On the “Coptic President of
The Dhimmis Within the Copts
By Mounir Bishay
At this juncture in Egyptian history, it would
be tragic if a Muslim citizen looks upon Christian Coptic citizens as Dhimmis. But, for Copts to view themselves in this
demeaning manner is a tragedy beyond comprehension.
While writing my recent article in Watani of 3 April 2005 entitled, “A Coptic President of
Dhimmitude is a term that was used in reference to Christians and Jews living in the Islamic Empire. They were also called “People of the Book” or “Ahl Al Kitab” in Arabic. The concept was created to describe Christians and Jews who did not want to embrace Islam. They were permitted to practice their religions in exchange for paying the Jizya tax. Their wishes to remain faithful to their religious heritages demoted them to the humiliations of being viewed as second-class citizens.
As such, it was forbidden for them to obtain high-ranking jobs or any position that might infer that they were equal or superior to Muslims. They were not trusted for employment in police and military agencies. Any meaningful position pertaining to national and civil defense was solely entrusted to Muslims. This unfair practice was abolished, hopefully never to return, by the
Nonetheless, the concept still lingers in the minds of some fanatical Muslims. For more than two decades now, Muslim extremists have been collecting Jizya from wealthy Christians in
Regardless of this attitude amongst some Muslims, it is encouraging to note that a new trend is starting to emerge in the Islamic world. Though it is likely due to international pressures, there are comforting signs that changes are taking place. News reports from
There is a strange irony in all of this. On one hand, there are signs that many Muslims are experiencing a change of heart. On the other hand, it is apparent that there are Christians who are not. These are so rigid in their thinking that they persist in perceiving themselves as unequal to Muslims. It is embarrassingly outrageous to discover that objections to demands for equality are actually coming from Christians, more so than Muslims.
In my previous article I called on Copts to take advantage of
A prominent Copt, Mr. Nabil Bibawi, objected to the idea saying, “I personally take responsibility in emphasizing that there is no Copt who is capable of carrying the full responsibility of being the president. No Copt is able to save the country from the dangers that encompass it from the inside and the outside.”
I trust that this does not indicate that Mr. Bibawi actually believes that all Copts are so ignorant that none are fit candidates for the job. Perhaps he was attempting to convey that he believes the general atmosphere in
Other Coptic Christians objected to my proposal with the accusation that I was unrealistic, as a Christian could never become the President of Egypt. Well, I believe I am realistic enough to recognize two things. First, I grant that the chances for a Copt to win the upcoming election are practically non-existent. Secondly, the history of politics in every nation proves that dreams do come true. It is my dream and responsibility to encourage my fellow Copts to seek the highest office in the land until one of them achieves it. I have the right to dream that the day is coming when Egyptians will vote for candidates on the basis of their abilities rather than their religious affiliation.
The reality that the odds are against a Copt succeeding in winning the next election by no means infers that running in the election is a wasted effort. To the contrary, the act of running for the office is in itself a successful accomplishment. The success is borne from the fact that Copts are taking their rightful place as genuine citizens of a democracy by claiming their rights.
Coptic names appearing on the ballot will ensure that all of
In days gone by, Copts complained that nobody recommended them for higher positions in
If Copts think of themselves as Dhimmis, why should they be surprised when others treat them as Dhimmis?
Mounir Bishay is president of Christian Copts of