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Coptic Christians fear continued turmoil, new Constitution in Egypt
An interview with Coptic activist Ashraf Ramelah
Dr. Ashraf Ramelah is the founder and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights nonprofit organization 501 (c) (3). The organization has offices in Italy and the United States. Dr. Ramelah is a Coptic Christian activist dedicated to the Coptic cause and believes that his life’s mission is to speak up for the oppressed Copts who cannot speak up for themselves. His web site is www.voiceofthecopts.org. This is a Q&A with Dr. Ramelah.
1 — What is your view of the newly proposed constitution
Any constitution containing religious references is antiquated. The writers of Egypt’s new constitution tried to please both Islamists and secularists, an impossibility, and in doing so left an open door to another uprising and another constitution.
2 — How does it address the rights of Coptic Christians?
Copts are citizens of Egypt. They do not need to have special rights. In a democratic country all citizens are equal under the law. However, this constitution is not democratic and falls short of establishing principles of individual freedom and human rights; therefore, it undermines the rights of all Egyptians especially Christians who remain second-class citizens.
3 — Are Coptic Christians better off today than they were under Mubarak and Sadat, or has their situation worsened?
The situation for Copts is worse than ever. The Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi experiment made life more difficult and oppressive than under Mubarak but reverting to the Mubarak era is not what Copts have risked their lives to obtain. Thus, I believe that if things are to get better in Egypt (real freedom in Egypt), things will first get worse.
During Nasser’s era, Copts paid a high economic price when their businesses were nationalized. Nasser confiscated the agricultural lands owned by Copts and sold divided parcels to Muslims. Both Copts and Jews were stripped of their economic power through Nasser’s government seizure of private businesses. Sadat furthered Nasser’s Islamization of Egypt which worsened the plight of Copts. By the time of Mubarak’s presidency, Islamic supremacy had saturated the country. The Mubarak era protected Muslim thugs and mob attack of Christians, their churches and homes, by allowing police and thugs to take the law into their own hands with the court backing. In short, the corrupted justice system, stacked against Christians, led to further degradation.
Worse now: Decades of adverse conditions for Copts weakened the body of Christians into passivity even before Morsi’s Sharia-leaning, anti-Christian and anti-democracy government came to power. During Morsi’s term, Copts were daily victims of mob violence with no guilty party ever paying the price. Then Morsi’s downfall resulted in a Muslim Brotherhood backlash against Christians faulted for Morsi’s overthrow. Egypt’s new constitutional draft just written proves to be a replica of the Sadat-Mubarak constitution without any promise of equal rights for all citizens.
4 — Has the Arab Spring treated Christians fairly or has the Arab Spring focused more on Islamic concerns and needs, ignoring Christians
Arab Spring is a deceptive label created by western leftists as a misnomer for the Islamic revival in Arab countries. Arab Spring was a massive project instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood in a series of countries with the Islamic Caliphate as its ultimate goal. Christians, like the Jews before them, are meant to be purged from each country. In the Middle East — Egypt, Iraq and Syria – Christians suffered the most losses (property damage, injury, and death). Central Africa – Nigeria and Kenya – on the whole had less impact on the Christian populations, although much suffering.
5 — What is the current state of Coptic Christians? How bad is the discrimination they face?
It is very bad. Christians live in fear. Kidnapping of girls and women and firebombing of churches and towns and more take place without reliable police protection. Law enforcement – police and army – are infiltrated by Islamists many of whom are criminals recently released from jails by Morsi. Hamas is prevalent and Christians are soft targets.
6 — What needs to be done?
By some miracle this past July, the sea parted for the Egyptian people. Now freedom fighters must be led through this time period by true representatives acting boldly to achieve their ends. First, the police and the army must be cleansed of terrorist and Islamist infiltration, both in ranks and in leadership, in order that the people have real protection. Also, all terrorists and criminals roaming the streets must be rounded up and jailed or deported from Egypt. Already, all Islamic teachings on satellite TV can no longer be seen because TV stations spewing Islamic propaganda have been shut down – a hopeful sign.
As well, this interim time between governments should be used by true liberal leaders to begin to de-Islamize the country. Egypt’s entire school system teaches every subject using Islamic religious doctrine in textbooks responsible for brainwashing students into believing Islam’s supremacy ideology. Authorities must begin to replace all school textbooks in order that Egypt’s future generation of leaders learn well that religion must be separate from the state and that all religions must have equality under the law.
Leaders pursuing a modern state must put in place a plan to reverse the course of adult illiteracy and teach the principles of freedom and democracy. The voting process must be taught as election polls must be lawful and regulated and overseers prepared.
Actually, there are no leaders in Egypt at this moment with any real commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, much less a democratic constitution. But pro-democracy freedom fighters still have power as long as they continue to have General Al Sisi’s support.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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