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Author Topic: MODERN EGYPT  (Read 7464 times)
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« Reply #30 on: January 14, 2009, 10:09:53 am »

Security officers and officials in Minya declined to comment on the exchange of accusations. Elsewhere, security officers say that they are not bothered much by such accusations of bias.

"Every police officer is now perceived in a negative light. The ones accused of being biased are lucky. At least they are not denounced as violators of human rights as many of us are," commented one state-security officer. The state, he insists, is not taking sides though there might be a few instances of bias here and there "among both Copts and Muslims".

"There are school teachers and university professors who exercise religious bias. Some police officers do too and it is on both sides [Copts and Muslims] but obviously because there are more Muslims than Copts it seems more of an Islamic than a Coptic practice."

The census is a very sensitive issue for both Copts and Muslims, for the Church and Al-Azhar and above all for the state. State figures suggest that of the around 80 million Egyptians there are some six to seven per cent Copts. The Church suggests double this figure while radical Islamic organisations claim Copts account for as little as four per cent of the total.

According to some independent sources, in 1995 Copts formed an estimated 15 per cent of Egypt's population. Their declining proportion of the total is not an exclusively Egyptian phenomenon but that applies to Christian communities across the Arab world. And when all is said and done, Egypt shows the least disturbing signs of mass Christian migration.

Foreign diplomats in Egypt and Egyptian diplomats overseas acknowledge an increasing trend among Copts to leave the country, mostly for Australia and the US.

"I don't believe we have much room left here. It is very sad but this is the way things are," says Nevine, a mother of three and wife of a businessman. In her early 40s, she has many complaints about how she has been treated by society. "I have ceased to be an Egyptian woman. Now I am a Copt. When I go to the doctor I am a Copt; if I have paper- work to get done at some government office I am a Copt and when I get in the women's carriage on the Metro I am a Copt. And as a Copt, more often than not, I am the unwanted other. It was not always that way."

When Nevine takes her children to play on Friday at a Heliopolis club she always feels tense. "My two boys tend to play together. It is my daughter who breaks my heart when she comes with a sad face and says that nobody wants to play with her because her name is Mary."

Nevine is considering emigrating to Australia. Among the reasons, she says, are worries not just over social signs of discrimination but for the future. "I pray that President Hosni Mubarak will have a long life. My fear is that the next president, especially if he has an Islamist -- not Muslim -- background will have less sympathy for Copts." When Nevine was growing up she faced no such problems. She had Muslim and Coptic friends and religion "was never an issue".

"We did not talk about it. It belonged elsewhere," she says.
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