No doubt, Copts in Egypt are gripped by fear, feel insecure and are anxious about their future. This became worse after Mohammed Morsi (the Muslim Brother) was elected President of Egypt.
I always maintained that the authorities and responsibilities that come with governing have a way of changing people and in shaping of their attitudes and Morsi has a chance to prove this logic to be right. After all, both Morsi and his Prime Minister (Hisham Qandeel) were taught in America, and I am sure no one considered their religion to be a factor then. One of the priorities facing Egyptians today is to define the role of religion in their society. The question facing us is: will religious ideology trump reason and color our decisions? Is religion going to become the ultimate litmus test for appointment or promotion in Egypt? It is sad to hear the voices from extremists asking Copts to leave Egypt, and claiming that they are not desired to stay in their own homeland. It bothers me immensely to see that the Copts and other Christians are bracing for a mass exodus from Egypt and from other Mid-Eastern States in which authoritarian regimes were toppled. Some are asking: are we replacing autocracy with theocracy?
The West (including Australia) has to wake up to the fact that religious extremists could destroy democracy and the Western traditions expressed in their secular constitutions and acquired over the years; demanding equality and justice for all citizens. Yes, some Muslims have contributed to these societies, these are good citizens that ought to be admired and respected. I am not against Islam. On the contrary, some of my dearest friends are Muslims. However, religious extremists are becoming a menace to secular societies. Look no further than the enclaves of Muslim extremists throughout Europe’s capitals and watch how they behave. No wonder it now costs enormous sums of money and effort to monitor these factions and to prevent harming the rest of citizens. A backlash from groups opposed to such a dangerous wave is gathering steam in several western countries.
By contrast Copts have many advantages. They assimilate easily in their adoptive countries. They have ones of the lowest divorce rates and highest birth-rates. Also, most of them are well educated and have University degrees. Therefore, they have very favorable demographics and can provide the necessary skills to ensure progress and increasing revenues in those countries.
It behooves leaders in the Western Nations to enact the necessary laws to grant priorities of immigration to individuals fleeing religious persecution and to those who have certain skills and education. New-comers can oil the Western Engine and contribute mightily to its progress. Preventing all forms of expression of extremism and protecting one’s own culture and traditions is not a vice.
What will happen to Egypt if the tide of discrimination becomes real? Will Egypt join Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan as models ruined by the heavy hand of theocratic rule? I hope that this doom and gloom scenario never materializes in Egypt whose history, location and people will not let that happen.
I am not encouraging the Copts to leave their homeland. They are the original owners of the country. It is never easy to pull one’s own roots and plant oneself in a different soil. I wish to see the day in which Christians and Muslims join hands in Egypt, and not only tolerate but celebrate their religious differences. After all we are brothers and sisters and belong to the same family. In the vast majority of instances religions are inherited before they are adopted. Let us never forget that the definition of homes is “those places where whenever you go to they welcome you in”.
Lotfy Basta MD, FRCP, FRCPE, FACP, FACC, FCCP, FAHA.
Coptic Solidarity is a U.S. public charity organization under section 501 (C) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions are deductible under Section 170 of the Code.