In News, Opinion

By Christopher Gurguis

Opinion article contributed by Coptic Solidarity supporter. 

We should congratulate Rami Malek on winning the first Oscar for the Copts. Whether he is aware of it or not, as a major popular icon, he is a representative of the Copts to the West, especially in the United States. We are a people with relatively few additions to popular Western media (for example, The Resident on television is based on Martin Makary’s Unaccountable). To be sure, as a cultural icon, Mr. Malek does not represent the Coptic Church, but rather the Coptic cultural identity or the Copts as an ethnic group. And he does so in a market that has few other Coptic ambassadors. In fact, Mena Massoud, who will soon play Aladdin, is the only other Copt who comes to mind. In the United States, many people are unaware even of the very existence of our minority – our popular cultural icons are one way to remedy this situation.

For these reasons, correcting those who would claim that Mr. Malek is Arab is important. Making an equivalency between Arab and Copt undermines a unique Coptic identity. This false equivalence is employed by the Egyptian State when it attempts to claim that attacks against Copts are merely attacks against Egyptian society at large and not a heinous attempt at intimidating and bleeding our minority dry. This false equivalence was also employed by Sheikh Al-Tayeb of Al Azhar University when he recently attempted to claim that Middle Eastern Christians are not a minority currently lacking equal citizenship and protection under the law. These are institutions that would will the Copts out of existence if they were able.

Nor is the attempt to subsume the Coptic identity into the Egyptian Arab identity new – Coptic history is frequently bypassed in the Egyptian school-room and Coptic representatives are hard to find within the Egyptian state. Mr. Malek is part of our Coptic patrimony and ours alone. We ought to recognize him as such, celebrate his achievements as such, and embrace him as such. To do so would mean identifying and defending his Coptic origins against those who make the broad (and incorrect) claim that he is Arab.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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