G. R. SCHAROUBIM
1715 Ashley Road,
Hoffman Estates, IL. 60169
Phone # 847 / 882-4414
FAX # 847 / 882-4414
January 19, 2010.
The editor in Chief,
The Globe And Mail,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
I am writing to you in response to the article by Mr. Alaa’ El-Aswaani about “Who killed the Christians on their Christmas Eve.”
Forgive me sir if I expounded the issue by discussion and some fringe information. I am an expatriate Canadian/American who spent a good part of his life in Toronto, Ontario and who frequently visits that city dear to his heart; something like four or five times every year. I am also an admirer of Mr. Aswaani and have nothing but love and respect for him. Although he wrote his article in a fair and unbiased progressive mentality, yet we are all humans and that means that we are all vulnerable to err.
Indeed the Copts have always been loving to their mother land and always strived to push it in the direction of civility and progress and their efforts benefited not only the Copts but the whole country. To give you a few examples of what I mean; The Patriarch Cyril the IV opened the first school for girls in the country to educate the girls and the school accepted Moslem and Christian girls as students. I would venture to say, that Egyptian Moslem professional girls are indebted to the initiatives of the Patriarch for the freedoms and progress they enjoy today. Otherwise, they would have been left under a Burka without any education, without progress and without enlightenment up till now. They would have been told that they are mere sexual objects for the pleasure of men. It was also Pope Cyril IV who imported in the country the first printing machine to print books and to emphasize the importance of knowledge he ordered that the choir greets it at the time of its unloading with the Hymn of “O prince of Peace” one of the most sacred and popular hymns in the Orthodox Church. He spear-headed the learning of foreign languages to be able to deal with foreigners and to have access to foreign progress. Here the Church acted as a progressive leader for the country as a whole not just for the Christians only. History books tell us that the ruler of the country Sa’eed Pasha was a good friend of the Patriarch and often sought his advice.
Yet envy, jealousy and rivalry led the narrow minded adversaries to view this as an act of deprecation infringing on their status and domain. So they imitated what he did while seeding rejection and hate in the spirits of the Islamic schools students who eventually grew up with deep suspicions of the Copts and dealt with them as infested people. And as they entered public life, and exercised their powers they adopted policies of alienation against the Copts. This created the social schism that we see in Egypt today. Yet, and this is the irony, the average Moslem always felt at ease dealing with his Christian compatriots and liked their company and despite all that was said about these Christians, there was a sense of acceptance and accommodation between them. People listened to the Wahhabi propaganda but did not internalize it.
Then there was the evolution of the Egyptians revolution against the British occupation. The Christians participated in the movement whole heartedly something that led to a sense of gratitude among the Moslems and a de facto coalition between the Christians and Moslems was quite evident in all the walks of life. It became an unwritten tradition that in every Cabinet formed there was three Coptic ministers (almost 25%) by ratio. This continued on until a crisis erupted between a famous politician and the wife of his dear friend. During the Second World war provisions as a whole were in short supply and the rationing of necessities was the rule. Yet the family of Zaynab El-Wakeel wanted to export oil to Syria at a lot higher price than the controlled price for the commodity in Egypt. This would have created shortages of the commodity in the market place. Makram Ebeid blocked the export of the commodity and virulent cries that the Christians are trying to impose their will on the Moslems became spread. Eventually the tight friendship between Makram Ebeid and Moustafa Al-Nahas was broken under the stress of the crisis. Nevertheless the Royal family was not antagonistic to the Copts and valued them as an asset in the country. In fact it was the Royal who initiated the tradition of attending the Catechismal part of the Mass to express his good wishes to them on the occasion of the Christmas in appreciation of the contributions of the Copts to the progress of the country.
There was time when uttering one foreign word by a Moslem drew harsh disapproval from other Moslems and was almost viewed as anathema. The Christians however went on to learn foreign languages and it is common to find the one of them speaking at least two foreign languages besides Arabic. Thus with the growing industrialization of the land and the influx of foreign investors, the foreign investors had a tendency to hire the Christians because of their knowledge of the languages. Accordingly the Christians achieved a higher standard of living which led to a growing jealousy among the Moslem masses. Yet this did not affect the sense of solidarity prevailing among the two groups. The leadership of the country continued the tradition of solidarity with the Copts. Then came the war with Israel and as usual the public was very emotional about the issue and was reluctant to listen to any rational argument. Senator Tewfik Doss – a Copt - stood in the parliament to reason with those who wanted to rush in sending troops to fight in Palestine. He told the members of the Senate; “What are the troops going to fight with? We have ammunition for two weeks only. When this ammunition is consumed what will the soldiers fight with?” This was a touchy subject with the public and a provincial Moslem senator stood up and slapped him on the face with his foot ware (Bulghah). The Senate did not discipline the perpetrator and the net effect of the incident was the withdrawal of the Christian politicians from public life.
Then came the role of a failure by the name of Hassan el-Banna who formed the Moslem Brotherhood and kept spewing his venom among the mobs inciting them to be hostile to the Christians on the premise that they are Polytheists and Kafers. Things went from bad to worse. There was the exclusion of the Christians from general hiring and from all pivotal positions. Foreign investors were admonished not to hire Christians more the 3 % of their working force. Yet the Copts enjoyed the free capitalist market and thrived in it. So they did not see any reason to protest the status quo and let things slide by. A disciple of Hassan El-Banna and the head of the paramilitary arm of the Moslem Brotherhoods by the name of Gamal Abdel Nasser led a military Junta to depose King Farouk and to every one’s surprise the USA ambassador in Egypt the honorable Jefferson Caffrey indicated the support of the USA to the Junta and Farouk left the country on board of his Yacht Al-Mahrousa to later on die in Italy. In all fairness to the Royal Family they did their best to keep the country on an even keel with European countries. Their contributions to the education in the country are undeniable. Only an ignorant or an ingrate would deny them their achievements in this endeavor. And in all fairness to Farouk, it was his advisor; Ali Maher; who tangled his life in this ugly way. The king fell victim to bad advice which alienated the public from him. The Junta itself have always boasted that there is not one Christian among their ranks or in their Cabinet.
Nasser was a complex man, rash and brash, debelitatingly lacking in experience. He never had the finesse necessary to succeed as a politician or as a statesman. With his military upbringing he was convinced that it is all a matter of enforcing his desires. He lacked the economic perspective. He thought, that all he needs is a loud voice and intimidation to make the world respond to his wishes. He acted in an inappropriate manner with President Lyndon B. Johnson when he was seeking finance for the High Dam. Johnson had in front of him a report from Arthur D. Little which concluded that the project would be a failure and would have a loss of 10 – 15 % every year based on the net present value method. The report was basically a feasibility study and predicted many of the side effects that materialized after the construction of the Dam. To deny Nasser the benefits of the report Johnson ordered it classified. Arthur D. Little in their study treated the project as an economic investment enterprise not just a construction project as Nasser and his advisors thought. So he jumped into the construction phase without the benefit of the feasibility study done by Arthur D. Little. And the after effects of this mistake are now evident to every one. Indeed the report predicts that by the year 2070 the loss of water to evaporation behind the Dam will surpass the loss of water in the sand and that Egypt will face a state of water famine; a shortage of water supplies to the extent that they may have to choose between land irrigation or human use, or at least to ration its use between both. Not a very good prospect.
When he needed funds for the High Dam and was denied his wish, Nehru advised him to nationalize the Suez Canal which he did and had to pay for the shares on the world stock exchanges when he could have gotten it for nothing 9 or 10 years later. This alienated the foreign investors from investing in the country and the financial noose tightened on the economy leading to skyrocketing inflation and the spread of unemployment. Domestic investors were also frightened by his leaning towards communism and kept the strings on their purses tight. In a dire situation he decided to confiscate the wealth of the “public” and 89 % of the affected by his actions were the Christians. Besides when he controlled the economy the businesses under the government control excluded the Christians from hiring and many of them who were previously employed by these firms realized that they are facing a brick wall and decided to emigrate to other lands where they can have their lives and enjoy it too. This loss of talent aggravated the situation and as many of us succeeded in their new home-lands others became encouraged to follow suit. The drain of talents continued on an accelerated pace.
Nasser was followed by another inexperienced Sadat who was as corrupt as corruption can be. He signed a peace treaty with Israel not for the love of peace but to spite the Arabs. In his feuding with the Saudis, they instigated his assassination. When the Patriarch declined Sadat’s plea to send pilgrims to Jerusalem as a vestige of normalization of relations with Israel he was infuriated and created the spectacle of confining the Patriarch in a monastery. The Patriarch’s decision was wise because he did not want the Copts to look as if they are stabbing the country in the back. If the patriarch would have acceded to Sadat’s request he would have acerbated the situation in the country beyond belief and would have squandered a wealth of goodwill accumulated over the years.
With the exclusion of Copts from employment and from public life, the Church became the only representative of the Copts. A function that the Church did not seek, did not want and does not want but it was foisted on her by the realities of politics in the country. This is the point that my friend Alaa’ missed and imagined that the Church did that as a political entity. The Coptic Church has always abided by the teaching of Christ; “To Caesar what is to Caesar and to God what is to God.” Nor do the Copts want the Church to be tangled with Politics but as they say in Egypt; “Necessity have its rules and dictates.” That the Patriarch endorsed the succession of Gamal Mubarak to power after his father is due to the fact that it is the least of the two evils; Gamal or the Moslem Brotherhoods. Eventhough Gamal himself is a Moslem Brotherhood sympathizer, his status as a capitalist billionaire modulates his views to a mellower perception. It was simply a rational decision to make, not a wholehearted endorsement. Being the head of a large constituency and with the absence of other leading figures, made him the target of extreme pressure by the government to utter a favorable testimonial for the benefit of the ruler. You see Alaa’, Moslems must take an active role in managing the politics of the country. They should not sit back and expect the Copts to take the whole brunt on themselves. Don’t forget that we have been so alienated for such a long time that we distanced ourselves from any action, in protest and in boycott. For the vast majority of the bamboozled public this is viewed as a welcome development.
Actually the Copts were keen on maintaining the social harmony in the country. They expected and wanted the enlightened Moslems to have their input in the crisis, but dear Alaa’, they neglected their role between indifference to the happenings and subliminal sympathizing with the actions of the Moslem Brotherhood. This led to the current state of affairs. The Copts abroad realizing that there is a concerted campaign to eliminate Christians and Christianity from the Middle East, as stated in the secret resolutions of the Islamic Summit of 1974 in Lahore Pakistan. They did not want to stand on the side lines as if they have no interest in the matter. They decided that hence no one showed any magnanimity and no one is willing to be rational they might as well flex their muscles. Do not ignore the fact that we are now citizens of our new homelands yet we are still ethnic Copts. The thing that worries me Alaa’ is that the spiraling tensions are bound to lead to a civil war in the country. Civil wars when they start they grow continuously because by the virtue of their eruption they create a vested interest for the people who started it to continue with it until they get a recognition of their legitimacy. This is why civil wars never end until there is no more blood to shed. You probably are aware that blood is the ammunition of civil wars more than the weapons. This probably will make the rulers of Riad elated and happy but it will destroy Egypt totally. The Copts have always sacrificed for their mother land. It is their heritage and their inheritance and if they don’t get their rights in it they will not leave it to the dogs. They will let it burn than let the Wahhabis enjoy it. It is time the enlightened Moslems step up to the plate and do what they have to do to foster peace and harmony in the country. Alaa’ I have a lot of respect for you and for the many reasonable Moslems who live in Egypt. But I maintain it is up to you to heal the nation. The expatriate Copts will not be intimidated by having them labeled by some ugly labels. We know we did our best to keep Egypt abreast with progress, and we were the custodians of its economic development. It is the hostile attitude of some closed minded petty people that threaten the future of Egypt. With a big push for Wahhabism, there is little that the Copts can do without the help of the enlightened Moslems. You will have to take the lead to heal the country this time.
G. R. Scharoubim
A trustee of the American Coptic Association