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Author Topic: MODERN EGYPT  (Read 7952 times)
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« Reply #30 on: January 14, 2009, 10:11:48 am »

Shahine, an Egyptian civil servant in his early 50s, agrees that religion was not something that people talked about when he was young.

"But that was wrong," he says. "Religion is who we really are and there is no way we can deny it."

He does not encourage his children to play with Coptic classmates or neighbours.

"I am not telling them that they have to argue with them or not talk with them but I prefer that they do not get too close to them. They can say hello when they see them in the morning but they cannot go play with them in their houses or eat from their food."

Shahine denies that his insistence on such segregation smacks of sectarianism. "No, no. I have nothing against Copts but I just do not want my children to be subjected to matters related to the Coptic creed, things like God had a son and the Virgin Mary is the mother of God. There are influences that we have to avoid right from the beginning."

In his book Copts and Liberalism, dedicated to his daughter Mary "and other migrant birds", and his son Mina "who is dying to fly away", Kamal Ghobrial sheds light on the growing concerns that drive some Copts to consider emigration. The Islamicisation of society, he argues, could lead to demands that Copts may not wish to put up with even if they do not directly counter religious freedoms.

"If the Muslim Brotherhood were to rule would they or wouldn't they force my wife and my daughter to wear the veil," asks Ghobrial.

Milad Hannah, intellectual and university professor, is not perturbed by the stories of Nevine and Shahine.

"They are not representative -- not really," he argues. "As a Copt I have lived all my life well-liked by my Muslim and Coptic co-workers and neighbours. As a Copt I have my status in a society where 30 per cent of the businessmen, the most influential and economically powerful, are Copts, and where 20 per cent of university professors and medical doctors and engineers are Copts."

Hannah is not arguing against Coptic emigration. Nor is he denying that the increasing entrenchment of Islamism, in social discourse and in the state, is to blame. But he also points out that it is easier for Egyptian Copts to emigrate than it is for their Muslim countrymen, "and of course the limits Copts find are placed on professional promotion, especially within certain careers" means leaving for foreign shores more tempting.

"But it is wrong and unfair to suggest that Copts are being forced out of Egypt. Yes, maybe some do not feel comfortable over their current status or fear for their future and that of their children but this is not to say that Copts are fleeing the country."
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