree” (a clause in the Egyptian law, dating back from Ottoman rule, February 1856, that regulates Church construction and maintenance), MUST be abolished.
By Elias Bejjani
Elias Bejjani is Canadian-Lebanese human rights activist, journalist and political commentator.