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Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Guindy: The Islamization of Egypt?

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: "the "Great Islamic Transformation," implemented
(and/or tolerated) by the government over the past few decades has paved the
way for the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the rule in a perfectly natural
and even "democratic" fashion"

Words to ponder for all proponents of "land for peace paper"as well as for
those who propose that Israel seek an Egyptian presence in the Gaza Strip.]

Adel Guindy*
Published by the GLORIA Center, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya Volume
10, No. 3, Article 7/10 - September 2006

This article discusses the recent strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood
and the Islamist movements in Egypt. It then looks at the resulting
regression in modernization and Westernization efforts in the country. The
article also focuses on the adverse effects these changes have had on
Egyptian Copts.

The success of the Muslim Brotherhood to gain a fifth of the parliamentary
seats in the latest elections in Egypt (November 2005) seemed to have taken
many people by surprise. The recent acceleration in the number of attacks on
Copts in the country may also take some by surprise. These two phenomena are
in fact linked and should be seen as a natural consequence of relentless
efforts over the past few decades to Islamize the country.

Six decades ago, Egypt's ruling system, under a corrupt monarchy and on the
verge of collapse, nearly fell into the laps of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Established only two decades earlier (in 1928), the Brotherhood appeared to
have garnered such strength that to them it seemed natural they would take
over the rule in the country and establish an Islamic state from the ruins
of the dysfunctional liberal system.

Then came the army's coup d'etat (later called a "revolution"). Even though
most of the "Free Officers" had previously been Brotherhood members and, as
new rulers, it was clear they had special connections with the Brotherhood,
the realities of governance soon led to a clash of interests. As a result,
the Brotherhood was banned in 1954, and its aspirations and designs had to
be shelved. However, these aspirations never died.

Following the Nasser years, with the wins, losses, and experimentations with
Arabism and socialism, those shelved aspirations were revived with the
arrival of Anwar Sadat. He began his rule by reopening the doors to the
Brotherhood and other off-shoots of Islamic groups. He then initiated what
one could, in hindsight, term "the Great Islamic Transformation" of Egypt.
The first step was to stipulate in the Second Article of his new
Constitution, promulgated in 1971 (long before Khomeini embarked on his
Islamic revolutionary campaign), that the Principles of Islamic Shari'a were
"a main source" of legislation. In May 1981, the "a" was replaced with
"the," making Shari'a the term of reference for the entire constitution,
meaning all other articles were to be interpreted in that light.[1]

That change provided the legal, political, and "psychological" basis for the
Islamic transformation to proceed in an inexorable fashion. Sadat's famous
slogan, "I am a Muslim president of a Muslim state" was a clear indication
of this transformation.


The society began a gradual Islamic transformation. Consider the following
examples of Egypt's transformation.

Not only the hijab, but also the niqab[2] became widespread and a part of a
national dress code of sorts for the Egyptian women. Beyond the push to
exhibit ever more piety, this trend was defended, in Orwellian fashion, in
the name of "personal freedom." If Huda Sha'arawi and Qasim Amin--the
visionary champions of the women's liberation movement of the early
twentieth century--were still alive, they would find the present scenes on
the streets of Cairo utterly devastating.

Mosques broadcast prayers (including at early dawn) over public speakers,
and religious recordings have replaced popular music in most transport
vehicles (taxis, buses, and minibuses) as well as in shops. It is not
unusual to see Metro (subway) cars turned into preaching (proselytizing)
forums by feverish zealots. Moreover, owners of apartment buildings who have
transformed even part of their building's basement into a prayer hall
(equipped with microphones) receive special local property tax exemptions.

The professional syndicates, organizations, and the Lawyers' Bar--mostly
dominated by Islamists--have been turned into forums for spreading an
Islamic--and violently anti-Western--agenda rather than attending to
members' needs and providing them with services.

At government administration offices, it is common for employees to spend
most of the workday (already among the shortest in the world) performing
ritual ablution and prayers. Office managers and senior directors often
double as prayer leaders. It is indeed rare to find an office that is not
adorned with religious artifacts, such as framed Koran verses and photos of
Qa'aba along with photos of the president--a perfect example of the
amalgamation of religious and state symbols.

The national carrier, EgyptAir, which for years has banned serving
alcohol[3] on all flights, also recites at every take-off and landing the
"Invocation of Travel," originally intended for desert trips on camelback.
While alcohol is still not totally banned in the country, local authorities
in the governorates have over the past several years gradually restricted
its sale to "tourist" areas. This is done to feign public piety or simply to
avoid possible attacks by Islamists on bars and other places where alcohol
is sold. During the fasting month of Ramadan, alcohol may be served in
tourist locations outside the fasting hours (i.e. between sunset and dawn),
and only to foreigners. Ironically, an Egyptian non-Muslim would not be
served a beer, whereas a foreigner (even if Muslim) would be.

Even the basic and familiar daily greetings of "good morning/evening/day,"
using expressions for which Egyptians were long renowned, were replaced with
the standard Islamic "assalamu alaykum."[4]. The "hello" naturally said in
answering the phone, has equally been replaced by the same Islamic

Likewise, the century-old school of fine arts is now filled with
hijab-wearing girls and bearded men, all claiming that sculpturing and
drawing human models is "illicit."[5] Already from the late 1970s, depicting
nude models has been banned, and all artwork statues showing full or partial
nudity once exhibited in the school were moved to the school's storage
rooms. It is worth noting that the drive towards such extremist attitudes is
propagated by preachers in the prayer halls of the school itself.

Indeed, the Grand Mufti of Egypt recently declared statues "illicit."[6] In
response to criticism by some writers worried that such fatwas would further
blemish the image of Islam in the world, the Mufti said that he was only
reiterating this old fatwa based on a hadith (a saying by the Prophet)[7]
and that he was not in a position to deny or negate "what is established in
the matters of religion" no matter what. Will the treasures of the pharaohs
one day meet the same destiny as that of the Buddha statutes demolished by
the Taliban? One woman already smashed statues in the Hassan Heshmat Museum
in Cairo following the famous fatwa.

Propagators of extremist thought are given a free hand to spread their ideas
by all means (as long as they are not overly critical of the regime). On the
other hand, efforts by civil society are systematically obstructed, and the
defenders of liberal and progressive ideas have--until very recently--been
extremely marginalized. The bases of critical thinking and respect for the
"other" are not even taught in school.

Establishing political parties in Egypt is subject to the approval of a
special commission headed by the speaker of the Shura Council (The
"Consultative Council," or the upper parliamentary chamber, which has
limited legislative powers). According to the Parties Law, a new party must
meet certain criteria in order to become eligible. A main criterion is that
the "party's principles, objectives, programs, politics, and approaches in
performing its activities do not contradict the principles of Shari'a; these
being the main source of legislation in the country."[8] When the new party
"Egypt the Motherland" applied in February 2004, the Parties Commission
(currently headed by the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic
Party) quickly denied its approval, essentially because its program spoke of
the necessity to adopt some kind of secularism in the country. The party
duly challenged the decision in the courts in July of the same year. After
lengthy procedures, the Supreme Administrative Court decided to uphold the
Commission's decision, asserting that the party's program "does not define
the secularism (it calls for), or how to separate between the religious and
political authorities..."

Egyptian nationalism and patriotism have receded and have been replaced by a
new sense of Pan-Islamism in which a fellow Muslim from Pakistan or Malaysia
is considered to be much closer than a Coptic co-citizen. For instance, in a
recent interview with the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in a
government-owned paper, he stated with no ambiguity: "Tuz fi (To hell with)
Egypt," "Our nationality is Islam," and "The Rule of the Ottoman Empire over
Egypt was not an occupation, because it was a Muslim Caliphate."[9] To show
his zeal for Pan-Islamism, he said, "We don't mind to have a Malaysian
president for Egypt (as long as he is Muslim)." Surprisingly, few voices
arose to reject such abhorrent discourse.
It would require volumes to document the drastic role played over the past
few decades by the government-owned media, which are typically mouth-pieces
reflecting the government's directives in the process of Islamic
Transformation. Yet one recent example says a great deal. On December 9,
2005, a guest on one of the regular religious programs broadcast on Cairo's
main television channel used the opportunity to pour out his wrath on
"secularists" in Egypt.[10] He emphasized that Islam's tenet as "a state and
a religion" was one of the fundamentals without which the faith could not be
upheld. He went on to explain that the objectives of legislation in the
Muslim state must be within the boundaries of defining what is licit and
illicit (as stipulated by the Shari'a).

This, coming only a few weeks after the "surprise" success of the Muslim
Brotherhood in the parliamentary elections may indicate that in essence,
there is little ideological difference between the government and the
Brotherhood. The main issue, therefore, is who holds the reigns of power and
to what extent (or rather how fast) the ideology is implemented.


The examples mentioned above demonstrating the Islamic Transformation of
Egypt would not be complete without attempting to examine the state of the
religious establishment in the country.

In the early years of the 20th Century, Egypt had five religious (Koranic)
schools with about 3,000 students, some of whom would ultimately join
al-Azhar Mosque/University to become imams. Today, the number of institutes
has mushroomed to seven thousand, with no less than 1.5 million
students.[11] Even considering the population growth, this is still a huge
proportional increase, most of it taking place over the past few decades.

In regards to the religious curricula and material taught in these schools,
the prominent thinker Lafif Lakhdar reports[12] that the students are taught
under the topic of the "Rules of Dhimmitude" that "the meaning of the
dhimmitude contract is to accept that some infidels (kuffar) remain in their
infidelity (kufr) on the condition that they pay the tribute (jizzyah) in
utter humiliation, according to the commands of the Highest (Allah) in the
Koran."[13] Lakhdar further identifies examples of flagrant religious
discrimination as he quotes from the same book that orders dhimmis "not [to]
be buried in our tombs.... [T]hey can enter public baths only if porting
bells or having their necks stamped; they ride donkeys without saddles, not
horses; they should not take a lead position in meetings; one should not
stand up [to salute] them, nor be first to greet them or congratulate them
or visit them when sick; they should not be allowed to ring their (church)
bells; and should be forced to go through the narrowest of alleys." No
wonder then, as Lakhdar concludes, that Shaykh Mustafa Mash'hur, the
(previous) leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, demanded that Copts not be
allowed into the Army.

Over 400,000 students in 70 faculties are currently enrolled in al-Azhar
University,[14] and there are over 7,000 faculty
members. During the 2005/2006 academic year it accepted over 83,000
students,[15] becoming one of the largest universities in the world. It is
only open to "believers," though some of its faculties offer secular studies
in engineering, medicine, or commerce (albeit always tinged with religious
teachings). Incidentally, the university provides free education to some
20,000 Muslim students from over 60 countries. A simple calculation would
show that in all, 1.9 million students are enrolled in various stages of
religious education.

Egypt boasts over 120,000 mosques, in addition to some 900,000 prayer areas.
By mid-2005, some 92,000 mosques[16] were run by the "Ministry of
Endowments" (which, in reality, is the Ministry of Islamic Affairs). A plan
was under way to integrate an additional 2,500 mosques in the 2005/2006
fiscal year, offering 10,000 new employment positions for imams and
preachers (as government employees). The Ministry builds and runs new
mosques and also covers all management costs of privately-built mosques that
become integrated under its auspices. Its vast expenses are partially
covered by endowments, but largely come from the general state budget (i.e.
at the tax-payers' expense). The budget for building and furnishing mosques
alone in 2005 was LE 320 million (approximately US $60). To this, one must
add the costs of maintenance and the salaries of over 400,000 employees.
Indeed, the minister of endowment once boasted (in 2004) that his ministry's
budget had grown forty times in twenty years to reach 1.5 billion pounds
(about US $270).[17] Showing where the government's priorities lie, such
large expenditures drain the national budget, leaving less for vital issues,
such as education, health, environment, etc.
Another simple calculation would then show that the number of Egyptian
Muslims who devote their lives to religion--whether studying, teaching,
preaching, or attending to other supporting activities--exceeds a staggering
2.5 million. There are then, when including the families of employees, some
eight to ten percent of Egyptian Muslims whose lives revolve around
religion. It is worth noting that such individuals often know little about
those things that are not related to Islam and have never had any personal
acquaintances who are not Muslims.

It would be difficult to estimate accurately national expenditure on
religious affairs, including--in addition to the above-mentioned
activities--those related to hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and foreign
religious missions (proselytizing) that fan the world. However, it would be
quite safe to say that these exceed the foreign financial aid that Egypt
receives from the United States, EU, and other donors.

At the annual Koran studies (reciting and rote learning) celebrations and
the Prophet's Birthday, Egypt's president takes it upon himself to hand out
in person awards to students and scholars, not only from Egypt but also from
all over the world.[18] A new international Islamic studies award carrying
Mr. Mubarak's name was created last year. In addition there is an annual
award to the governorate in Egypt that "excels in the efforts to expand the
centers of Koran learning to every village and hamlet." This occurs at a
time when there are no competitive efforts across the nation addressing such
areas as illiteracy, environment, reduction of road accidents, cleanliness,
attracting more investments, or reducing unemployment.

The special fatwa department in Egypt issues about 100,000 fatwas (religious
opinions) per year,[19] and it has a database containing over one million
fatwas. In March 2005, Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on
"cooperation in the domain of da'wa (preaching, proselytizing), preparation
and qualification of imams to inform others of Islam and its tolerance and
its stance towards modern issues... and to the service of Koran and Sunnah,
through publishing and translations...." However, keeping in mind the
reputation of the Saudis' Wahhabi Islam when it comes to "tolerance" and
"modern issues," the prospects for the religious establishment in Egypt look

One need not look beyond the following two examples for indications of the
kind of message the religious establishment currently spreads:

First, the Grand Shaykh of al-Azhar, the highest religious authority in the
country wrote recently: "The belief of the believer and the Islam of a
Muslim would not be complete unless he fully believes that all what Islamic
Shari'a contains, as rules, manners, orders and prohibitions is the Truth
that must be followed, implemented and lived in its light."[20] Shari'a
harbors several objectionable stipulations according to current human rights
standards (such as cruel punishments by stoning, amputation, and
flagellation;[21] or the prohibition--through apostasy rules--on freedom of
belief). Therefore, it was rather shocking to see Shaykh Muhammad Sayid
Tantawi--otherwise known for his moderate views--make such sweeping
statements. They simply imply such forms of punishment should be put back in
the penal code, more than a century after having been removed.

Second, the official website of the "Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs,"
an official body of the "Ministry of Awqaf," (The Ministry of Endowment and
Islamic Affairs)[22] posted an article entitled "Islam versus Ahl al-Kitab:
Past and Present."[23] The author, Dr. Maryam Jameelah, attempts to answer
the question "how can we be certain that Islam is the only infallible
Truth?" The article concludes by emphatically stating:

Peaceful relations and mutual respect among us can only be achieved through
strength. We must cease indulging in apologetics and present the Islamic
message to the world honestly and forthrightly. Before we can hope to
succeed with Tabligh (proselytizing) on a large scale, we must first convert
the nominal Muslims into true believers. We must establish a full-blooded
Islamic state where the world will witness our precepts translated into
action. Finally, we must crush the conspiracies of Zionism, free-masonry,
Orientalism and foreign missions both with the pen and with the sword. We
cannot afford peace and reconciliation with the Ahl al Kitab until we can
humble them and gain the upper hand.


Those who have suffered and who continue to suffer most from this drastic
transformation are undoubtedly the Copts. "I can no longer stand the insults
and the spitting in my face because I don't wear hijab. I have become a
stranger in my own country." This statement made by a young Coptic woman
from Alexandria, as quoted by the correspondent of Le Figaro (April 17,
2006) after a series of quasi-simultaneous attacks on three churches, speak
loudly of the overall situation of Copts in Egypt. This statement, however,
represents only the tip of the iceberg of the Copts' suffering.

Apart from the scores of violent attacks against them over the past 35
years, they have been forced into a de-facto dhimmi status.[24] In fact, the
infamous Second Article of the Constitution provides the legal basis to
discriminate against and marginalize the Copts in their own homeland.

There are numerous indications pointing to the status of the Coptic
minority, which makes up around ten million in a country of 74 million.
Following are but a few examples:

The media is not only inundated with Islamic religious material, but also
routinely ridicules Christianity and Judaism as "falsified" or "perverted"
religions whose original "Books" have been lost and/or "tampered with." The
message propagated by mosque preachers is no less derogatory. The issue does
not relate to a (indecent) "theological" debate. Rather, the issue is that
such discourse, repeated and hammered incessantly, would only turn an
ordinary Muslim into a fanatic, if not a radical. Hence, such harassment and
violence against Copts would be rendered perfectly justifiable, if not
desirable, indeed becoming a "religious duty."[25]

A presidential decree is required for every permit to build a church (which
unlike a mosque, would be paid for entirely by the faithful.) The process,
dominated by the state security apparatus, is deliberately entangled and
usually takes many years. The government hailed a recent presidential decree
that delegates to provincial governors the power to authorize rebuilding "a
ruined or fallen church on its site."[26] The real power to authorize still
remains with the state security apparatus, with little change in the painful
process. The irony, however, is that the decree appears to be fully in line
with the spirit and letter of the "Chart of Omar"[27] in that it restricts
building churches replacing existing ones at their exact site and of the
same size.
During the most recent parliamentary elections, the ruling party fielded
only two Coptic candidates. The result was that only one, who was also a
government minister, was elected (with difficulty) among 444 members. Not
only did the other candidate fail, but Islamist riots broke out at the
district where he ran in Alexandria and led to attacks on churches as well
as ransacked shops and properties. There were only two Copts elected in the
previous elections of 2000, and none in 1995.

The numbers of Copts accepted to military and police academies, judiciary
posts and diplomatic corps, and teaching posts at universities are limited
to a one to two percent quota. Such quotas are obviously never declared, but
are consistent and relatively easy to demonstrate based on the published
lists of acceptances.[28] There are no Copts in "sensitive" sectors, such as
state security organs or the presidency. The entire local governance system
is practically free of Copts. Not a single Copt occupies a university or
faculty dean post.

The curricula of public schools, established by the Ministry of Education,
ignore the Coptic era in Egypt's history. Courses glorifying Islam (the
"Only True Religion") and its history, while vilifying the crusaders (i.e.
Christians) and the Jews, are imposed on all students. Religious (Islamic)
references permeate various courses, including science. Most schools have
replaced the daily salute to the flag with the Islamic proclamation "Allahu

The city of Alexandria, once the capital of the Mediterranean culture, which
as recent as the 1950s was a flourishing and cosmopolitan city in which
religions and races mixed, has become a hot point of Islamic fanaticism and
repeated aggressions against Copts. The numerous cases of attacks on lives,
churches, and property of Copts are often conducted under the negligent--if
not complacent--eyes of the security apparatus. Culprits, if caught, are
seldom "found guilty" by the courts. A flagrant example is that of al-Kosheh
village in Upper Egypt where 21 Copts were massacred on January 2, 2000.
Despite arrests of over one hundred persons, nobody was found guilty by the
lower, appeal, or Cassation courts. Doubts on the neutrality of the
judiciary system apart, the police investigative authorities simply never
provided sufficiently reliable data to support the case against the real

One successful "technique" often adopted by the authorities is to declare
the culprit as "mentally (or psychologically) unstable" and thus not in a
condition to be tried. Another technique is to force the Copt victims to
retract their complaints and enter into "reconciliation" with their
attackers for the sake of preserving "National Unity." In all cases, attacks
against Copts are systematically referred to as "sectarian conflict (or
sedition)," thus implying that "both sides" are to blame.

Organized, and well-dissimulated, groups target young girls and women to
convert them to Islam. The entire state is mobilized to facilitate the
conversion procedures, even if those concerned are minors in the eyes of the
law. On the other hand, a Muslim choosing to convert to Christianity faces
despicable treatment by the authorities and often ends up having to live
incognito or to flee the country altogether, if possible.

In the case of a father of a Christian family converting to Islam, his minor
children are forced to follow suit: The mother's custody rights--a well
established legal principle--are ignored in this case, as children,
according to typical court rulings,[29] are supposed to follow the "better
(or 'more noble') of the two religions." Under current laws, if one partner
in a Christian marriage changes to another denomination (say from Orthodox
to Evangelical, or Catholic), the stipulations of Shari'a immediately apply
to the marriage in case of any intra-marital dispute.

It is an obligation to declare one's religious affiliation (among a very
short list of "recognized" religions) in all official formalities, including
the national identity card. Such measures facilitate discrimination
practices. Furthermore, the Civil Status Department's "computer system"
often list Christians as Muslims. Attempts to correct such errors invariably
prove to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, with severe
ramifications on the lives of those concerned.[30]

Recently, an administrative court ruled that the Coptic Orthodox Church
remarry a divorced person.[31] Since according to Church teachings marriage
is a sacrament and not merely a civil partnership, this ruling, which was
duly referenced by the court to "constitutional principles," amounts to a
license to override the beliefs of the Church. The same court would never
dare attempt to order the Islamic authorities in the country to marry a
Muslim woman to a non-Muslim, as such unions are prohibited by Shari'a. Some
years ago, another court ruled that polygamy was permissible in

Yet what is especially sad about the abuse of the Copts' citizenship and
human rights is that, on the one hand, the Egyptian government still
adamantly insists that there is no such thing as a "Coptic problem."
Continuous appeals by numerous Copts to the president to take charge of the
situation--as part of his constitutional responsibilities--go unheeded. A
call to establish a special council composed of leading Muslim and Coptic
figures to report issues of citizenship rights to the president was totally
ignored. On the other hand, such abuses are taking place before the watchful
eyes--with few protests or objections--of the "freedom-loving" nations of
the world and the various international institutions that are meant to
correct such wrongs.


The media has consistently played a major role in the process, but when
questioned about the excessive religious material in the government media,
Egyptian officials usually offer a pretext that the government, in its
efforts to defeat the violent Islamist groups, has been trying to "pull the
rug from under their feet" (by outdoing them in religiosity). However, the
problem is believed to be deeper than a simple reaction to Islamist
violence; it is more likely a deliberate process that has continued over the
past few decades.

Nevertheless, and without trying to minimize the potential catastrophic
risks associated with a possible establishment of a fully Islamist regime in
Egypt, it is only fair to conclude that the "Great Islamic Transformation,"
implemented (and/or tolerated) by the government over the past few decades
has paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the rule in a
perfectly natural and even "democratic" fashion.

Indeed, that the Islamists (only) won a fifth of the Assembly's seats can be
misleading; one must not forget that they had fielded candidates in no more
than a third of the total constituencies. In other words, the Brotherhood
would be bound to sweep the vote in fully-open, fair, and free elections in
the future. Hamas's recent victory in the Palestinian Authority elections is
another eye-opener.

Furthermore, Islamization, especially the stipulation in the Constitution
that Shari'a is the main source of legislation, has also led to a serious
deterioration of the Coptic minority's conditions; they have become subject
to a de-facto dhimmi status, relegated to second-class citizens.

Overall, Egypt, which has undergone serious modernization and Westernization
efforts since the days of Muhammad Ali Pasha[32] (who ruled after the
awakening cultural shock caused by Napoleon's Conquest) seems to have
regressed. Egypt badly needs a leadership that will reverse the trend and
put the country back on a course of enlightenment and modernity.

*Adel Guindy is a writer on Middle East issues based in France.

[1] By way of comparison, Article 1 of the French Constitution states:
"France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It
shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without
distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs."
[2] An all black garment, with only a narrow slot for the eyes.
[3] Sharing that honor only with Saudi Airlines in the Arab world.
[4] This literally means "peace be upon you," which is not at all bad in
itself. The real issue is that of forced vestmental and behavioral codes in
all aspects of life.
[5] Reported by Rose-elyoussef Magazine, April 13, 2006.
[6] See Dr. Hamed Ammar, al-Kahera, April 4, 2006.
[7] In this particular case, the hadith in question infers that "angels"
would never enter a house adorned with statues or where dogs were.
[8] According to Article 4 of Law 40/1977 on Political Parties.
[9] Roza newspaper, April 17, 2006.
[10] The guest was Dr. Mohamed Imara, among the most popular extremist
leaders. He is a regular guest on government TV shows and writes a weekly
column in the government-owned al-Akhbar newspaper.
[11] Information based on a series of articles by Shaykh Ali Goma'a,
al-Ahram, July/August 2005.
[12] Refer to article:
[13] These ideas reflect the stipulations of the "Chart of Omar." Refer to
endnote 29 below.
[14] Information based on a series of articles by Shaykh Ali Goma'a,
al-Ahram, July/August 2005.
[15] Exactly 83,331 students. Refer to al-Ahram, September 22, 2005.
[16] Reported in al-Ahram, June 23, 2005.
[17] Al-Ahram, May 10, 2004.
[18] Reported in al-Ahram, April, 15 and 21, 2005, October 30, 2005.
[19] Refer to al-Ahram, August 6, 2005.
[20] Al-Ahram newspaper (government-owned), May 15, 2006.
[21] Collectively called hudud (penal limits).
[22] See article at:
[23] People of the Book, Jews and Christians.
[24] Under the dhimmitude status, the "People of the Book" are allowed to
keep their faiths, while living under complete submission to the reign and
rules of Islam, including the payment of jiziah "in humbleness." In 1856,
that status was abolished de jure by the Ottoman Empire (under European
pressure), but it still prevails de facto.
[25] On the other hand, when a few cartoons--however offensive they may have
been--were published by a Danish paper, it was turned into a major
international crisis (in which Egypt played a major role), with demands to
implement laws in Western countries incriminating "insults" to Islam or any
of its sacred figures.
[26] Decree 291 of December 7, 2005.
[27] The "Chart of Omar," usually attributed to Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab,
is the basis of the dhimmitude status as it stipulates several obligations
and prohibitions by dhimmis, and concludes with: "If they break any of their
conditions, there is no valid pact with them and they deserve from Muslims
whatever the adversaries do." Refer to article by Lafif Lakhdar at:
[28] One example, reported by al-Kalema Center for Human Rights based in
Cairo, in 2004, only 12 Copts were admitted to the Police Academy, out of a
total 1,050.
[29] A recent case at hand: On May 18, 2006, the Court of Appeals in
Alexandria upheld (in the case 679/43) the ruling of a lower court whereby
the (Coptic) defendant mother Camilla Lotfi was ordered to give up her twin
children Andrew and Mario (aged 11 years) to their father, Medhat Ramses,
who had converted to Islam. Ignoring the applicable law, which grants the
custody of children below 15 years to their mother, the court decided to
implement the precepts of Shari'a instead. It stated that: "Aged 11, the
children can discern... moreover, there is a danger, if left with their
Christian mother, that their (Islamic) faith would be 'spoiled.'"
[30] Numerous cases have been reported by the Coptic weekly paper Watani
during 2005 and 2006.
[31] Reported by al-Ahram, March, 15, 2006. The Coptic Church has rejected
and appealed the ruling.
[32] He ruled Egypt from 1805 to 1847. The last descendant of his dynasty
was deposed in 1954.

MERIA Journal Staff
Publisher and Editor: Prof. Barry Rubin
Assistant Editors: Cameron Brown, Keren Ribo, Yeru Aharoni
MERIA is a project of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA)
Center, Interdisciplinary University. Site: http://meria.idc.ac.il
Email: gloria@idc.ac.il

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