Don’t Blame the Copts!

Ever since the run-off elections started, with the candidates being Morsy and Shafiq, and a dangerous new rhetoric started rising within the ranks of the revolutionaries with one clear theme: The Christian Coptic Population have betrayed the revolution. Why? Well, because the supreme majority (One would estimate about 85%) of the Christian voter base went to Ahmed Shafiq, with the remaining 15% dispersed over various “revolutionary” candidates like Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahy (There are rumors that some Copts have voted for AbulFotouh, but none could be found to verify this), thus providing Shafiq with the necessary votes to reach the run-off elections. The Blame Game started immediately, and despite revolutionary infighting between the supporters of various revolutionary candidates that never quite made it, they all seem to agree on one point: The Copts ( also insert: The Church) have screwed the revolution over with their voting choice. It goes without saying that this rhetoric is very immature and dangerous for the Coptic population, and will lead to further polarization amidst the revolutionary ranks, and that they are better suited to finding out why that happened and try to court that vote, instead of entrenching that belief further. In reality, their choice of vote, while unfortunate, is very logical and should not be blamed for it, and to paint them as traitors after being the population that suffered the most after this revolution is nothing short of latent sectarianism and ignoring the facts.

Of all the different social segments of society, the Coptic Christians are the ones who have suffered the most due to the success of this revolution. Instead of having one of the primary and explicit goals of this revolution to be the end of sectarianism and social prejudice against the Copts, the revolutionaries seemed more intent on freeing all of the political prisoners during the Mubarak era, which included many people who were jailed for belonging to various islamist groups. While the supreme majority of those prisoners are not “terrorists”, many of them have committed, planned or engaged in terrorist acts , and almost all of them do not share feelings of goodwill towards the Egyptian Coptic population, since many of those terrorist acts were aimed at them during the 80’s and 90’s. The revolutionaries at the time supported the freeing of those prisoners due to: 1) Our seemingly unbending utopian belief that this population was radicalized due to the absence of peaceful political means for them to present their ideas, 2) Our desire to keep the islamists within our ranks, and this was extremely important to them, 3) Our Goal of having a new Egypt where equality for all Egyptians, and not just Christians, was the top priority. Completely sure of ourselves and our ways, we were completely oblivious to the simple fact that not even three months after the All Saints Church bombing in Alexandria, which was one of the principle drivers of this revolution, we actively lobbied for the release of thousands of people that have previously encouraged such acts or at the very least wouldn’t necessarily sympathize with its victims, all the while the Egyptian police is nowhere to be found. Imagine their horror as they sat back watching this unfold, all the while being completely unable to publically protest out of fear of being accused of being anti- revolution or Human Rights. And then immediately after sectarian rhetoric and conflicts started: The Camilia Shehata case, the Atfeeh and mansheyet Nasser attack, the Imbaba Churches attacks, Abu Qurqas, etc.. All in all, the Christians had 6 of their churches attacked in 2011, which was unprecedently terrifying, naturally.

Instead of cursing the situation, and believing in the spirit of togetherness that Jan25 created, the Coptic Christians started to have a political activist wing, and started having their own protests to demand their rights of equality, safety and laws that allow them to practice their faith in full, and had their sit-in at Maspiro, expecting the revolution to rally around them. The revolutionaries, unfortunately, had other priorities, like dismantling the security apparatus, attempting to ban NDP officials from Political participation, and politically clashing with the SCAF over having their demands fulfilled and having the military trials stopped. So, we would go to the Maspiro sit-in for solidarity every now and then, but we wouldn’t stay or give it our full attention, support and participation, telling ourselves that the revolution is working with the Christians demanding their rights and that we are better suited to fight the big political fight over the shape of the next government and state. Our hearts were with them, but we offered little else in terms of tangible support. All the while, attacks on them in the media and society intensified, and sectarian tension started rising again in Egypt, openly promoted by islamists and salafi leaders, without real condemnation of any kind. And then the Maspiro attacks happened.

There is no point in re-hashing what happened in Maspiro and its aftermath, but needless to say no accountability was ever achieved and the non-christian Egyptian population kept its mouth shut. The revolutionaries naturally protested and demonstrated, but the general population all exhibited a case of eerie silence. The Army had killed Egyptian Christian civilians, and had its media incite violence against the Christians, and the country went into paralysis, unable to comprehend or face what just happened. This is the moment where Egypt’s Copts felt most alone and abandoned: They abandoned their passivity, despite all the attacks and incitement continued protesting for their rights and against the injustices placed on them, and they got run over by tanks, and we did nothing. And then the parliamentary elections took place, where the islamists used every sectarian card they had in their pockets, and ended up winning more than 70% of the seats of the parliament, and calling for legislations based on Islamic Sharia immediately. In the hearts and minds of the average Christian in Egypt, the belief that this revolution was turning into an islamist revolution, and that the secularist revolutionaries could do nothing to stop it, was finally cemented.

As time went by, and as the hope for an inclusive and not Islamist dominated constitution started to vaporize, many of the Copts started viewing the notion of stopping the islmaist camp from reaching the presidency became the top priority. Searching for viable candidates, they were presented with the following pool: the Ex-MB NourParty backed AbulFotouh, The head of the party that went into a parliamentary alliance with the MB during the parliamentary elections Hamdeen Sabahy, the wishy-washy politician that is Amr Moussa, and the ex-regime revolutionary enemy #1 Ahmed Shafiq, who was firmly opposed to the MB and the Islamist, and represented the promise of the return of the Mubarak days, where Islamists were not one election away from taking over the country, possibly forever, but rather were kept “under control” by state security. Fully aware that the previous regime discriminated against them and allowed the random attack against them every now and then, many in the Coptic ranks did the math, compared having maximum one attack per year and retaining almost equal rights to having 6 of their churches attacked in one year and the possibility of losing their rights forever, and came up with supporting Shafiq as the natural conclusion. Many of them didn’t, and voted for Sabahy and Moussa for the revolution’s sake, but the supreme majority, literally terrified about prospects of their survival, made that compromise and supported Shafiq.

Now, instead of figuring out what lead to this, or even attempting to understand it, the revolutionaries, once again, forgot what Copts feel and fear, openly blamed them for Shafiq’s ascension, and some of them started urging people to vote for the MB candidate Morsy so that Shafiq doesn’t win. Never mind that more Muslims voted for Shafiq than Christians, never mind that having Morsy in power would ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood would have full control of the legislative and executive, and will be able to write whatever they wish for in the rights and liberties section in the constitution or legislation in parliament, never mind that not a single revolutionary candidate showed a clear stance for secularism or anti-Islamism that would’ve courted their votes. Nope, Shafiq being in the run-off is the Copts’ fault. They have betrayed the revolution. Full stop. No discussion.

Well, I disagree. Blaming the Coptic Christians for Shafiq is like blaming SCAF for “Hijacking the revolution”, both are attempts to deflect personal responsibility and deny the simple truth that had the revolutionaries united behind one leader or presidential candidate, they would’ve easily won this election and been in the run-off already, with the Coptic vote firmly behind them. But no, it’s not our fault that we chose shitty candidates and ignored their plight for over a year, it’s their fault for picking the least of all evils to them. They are not under any illusions over their choice, but when you have been facing rising and mounting hostility and danger from day one of this revolution, when you seem to be the one always paying the heaviest price, when you are a Coptic Christian, and hear about the verdict to release all Muslims suspects in the Abu Qurqas clashes and giving all Christian suspects life sentences not even a week ago, it’s easy for you to understand why they voted the way they did. Many revolutionaries may feel that the Coptic Christians have abandoned the revolution with their choice, but the uncomfortable truth may be that the revolutionaries abandoned the Coptic Christians a long time ago, and are paying the price for it now.

45 Comments on Don’t Blame the Copts!

  1. George Jereidini
    May 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Very well put together. Excellent rationale Even I was enlightened (I did not vote Shafik by the way).

  2. Baher Ziad
    May 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Mmm very well said that probably sums it up but i guess this votes means that shafiq is gonna win any way, i don’t believe the church will take the risk to oppose Islamists & the revolution this way with explicit instructions unless they are sure of it or else the risk will be very high

  3. Kristi
    May 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Great read and analysis.

  4. jack
    May 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    If you DON’T blame the Copts then that would imply to look at the majority/islamist …

    Sorry the Copts will be blamed.

    But I do commend you for standing up and taking a stand as usual.

  5. Emad Shenouda
    May 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    This is exactly how I felt toward the whole issue, those words were in my mouth for the last few days and could not spill it out. But you did it perfectly. Thanks for being able to understand and feel who other people feel. Hats off for you

  6. Aabeid Salama
    May 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Unfortunately, blaming the Copts is business as usual.

    Aabeid Salama is the author of MY WALTZING EGYPT (now an eBook)

  7. ErvinD
    May 29, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Whether you blame Copts or not, it was an extremely stupid decision to vote for Shafiq. If Shafiq wins, they will be blamed and will bear the consequences. If Shafiq loses, the winners will feel no love for them.

    (Do not get me wrong – freedom of speech and freedom of thought include a freedom to be stupid. Without freedom to be stupid, freedom of speech does not exist.)

    Minorities (especially in transitioning countries) should be smarter. Or, to put it in a better way – minorities can hardly afford not to be smarter.

    • Hoda Garas
      May 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      So in either case, whether Shafik wins or loses, the Copts will be vilified and hated. So I say to the Copts, “Go for Shafik.”

      • ErvinD
        May 30, 2012 at 1:30 am

        Not blamed if they did not vote for the military. It’s simple – they would draw anger from large number of Egyptians, and military would not protect them no matter what happens.

        Minorities should be careful not to be kingmakers in a volatile transitional environment, especially if going against the wishes of the majority. Shooting themselves in the foot.

        • leciat
          May 30, 2012 at 1:44 am

          minorities should be careful and not go against the wishes of the majority? you do not have the first inkling of what democracy is

          • ErvinD
            May 30, 2012 at 1:56 am

            you have no clue about politics.

            let me spell it out, just for you: people have every right to vote for The Devil himself, if they decide to do so. all people have that right – in every environment, under any circumstances.

            however… is it smart to cast such a vote!?

          • leciat
            May 30, 2012 at 5:20 pm

            it is the smart thing to do if you live in a civilized democracy where you will not be slaughtered for your vote. as i stated before you do NOT have the first inking about what democracy is, what you describe is mobocracy.

      • Karim Hari
        May 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

        The copts go for shafiq anyway. Since they are sectarian they do anything what BABA Schnouda tells them to do.

        • Jeff
          May 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm

          Is Baba Shenouda alive to give instructions?

          • Karim Hari
            May 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm

            he gave the instructions before he died. Plus there are more authorities to tell people what to do. But can you tell me please why this coptic billionaire is not in prison again. I think his name is sawaris. He and his Billionaire brothers were big buddies of Mubarak.

        • Mona Iskander
          May 31, 2012 at 7:14 pm

          Baba Shenouda is dead and the church dare not tell the Copts how to vote. The Copts have been vilified as traitors, their churches have been burnt, their ears torn off, their girls abducted, and they have been threatened with the “Gizia” a tax that is levied in lieu of military service, the presumption being that they are all traitors who cannot be trusted to defend their country. Do you wonder then that the Copts feel that tha coming vote is an existential matter and that they are fighting for their surviva? I personally did not vote for Shafik in the first round, but you can be very sure that I will do so in the runoff, however reluctantly!

    • Michael
      May 30, 2012 at 11:31 am

      ErvinD —> you have no clue about Egypt just to begin with. The revolutionaries aren’t the majority, they make up less than 1% of the vote, only concentrated in Cairo, Alex, Suez, more than 50% of these so called revolutionaries are under 20yrs of age and so they’re not eligible to vote. Copts make up about 10% of the population according to govt stats, that’s 8 million, assuming 5 million are eligible to vote that’s more than enuf to swing any vote. Shafik was the only candidate to promise a female vise pressie and that’s why most copts voted Shafik. Got it kid?

      • ErvinD
        May 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

        wonderful. revolutionaries are 1%!?

        well, maybe you know Egypt better than me. quite possible. however… who won parliamentary elections, what were the %s?

        got it, old man? or is connecting those dots just too f****g difficult? 🙂

        • Michael
          May 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm

          Sorry I meant Shafik promised a female coptic v.pressie…. who won the majority of the votes? Islamists….. your tone indicates that you are pretty immature…

        • Michael
          May 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm

          Obviously you don’t know anything about egypt linking the parliamentary election results with the pressie elections. Talking nonsense about the Coptic vote and blaming them for whatever they do. Just another western so called *analyst*

        • Michael
          May 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm

          Unless you consider the islamists who won the majority in parliament are revolutionaries, well, that’s a whole new level of ignorance!

  8. Vivian
    May 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Absolutely perfect! Great Analysis and THANK YOU, THANK YOU for being a Muslim who spoke out to the truth! 🙂

    • Karim Hari
      May 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      He is not a muslim. Ask him.

      • Michael
        June 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        Does it matter?!

  9. Johnny Weixler
    May 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Well written as usual. Everybody wants a scapegoat. We do it here in the US all the time. But I am impressed your ability to understand and empathize with the difficult situations faced by minorities, especially the Copts.

    This winter, my wife and I filmed a documentary on Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt as they are currently unfolding. It became really evident to us that, no matter what happens in terms of violent incidents and uncertain politics, Egyptians of all faiths can do what it takes to stick together, to constantly re-affirm their national unity. Interestingly, in our film, we highlight the story of a Coptic priest in Upper Egypt who campaigned for a Salafi sheikh who was running for parliament. Who would have guessed? Politically and theologically they couldn’t be more different, but they respect one another as honest men–and that is more than can be said of most politicians!

    • Ahmad Shawki
      June 17, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      The story you mentioned is a perfect example of the age old relationship between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. There are many similar examples I’m sure.

      However, as was mentioned in the article, many Muslims voted for Shafik for exactly the same reason, being terrified of the Islamist’s rise, watching all those gihadists being released from prison, appearing on TV as heroes, and thousands allowed to return back from Afghanistan, which left many scratching their heads. Egypt’s future as a modern democratic state is on the line, with all moderate Egyptians have everything to lose.

  10. Luiz
    May 30, 2012 at 12:04 am

    You are right about the Copts, but I disagree with you on the MB.
    Now if you want to avoid Shafik you have to trust the MB, or, as we say in my country (Brazil), to “trust mistrusting”. Secularists must establish a strong alliance with the MB in order to prevent it from doing in power whatever it wants; they were successful in stopping the MB on the Constituent Assembly, which is a positive precedent. If MB and secularists are not ready for a sort of “democratic alliance” (as we had in my native Brazil in the transition from dictatorship to democracy, among political forces that loathed each other but had a common adversary) then Shafik will win.

  11. LK
    May 30, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Excellent post. We had a post on Liberal Koshari that reflected on the fact that Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, are single issue voters (for or against Shari’a). Details:

  12. Tallulah
    May 30, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Excellent analysis, and views. Am sharing this. I learn a lot from reading your posts. Thank you for the education.

  13. Ahmed El-Sayed
    May 30, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Spot on analysis.

    We should not be asking ourselves how the copts could have voted for Shafiq but why we have created an environment where they have such fears so as to vote for such an individual? Egyptian Copts have a long history of being patriots and aiming for the country’s wellbeing above theirs as a group. So where have we gone wrong?

    We need tolerance to come back into the country.

  14. Publicola
    May 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Sandmonkey – great post!

    It’s people like you that bring glory and honour to Egypt!

  15. Mohsen B
    May 31, 2012 at 3:57 am

    Highest respect for your clear headedness, vision, and sound logic

    If you would allow me I would love to advise all Egyptians to go out and vote this time, because there vote is more important this time than anytime before. And when they do, please vote for the candidate that can do best for solving Egypt’s current problems … immediately

    Don’t listen to long term promises, we shall not get there until we fix the present. Ideologies are for long term. We need to fix or float the sinking ship first

    Vote for the person not for who he belongs to, Whether he will not take care of some minorities demands or delay grand religious dreams (time for that will come, we have been waiting for decades, one or even Four more years is OK).

    Vote for someone with PROVEN ACCOMPLISHMENTS, not for one who is a great speaker that has done nothing but talk, talk, talk

    Egypt’s immediate disastrous problems are: Citizen’s safety on the street and at their homes; Economy; Writing the new Destour and implementing it. organizing and ensuring basic supplies such as food and fuel; and securing our borders with Libya (arms smuggling) and Israel (serious threat of capturing the Sinai).

    There are many other problems, but they can afford taking sometime to fix.

    Tahya MASR

  16. A.Michael
    May 31, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Its a great Blog, I just want to add that Copts votes were divided on 3 candidates according to each person point of view. As stated the biggest fear was to find an islamic president on board. If this occurred Copts were to be denied in the socitey by all means. It will not only add more attacks (which copts are used to) but it will also define them as visitors and minority in their own country. No presidential candidate was brave enough and sharp to assure the copts. The fear to discourage the islamic section if speaks for the coptic rights was clear in the words of every candiate. Christians thought that if the guy we want to elect was not able to stand for them at least by words, how would he stand for them in problems? Shafiq was brave enough to speak somehow and on the other side if he didnt do what he said, at least it shouldnot be worse.

  17. Blah
    May 31, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Minorities in the Middle East always have a soft spot for dictators and dictator-wannabes because they’re so afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

  18. dhirrar
    June 1, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    sandmonkey is paid by american christian groups

    i have no doubts about that.

    • Writting
      July 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      And you are paid by muslims or ther brainwashed you? Please he is an honest writter so dont come here to diss.

  19. Publicola
    June 1, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    … and the commentator ‘dhirrar’ is definitely in urgent need of a qualified and competent psychiatrist

  20. Publicola
    June 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Sandmonkey’s analysis of the presidential elections is confirmed and corroborated by other analysts, in particular with respect to electoral behaviour or certain (demographic) voting patterns:

    … at least a section of the Coptic Christian vote turned from Moussa, who had counted on it, to [second-ranked] Shafiq [secular military] … … out of fear of … the Islamists, who appeared bent on seizing control of the whole country, wholly Islamising it, and even reviving the Islamic Caliphate. A military-backed Shafiq, some among the Coptic upper classes had been arguing, was sufficiently tough enough and strong enough to push back an Islamist takeover.
    … the numbers certainly do not support the contention that Shafiq came in second place thanks to the “Coptic vote”.

    In fact, the bulk of Shafiq’s votes came from rural-dominated provinces, such as Menoufiya in the Delta, which is virtually free of Copts.

    And … there is little doubt that a great many Copts voted for [third-ranked] Sabbahi [chairman of the secular left-wing nasserist ‘Dignity Party’] . One glaring example has been Cairo’s garbage collectors, the famed ‘zabaleen’, who were happy to tell anyone who cared to ask that they were solidly behind Sabbahi.

    To my mind, rushing to blame the Copts for the Shafiq vote is much more an indication of the perhaps tiny grains of bigotry that seem to lie just under the skin of a great many liberals, even leftist Egyptian Muslims …

    From: “Minerva’s owl flies at dusk: A quick reading of Egypt’s presidential vote”
    By: Hani Shukrallah
    In: Ahram Online – Wednesday 30 May 2012

  21. Hanna
    June 3, 2012 at 8:02 am

    I dont agree with your analysis. What I am wondering is this. How many of the thugs attacking Tahrir were Copts. How many were involved in Camel battle? Saweiris the Coptic billionaire was a big friend of Mubarak. The Finance Minister was a Copt! Why the Copts voted Shafik when they could have voted Sabahi. If the church told them who to vote for then why not 10 million of them vote Sabahi en masse? 10 million out of the 25 million who voted would clearly have given Sabahi the presidency but they didn’t. They chose the old regime over Sabahi. The chose the return of the regime that orchestrated all the attcks in upper Egypt on them when the Mubarak was under the spotlight to deflect attention away. Mubarak even attacked the Alex Church AND!!!! Mosque opposite although no one ever mentions that fact!! where the Muslim bead seller died outside, 2 weeks before 25th January because he needed to deflect anger he was coming and the best way was to do as he always done in that situation. Another staged attack to keep us fighting each other and not him but on 25th his plan failed.
    There are many very wealthy Copts in high positions. The Copts my way voted Fotouh. Your analysis is not accurate and does not take into consideration at all that Maspero was both Muslim and Coptis protesters but as usual the Muslim part is never mentioned. Because of sheer numbers obviously the Copts died there BUT lets not fantasize the facts. The army were withdrawing and trying to escape that riot and that is clearly seen in the video. Those army vehicle drivers were young poorly educated conscripts who were unarned being faced with hoarde of angry Copts AND Muslims so lets be fair. Sure they drove recklessly to escape and people were killed but lets not go all FOX news about it. Most people in that situation would have done the same thing.

    • Michael
      June 25, 2012 at 11:33 am

      As a muslim, you should not hide under a Christian name to express your opinion. It`s not intelligent and any one can spot it.

      • Muhibullah
        June 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm

        As an American you should not make assumptions about other nations and cultures, you are completely ignorant about the rest of the world and even incapable of understanding that other people might not think the same way as you do. As for the name ‘Hanna’ it is name common to Arab Christians and Muslims.

  22. Publicola
    June 6, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Who voted for Shafiq? – Who will vote for Shafiq?

    … The majority of Sufis in Alexandria support Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential runoff elections scheduled for 16 and 17 June, said a prominent sheikh on Wednesday.

    “Shafiq is the best candidate to implement democracy and establish a civil state in which Copts and Muslims are equal, as advocated by Prophet Mohamed,” said Sheikh Gaber Kasem al-Kholy, the highest-ranking Sufi sheikh in Alexandria.

    Adherents of Sufism, a mystical sect of Islam that has long been popular in Egypt, are estimated to be around half a million in Alexandria, out of a total population of roughly 4.1 million.

    Following the revolution, around 20 historic mosques belonging to Sufis were targeted by members of the Salafi movement, who attempted to demolish tombs of important Islamic scholars because they oppose the veneration of saints as heretical.

    … Shafiq won 212,000 votes in Alexandria in the first round, most of which came from Sufis. …

  23. Marsh626
    June 18, 2012 at 12:27 am

    It seems you guys are in total denial about ugly realities concerning the Egyptian population.

    Most Egyptians have low IQs, are imbred and are fundamentalist muslims.

    People can get mad at me for saying that so bluntly, but it’s reality. If given the vote, an islamic theocracy was inevitable in Egypt. Stop making excuses for muslim populations routinely voting in “islamists” (real muslims). It’s obviously what they want and what islam teaches.

    Islam is an insanely fucked up religion and people only follow it out of a sense of ethnic pride (it’s an arab supremacist religion), fear (afterall, if you leave it the penalty is death…) and stupidity. And islam is also inherently hostile towards non-muslims. Their systematic oppression as “dhimmi” is central to islamic sharia law. No shit the Christians are going to resist it you fucktards.

    And you can’t say you were ignorant about all of these inconvenient truths. Those of us in the Western right-wing anti-islam community fully warned you about what would almost certainly happen if you carried on with the revolution. You even blocked me on Twitter for doing so.

    You guys were either idealistic, naive, dupes or crypto-“islamists”. Either way, who gives a shit. It ended the same way regardless.

  24. Muhibullah
    June 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Why not blame the Copts? Weren’t they the lapdogs of the secularist tyranny for all these decades? Sadly Musri and the Ikhwan are too ideologically weak and corrupted to punish the tyranny’s supporters in a befitting manner.


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