Below is my written testimony as submitted for the record at last week’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing titled “Under Threat: The Worsening Plight of Egypt’s Coptic Christians.” The Center for Security Policy provides a PDF version of the testimony here.
TESTIMONY OF RAYMOND IBRAHIM
TOM LANTOS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Since the year 641, when Muslims invaded Egypt, the Copts-Egypt’s Christian, indigenous inhabitants-have been subject to persecution, discrimination, and over all subjugation on their homeland (etymologically, the word “Copt” simply means “Egyptian”). The result is an Egyptian culture and mentality that sees Copts as second-class citizens, or, in Islamic legal terminology, Dhimmis-“infidels” who are tolerated as long as they embrace their inferior status.
Whole books and treatises have been written on the treatment of Dhimmis (for instance, Ibn Qayyim’s authoritative 8th century Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimma, or “Rulings for Dhimmis”). The idea of subjugating non-Muslims, aptly coined “Dhimmitude,” comes from Quran 9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid that which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor follow the religion of Truth [Islam], from the People of the Book [Christians and Jews], until they pay the Jizya [tribute] with willing submission, and feel themselves utterly subdued.”
The so-called Pact of Omar, a foundational text for the treatment of Dhimmis, offers an idea of how this Quranic decree manifested itself in reality. In order to maintain their Christian faith, among other things, conquered Christians had to agree to the following:
We shall not build, in our cities or in their neighborhood, new monasteries, churches, convents, or monks’ cells, nor shall we repair, by day or by night, such of them as fall in ruins or are situated in the quarters of the Muslims … We shall not manifest our religion publicly nor convert anyone to it. We shall not prevent any of our kin from entering Islam if they wish it. We shall show respect toward the Muslims, and we shall rise from our seats when they wish to sit. We shall not seek to resemble the Muslims… We shall not display our crosses or our books in the roads or markets of the Muslims. We shall use only clappers in our churches very softly. We shall not raise our voices when following our dead… We shall not bury our dead near the Muslims. We shall not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims.
During the colonial era and into the mid 20th Century, as Egypt experimented with westernization and nationalism, Christian persecution was markedly subdued. Today, however, as Egypt all but spearheads Islam’s resurgence-giving the world key figures and groups such as Sayyid Qutb, Hassan Bana, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda’s Aymen Zawahiri in the process-that is, as Egypt reclaims its Islamic identity, the Copts find themselves again under persecution.
Today, popular Muslim preachers on Egyptian TV openly condemn Christians, publicly calling for the return of Dhimmi status; Copts and their churches are almost always attacked on Friday, immediately after the weekly mosque sermons and to cries of “Allahu Akbar!” demonstrating the Islamic pedigree of the attack.
None of this is surprising when one considers that even Egypt’s Grand Mufti himself, often touted in the West as a “moderate,” recently classified all Christians as “infidels,” or kuffar, a term that immediately positions Copts as enemies to be suppressed.
Aside from the fact that practically every week an account of Muslims attacking Copts emerges-whether the destroying of churches, the killing of Copts for wearing crosses, the abducting, raping, and force-converting of Coptic girls-perhaps nothing exemplifies their plight as the following governmental, that is, institutionalized, stipulations:
According to the Second Article of the Egyptian Constitution, Sharia law-which is based on the anti-Christian words of the Quran and prophet Muhammad as contained in the Hadith-is “the principal source of legislation”; and since Dhimmitude is part and parcel of Sharia law, expectations for Copts to behave as subdued, second-class citizens, or Dhimmis, becomes implicit. For instance, and in accordance with the aforementioned stipulations of the Pact of Omar, it is next to impossible for churches to be built.
The Egyptian government likewise makes it next to impossible for Muslims to convert to Christianity (apostasy is a crime under Sharia). Among the more popular cases are Mohammad Hegazy: he tried formally to change his religion from Muslim to Christian on his I.D. card-in Egypt, people are identified by their religion, again, as stipulated in the Pact of Omar -only to be denied by the Egyptian court. Conversely, it takes mere days for Christian converts to Islam to change their religious I.D.
Most recently, several aspects of the Maspero massacre revealed the Egyptian government’s inherent hostility to its Christian citizenry:
Soldiers screamed “Allahu Akbar!” and cursed “Infidels” as they approached and attacked Coptic protesters; a video of an Egyptian soldier boasting that he shot a Christian in the chest is greeted by the crowd around him with “Allahu Akbar!”; and after the incident, Dr. Hind Hanafi, president of the University of Cairo, recommended separating wounded Christians from wounded Muslims admitted into the hospital, thereby institutionalizing religious discrimination, even in hospitals.
Aside from these formalized aspects, Egyptian officials are notorious for turning a blind eye to Muslim mob attacks on Christians and their churches. In fact, it is this governmental complacency-or complicity-regarding attacks on Christians that that caused Copts to demonstrate at Maspero in the first place, before the government, including through the use of snipers, death squads, and tanks that intentionally ran over protesters, initiated the bloodbath that followed.
Anyone familiar with Muslim doctrine and history, especially as it applies to Egypt and the Copts, will find none of the above surprising; rather, the treatment of Copts in the Medieval era and their treatment today demonstrate great continuity-from the destruction of churches to the subjugation of Christians.
However, because there was a lull in this animosity, from the colonial era when Islam was on the wane, to just a few decades ago, most Westerners, deeming events closer to their time and space more representative of reality, ignore the continuum of history and doctrine dealing with persecution, and thus fail to comprehend what is otherwise so obvious and open for the world to see. This is exacerbated by the fact that the articulators of knowledge-the media, academia, and apologists of all stripes-in the name of multiculturalism and political correctness, have made uncomfortable truths all but unknowable.
In short, the evidence of Muslim persecution of Christians in general, persecution of Egyptian Copts in particular, is overwhelming-doctrinally, historically, and current events. What is lacking is a Western paradigm that can accept-and act upon-this evidence.