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We publish Here An Unpublished Interview Done with our Person by the Arabic Website www.sasapost.com
About Discrimination and Persecution Suffered by Copts in Egypt

About Discrimination and Persecution Suffered by Copts in Egypt

We publish Here An Unpublished Interview Done with our Person by the Arabic Website www.sasapost.com

 

Published in December 22, 2018

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy

 

 

 

 N.B.: We have been interviewed, via email, by Mrs. Nahed Zaki.

 

Headline: Our Interview with the Egyptian-American Muslim Thinker Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour about Discrimination and Persecution Suffered by Copts in Egypt.

 

Introduction:

 Recently, discrimination and persecution inflicted on Christian Orthodox Copts in Egypt have taken a dangerous turn; having read your books and articles, Dr. Mansour, I could not help but notice that you have tackled the persecution of Egyptian Copts in history; I feel delighted by your enlightened school of thought; your ingenious ideas are rarely to be found elsewhere. Please allow me to pose the following six questions to you. 

 

Question (1): Do you think that the current persecution, discrimination, and racist views against orthodox Christian Copts of Egypt have historical roots which harken back to century of the Arab conquest and successive caliphates?   

Answer (1): The Umayyads were racists who persecuted Copts/Egyptians but not because of religious reasons, but because they were biased against non-Arabs in general (even if they converted!) in all conquered nations ruled by them; the Umayyads were biased against the Copts in Egypt, the Amazigh in North Africa, and the Nabateans in the Levant. The Umayyads prevented one of their princes from being appointed as the Crown-Prince because his mother was a Byzantine slave. Yet, a Christian Arab poet who wore a noticeable cross, i.e., Al-Akhtal, was a favorite friend of the Umayyads who were happy to make him one of their courtiers. The Umayyad vizier Al-Hajaj Ibn Youssef once punished a man of non-Arab origin when he married an Arab woman and the marriage was annulled. The Umayyads imposed heavy taxes and tributes on conquered nations even if they converted! The just and fair Umayyad caliph Omar Ibn Abdul-Aziz (who ruled for two years only) stopped all such injustices; i.e., the bias against non-Arabs and paying taxes; this resulted in his assassination by being poisoned by the Umayyad dynasty. The fanaticism and extremism of the Abbasids (who were friends with most non-Arabs) was not racial but religious; they persecuted all non-Sunnites: Shiites, Sufis, and Christians/Copts as well as Jews. They sought to undermine and close down all non-Sunnite houses of worship; this religious persecution did not exist during the Umayyad Era. The Abbasids had to 'justify' their oppression and religious persecution by renting sheikhs who invented and fabricated hadiths for them and ascribed them falsely to Muhammad two centuries after his death under the name of (Sunna). The Umayyads were biased for Arabs in a way similar to Pan-Arabism and nationalism of Gamal Abdel-Nasser; Copts were never persecuted during the Nasserist era. When Sadat allied himself to Wahabis, the KSA, Al-Azhar, and the terrorist MB, the persecution of Copts began since 1974 and it will continue as long as the backward, obscurantist Wahabism continues to be the dominant religion in Egypt. Sadat was keen on spreading (using Saudi money) Azharite institutions and schools all over Egyptian soil, esp. in rural areas. Copts found refuge in Orthodox Coptic clergymen of their Church; many men of the Mubarak regime played with the card of terrorizing Copts; many foreign agents who hate Egypt and seek to destroy it play with the same card in the political game.           

 

Question(2): What are the deep-rooted influence in history that formed and maintained today's persecution of Copts and the negative view of them in the popular culture of Egyptians?

Answer(2): Any foreign invasion and colonization power seek to apply the policy of (divine and rule) within any given conquered nation (e.g., GB in India and in Egypt); tyrants do the same now in Egypt. Moses' Pharaoh committed his sin of (divine and rule) when he persecuted the weak, peaceful Israelites (who were among the Egyptian nation since they were born there, as per the Quran) as a minority to terrorize all Egyptians (see 28:4). The Quran says that the polytheists among the Qorayish tribe followed the footsteps of Moses' Pharaoh when it persecuted peaceful believers (see 3:11, 8:52, and 8:54). The immoral, sinful four pre-Umayyad caliphs Abou Bakr, Omar, Othman, and Ali invaded and conquered nations falsely in the name of Islam as they sought to establish an Arab empire; they consumed ill-gotten money and committed massacres and heinous crimes in Iraq, the Levant, and Egypt. For more details, we refer you to our book, in English, titled "The Unspoken-of History of the Pre-Umayyad 'Righteous' Caliphs" (found on this link:   http://www.ahl-alquran.com/arabic/book_main.php?main_id=83). Thus, they distorted the reputation of Islam as they abused its name; they spread disbelief, violence, and aggression which are the pillars of the Sunnite religion; God does no love them (see 2:190) because He does not love aggressors; those caliphs and Arabs with them murdered hundreds of thousands of those brave people who defended their countries against Arab invaders; they also looted, raped, enslaved, sabotaged, etc. and then imposed heavy taxes/tributes on the conquered nations. The Arab conqueror, esp. the Umayyads, despised non-Arabs in general, including Copts who suffered varying degrees of persecution (but enjoyed intermittent, few decades of tolerance) by caliphs and sultans for centuries, from the Umayyads to the Ottomans; the masses of the Muhammadans in most cases followed their sultans in the persecution of Copts. Hatred is deep-rooted inside Copts towards Islam, as they think as if it were the cause of their suffering persecution until now. Some proverbs in Egypt until now express hatred and prejudice of the Muhammadans against Copts and the hatred of the Copts towards the name of Islam and anything related to it.       

 

Question (3): Al-Makrizi, the historian, mentions in his writings how Copts were severely persecuted by the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim; in your writings, you've quoted Al-Makrizi: Copts were forced to adhere to a dress-code, and to carry heavy crosses around their necks, etc. What are the influence of such era on the current popular culture in today's Egypt? I mean like derisively calling Copts as ''the ones with blue bones''.  

Answer(3): The Abbasid caliph Al-Motawakil is the first ruler to initiate the policy of persecuting the People of the Book (Jews + Christians), including Copts of Egypt. This caliph endorsed the Sunnite religion as the official religion of the caliphate and as the only representative of 'Islam'! he hired preachers to spread it all over the Arab empire, as per the historian Ibn Al-Jawzy. The persecution of Copts is directly linked to the teachings of the Sunnite religion and its hadiths and fiqh; Egypt knew millennia of tolerance typical of river-side agricultural environments. This changed because of Sunna hadiths which have nothing to do with Islam. These hadiths urging persecution of the People of the Book (and non-'Muslims' in general) poisoned the atmosphere in Egypt for centuries until now. Mutual hatred between Copts and Sunnites is dominant now in Egypt. Passive Copts who never defend themselves hate 'Muslims' and 'Islam'. We cannot blame them for such deep-seated sentiments of animosity and hatred after centuries of oppression, injustice, and persecution; they never know that the Hanbali Sunnite religion of Satan (i.e., known now as Wahabism) is to blame. During the Shiite Fatimid Era in Egypt, Copts were severely persecuted by the caliph known as Al-Hakim; many of them converted to the Shiite religion and some fled to monasteries in the desert.        

 

Question(4): Do you think that the rise of the extremist, Salafist trends (or the so-called political Islam or Islamism) in Egypt in 1970s and 1980s is the primary cause of racist, erroneous views about Orthodox Christian Copts? 

Answer(4): There is nothing called 'political Islam' or 'Islamism'; let us call a spade a spade; the real name for the extremist, Salafist trends is Wahabism. Wahabism is the extreme form of Sunnite Hanbalism or the Hanbali doctrine of the Sunnite religion. By ascribing Wahabism forcibly to Islam, the Salafists/Wahabis commit a grave injustice against the Lord God and His Religion of Islam which is the religion of mercy: "We did not send you except as mercy to the humankind." (21:107). Salafism is the euphemism if Wahabism. Thus, those Wahabi/Salafist seekers of theocracy are enemies of the Lord God and the foes of Islam (i.e., the Quran), as they use the opium of the Sunnite/Hanbali religion (i.e., Wahabism) to deceive the masses and to reach power falsely in the name of Islam to establish the outdated, horrid theocracy or caliphate. The Sunnite/Hanbali religion harkens back to the reign of the Abbasid caliph Al-Motawakil who sponsored it as he felt that theocracy would establish him on the throne of the caliphate, as we explain in our book titled "How Hanbalism, the Mother of Wahabism, Caused the Destruction of Iraq during the Second Abbasid Era". Later on, for centuries, Hanbali Sunnite religion stepped back by force to make room for the dominant Sufi-Sunnite religion and Sufism in general. yet, in 1745 A.D., the sheikh M. Ibn Abdul-Wahab emerged in Arabia and he revived the Hanbali-Sunnite religion, renamed as Wahabism; he made a pact with the prince M. Ibn Saud of the Najd region; the first Saudi State emerged and it spread bloodshed and bloodbaths in Arabia, Iraq, and the Levant. The Ottomans enlisted the help of M. Ali Pacha, King of Egypt, whose military troops led by his son defeated Saudis and caused the collapse of the first Saudi State in 1818 A.D. The second Saudi State emerged but collapsed because of internal conflicts and struggles among the Saudi-family princes. The third, current Saudi State has been established in Arabia by Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud through his soldiers/troops (who were mostly desert-Arabs and Bedouins as well as highwaymen) formed by him who were taught Wahabism (by Wahabi clergymen and sheikhs) in colonies built by him and they were trained to be fierce warriors and fighters who never hesitate to commit suicidal operations upon being commanded. These Wahabi warriors were known as the Najd Brothers; they were taught to raid, massacre, steal, etc. in the name of military 'jihad' against 'infidels' (all non-Wahabis). Once the Saudi State emerged, before giving it the name Saudi Arabia, the Najd Brothers rebelled against Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud after they declared him as an 'infidel' who cooperated with Great Britain and refused to conquer Iraq, the Levant, Yemen, and Gulf monarchies, but he defeated them in 1929-1930 A.D. with the help of the British; he gave his State the name of the KSA in 1932 A.D. Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud established an alternative group, the Muslim Brothers, or the terrorist MB, in Egypt in 1928 through his agents Rasheed Reda, Hafiz Wahba, Moheb-Eddine Al-Khateeb, and Hassan Al-Banna in order to spread Wahabism in Egypt instead of the peaceful Sufism dominant at the time; he aimed at turning Egypt into a strategic depth for him. Because the term Wahabism is hated (until now) in Egypt, Wahabis agents serving the Saudi king renamed it as Sunnite Salafism, ascribing it to Muhammad and his so-called 'companions', so that the Sunnite Wahabi sheikhs undermine and fight against Sufism and Shiite religion. Those agents, through the MB, managed to spread Wahabism in the Arab world, slowly but steadily. The religious reform initiated by the head of Al-Azhar, the imam M. Abdou who died in 1905 A.D., was aborted erupted by his disciple Rasheed Reda who betrayed his tutor and allied himself to the Wahabi Saudis; more details on this topic are found in our book, in English, titled "The Emergence of Wahabism in Najd and Its Spread in Egypt" (found on this link:   http://www.ahl-alquran.com/arabic/book_main.php?main_id=140). The terrorist MB backed the 1952 military coup in Egypt, but the terrorist MB members later on opposed Gamal Abdel-Nasser and he persecuted and imprisoned them; most of them fled to the KSA. When Nasser died in 1970, Sadat came along, he allied himself to the KSA and to the terrorist MB; sadly, as a result, Wahabism spread more openly in Egypt in the 1970s with the help of the Egyptian State; this has ruined the Egyptian mind until now; the terrorist MB turned against Sadat and assassinated in 1981. Wahabism (i.e., the Hanbali Sunnite religion) has been taught until now in Egyptian schools, media, mosques, Al-Azhar, etc. while posing as if it were Islam. This is the primary cause of persecuting Copts. When we have followed the footsteps of the reformist M. Abdou, Al-Azhar persecuted our person and persecuted and fought against members of the Quranist trend and other reformist trends which were nearer to Quranism. As a political activist in the 1990s, we operated with Egyptian figures of enlightenment to serve the Egyptian State which fought against armed Wahabis who massacred Copts and tourists. The Mubarak regime made good use of the intellectuals (including our person) forming the Popular Front to Face Terrorism. We were the consultant of this Front in matters of religion. Thus, we helped Mubarak though our person and most of the intellectuals were among his persecuted victims. In our writings, we prove that the Quran contradicts Wahabi religion of terrorism. Yet, once the Mubarak regime managed to relatively control terrorists, it rejected the Front and allied itself to the Wahabism-controlled Al-Azhar. The Mubarak regime men recruited Wahabis terrorists to serve them within dirty work and terrorist operations monitored and planned carefully by the Mubarak regime to terrorize Copts and others inside Egypt. We advocated human rights, enlightenment, democracy, and rights of minorities (esp. Copts) within our work at the Ibn Khaldoun Center with Dr. Saad-Eddine Ibrahim. In 1998, within our work in this Center, we introduced the project of reforming religious education to teach tolerance pupils/students and wrote documentaries about tolerance within Egyptian society in history and in the present time. This provoked the fury of the Mubarak regime men and of Al-Azhar; the Ibn Khaldoun Center was closed down, Dr. Ibrahim was imprisoned, many Quranists were imprisoned, and we fled to the USA in 2001 as a political asylee. We continue our peaceful, intellectual jihad for religious reform through our Quranism website launched in 2006. We drew the useful lesson that introducing reform in Egypt, and other countries, is possible only if the tyrant ruling pharaoh would be willing to do so.                           

 

Question(5): I've read about the fact that some powerful Azharite figures made you, after a long struggle and months-long discussions, omit certain chapters from your PhD thesis, especially the chapter on religious fanaticism, racism, and extremism; would you please tell me more about the omitted parts and how True Islam is against such fanaticism, racism, and extremism?

Answer(5): Our Ph.D. thesis is about the influence of Sufism within the Mameluke Era in Egypt; the thesis included 1500 pages in which we have exposed the destructive influence of Sufism on the religious, cultural, political, moralistic, and social levels; we have depended on documents, manuscripts, and books of Sufism besides the books of contemporary historians. In sum, we have proven the fact that Sufism contradicts Islam (i.e., the Quran). When we submitted our Ph.D. thesis for discussion in 1977 at the then-dominated-by-Sufis Al-Azhar University, the Azharite sheikhs, professors, and clergymen felt terrified; for three years, they negotiated with our person (using threats many times!) so as to introduce radical changes to our thesis; we adamantly refused to change even a single word; finally, a compromise was reached; namely, two-thirds of the thesis were omitted; we have discussed the thesis in Oct. 1980, and it focuses only on the influence of Sufism on the political, social, and cultural levels and on arts (esp. architecture). At last, we have obtained our Ph.D. degree cum laude. We were promoted from the post of Assistant Professor to become a Professor. We never disregarded the omitted chapters of our thesis; we have published them in separate books. In fact, our very first book (published in 1982 in Cairo, Egypt) is based on the omitted parts; it is titled "Al-Sayed Al-Badawi between Facts and Myths" (of course, this book is published now on our Quranism website). In this book, we undermine and expose the Sufi saint Al-Badawi (still worshiped in Egypt!) and we prove that he was merely a Shiite spy who conspired to restore Egypt to the Shiite Fatimid rule; one of his failed plots was to make his followers burn all churches simultaneously (from Alexandria in the north to Aswan in the south) to introduce sectarian revolts or a civil war inside Egypt. In 1984, we taught for our students at the History Department, Al-Azhar University, our book titled "The Character of Egypt after the Arab Conquest" (found in English on this link:   http://www.ahl-alquran.com/arabic/book_main.php?main_id=96), and we devoted a chapter in it about the persecution of Copts by the Umayyads. Azharite professors and sheikhs were furious because of this book; the struggle between them and our person began in 1985, resulting in our being persecuted, interrogated, losing our job at Al-Azhar University because they fired us, and our imprisonment in 1987 upon commands issued to the Mubarak regime from the Saudi embassy in Cairo. Within our political activism in 1990s in Cairo, Egypt, we authored our book titled "The Persecution of Copts after the Arab Conquest" (found in English on this link:   http://www.ahl-alquran.com/arabic/book_main.php?main_id=95). In this book, we discuss how this persecution contradicts the Quran and how it had destructive political influence; this book ends in our advocating the spread of culture of religious tolerance in Egypt. Of course, all people can read, copy, print, and publish our books for free but without monopoly.           

 

Question(6): As a Muslim thinker, reformist, historian, and researcher, do you have your own vision about reforming the religious discourse in Egypt in ways which will ensure correcting faults and eradiating inherited erroneous notions regarding Christian Copts in Egypt?

Answer(6):

 There is nothing called 'reforming the religious discourse'; the right term is (religious reform); to merely 'reform' discourse means to resort to quick fixes which will be like a facelift proved a failure. The much-needed religious reform (to save what can be saved in Egypt) is based on the following Islamic principles inferred from the Quran.

1- Islam in terms of behavior is peace; all citizens who adhere to peaceful demeanor are Muslims regardless of their religious affiliations. Peace is the basis of full citizenship among citizens who should be equal to one another in Egypt. In contrast, those armed aggressors who terrorize innocent, peaceful people and practice coercion/compulsion in religion are disbelievers/polytheists because of their violent behavior and they act against the Lord God and deserve to be punished severely in case they do not repent and adhere to peace: "The punishment for those who fight God and His Messenger, and strive to spread corruption on earth, is that they be killed, or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or be banished from the land. That is to disgrace them in this life; and in the Hereafter they will have a terrible torment. Except for those who repent before you apprehend them. So know that God is Forgiving and Merciful." (5:33-34).

2- Islam in terms of faith inside hearts is monotheism of (There is no God but Allah) and to submit to God's Word, the Quran, without deifying things/items and mortals (prophets and/or non-prophets). The Lord God is the one to judge all humanity on the Last Day regarding their faiths; hence, it is never the mission of the State to 'guide' citizens to make them enter into Paradise; in fact, guidance is an individual responsibility: "Whoever is guided - is guided for his own good. And whoever goes astray - goes astray to his detriment..." (17:15); "And to read the Quran to them. "Whoever is guided - is guided to his own advantage. And whoever goes astray, then say, "I am one of the warners."" (27:92).

3- The following points are the result of the above ones.

3/1: The mission of the State is to be confined to maintaining security, justice, social solidarity to the poor and the needy, and religious, political, and economic freedom of all citizens.  

3/2: There should not be in Egypt any official institution that controls religion; no clergymen have the right to assume that they represent God as His deputies on earth to 'guide' people; many Quranic verses assert that Muhammad was never a guardian over anyone, because guidance is an individual responsibility: "Say, "O people, the truth has come to you from your Lord. Whoever accepts guidance is guided for his own soul; and whoever strays only strays to its detriment. I am not a guardian over you."" (10:108); "We sent down upon you the Book for mankind in truth. He who follows guidance does so for the good of his soul. And he who strays in error does so to its detriment. You are not their guardian." (39:41); ""Insights have come to you from your Lord. Whoever sees, it is to the benefit of his soul; and whoever remains blind, it is to its detriment. I am not a guardian over you."" (6:104). If this is the case of Muhammad, let alone other people (i.e., non-prophets).

3/3: Al-Azhar must return to its original status from its inauguration in 972 A.D. to about 1920 A.D.; i.e., a mere mosque or a house of worship, with no political or religious role or influence, maintained by donations and supervised by the government. Al-Azhar University must be turned into a civil, secular one annexed to Cairo University and Ain Shams University (both universities are located in Cairo, the Egyptian capital), after closing down Azharite faculties, colleges, and institutes that teach the Sunnite religion. Azharite secondary preparatory, and primary schools must be turned into State or public schools without religious education. All of the Cairo-based institutions or bodies linked to Al-Azhar must be closed down (e.g. the Fatwas Center and 'Islamic' Research Center). The State must supervise al mosques and make sermons focus on teaching moralistic aspects only without tackling any political aspects. This will make the Egyptian State save billions of LE (i.e., Egyptian pounds) and help remove the burden of protecting the Wahabi Sunnite religion which has caused terrorism and bloodshed spread in Egypt and worldwide and which still poses as a veritable danger threatening the very existence of Egypt.      

3/4: The absolute religious freedom must be available for all Egyptian citizens; this includes freedom of religious thought/belief, the freedom of practicing any acts of worship and rituals, the freedom to build houses of worship, and the freedom to proselytize and preach any religion without compulsion in religion and without resorting to violence linked to the myths/hadiths of changing 'vice' by force and putting the supposed 'apostates' or 'heretics' to death.   

4- Introducing religious reform is directly linked to introducing legislative reform which will lead to democratic transition in Egypt within a process which will take several generations. The much-needed legislative reform must aim at removing all restrictions regarding freedom of thought and religion and regarding creativity/arts. This must include annulling laws which cripple and imprison the innocent people, especially laws of limitless detention inside police stations. Of course, religious reform is also directly linked to fighting corruption in all governmental sectors especially within the judicial authority and economical and social aspects dominated by the police officers and the army officers and generals.

5- The main problem is that any Egyptian pharaoh/ruler (in all eras until now) needs to ride/control clergymen who, in their turn, ride/control the people. Regarding this point, there is no difference whatsoever between clergymen of Al-Azhar and those of the Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church. Tyrannical pharaohs use both types of clergymen as tools for maintaining tyranny and oppression. Tyrants/rulers of modern times need to terrorize Copts and to take them as hostage and then to offer them temporary relief so as to show before the West powers that the rulers protects the Copts. This is a typical card in the political power game. Part of the show or the trick is to go one talking endlessly and fruitlessly about the so-called 'reform of religious discourse' which has failed or rather never initiated in the first place; meanwhile, the peaceful Copts are persecuted and along with them are peaceful Quranists and all enlightened thinkers. This means that the problem lies in Pharaonic  tyranny; this is why Moses was NOT sent by the Lord God to the oppressed, submissive Egyptian people at the time but to the self-deified Pharaoh who exalted himself on earth inside Egypt and caused its destruction.          


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