Being a Christian in Egypt was always a struggle. I had to struggle to find a job that suits my abilities, struggle to pray in a safe environment, struggle even to confess my faith. With all of those struggles, I was so disappointed by the lack of support from my own government; disappointed by the way they continue to attempt to cover up their failure to protect the Christian minority of Egypt.
I even wondered; are we really a minority? Every once in a while, a government representative delivers a heroic speech declaring that the Copts are not just a minority living in the middle of a Muslim majority, but that they are part of the fabric of the Egyptian society and could never be separated or eliminated from it. I personally believe that the reality is that the Copts are a minority in the true sense of the word, even though the Coptic Church or the government might claim otherwise.
The relationship between the State (any state) and its minorities has in the past taken five different forms: elimination, assimilation, toleration, protection and promotion. Under present international law, elimination is clearly illegal, yet many Muslim countries are doing just that.
Sudan, for example, is a Muslim country in which elimination of its black population is ongoing in the Darfour region. Elimination of Lebanese Christians took place during the last two decades, leading to a Christian minority in a country that once had a Christian majority.
Are we about to see a similar act in Egypt? Will that be possible? Another question popped into my mind; why does the Egyptian government release only estimates of its Christian population, never revealing an actual number? What is the reason? Certainly they are capable of performing a simple count.
It is very important to know and understand that those who exercise power are not always the same as those over whom it is exercised. Those in power are usually from the majority; if the majority wishes to criminalize a portion of society, in particular a minority portion, it can be accomplished with ease despite the target’s objections. This is what is known as the “tyranny of the majority.” In our situation it is the Muslim majority of Egypt and the Coptic minority.
It is exceedingly difficult to protect any minority section of a society from the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling of the majority. The popular opinions within society will be the basis of all rules of conduct within society and the people of the minority will be subject to those rules. However, the majority opinion may not be the correct opinion.
The term “tyranny of the majority” was first explained by the 19th century English philosopher John Stuart Mill in his book On Liberty. On Liberty is a philosophical work first published in 1859. It was considered a radical work by the Victorian readers of the time as it advocated moral and economic freedom of individuals from the state. Mill divides human liberty into the following components:
1. “Freedom of speech” The freedom to think as one wishes, and to feel as one does.
2. “Harm principle” The freedom to pursue tastes and pursuits, even if they are deemed immoral as long as they do not cause harm.
3. “Freedom of assembly” The freedom to unite or meet with others. Without all of these freedoms, in Mill’s view, one cannot be considered to be truly free. If we look closely at the Coptic situation in Egypt, we can clearly see that the Copts as a minority are crushed by the tyrannical majority.
As Copts we are to follow undesirable rules and laws completely against our will. We are neither protected nor tolerated; indeed the Christians of Egypt are facing elimination! The Egyptian government’s reluctance to recognize the Copts as a minority obstructs their ability to demand their rights under international human rights standards.
1. John Stuart Mill (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill/) in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
2. On Liberty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-Liberty)
3. John Stuart Mill (1985). On Liberty. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 1-59986-973X. 4. Robinson, Dave&Grove, Judy(2003). Introducing Political Philosophy. Icon Books. ISBN 1-84046-450-X.