The Copts – Part VIII: Where does the Hatred Come From?

But where does all that hatred towards the Copts come from? What went wrong in Egypt, a country that prided itself on the assumption of peaceful co-existence between its co-religionists who fought together against foreign invaders and celebrated each other’s holidays? Where the incitement of hatred does has come from in the last decades?

Many Egyptian intellectuals have pointed fingers towards fundamentalist preachers in the last three decades who have been branding Christians and Jews as non-Believers. The wide-brush branding has been allowed and even encouraged by successive regimes after 1952, starting with Nasser and ending with Mubarak. Adding to that, official alliances drawn between the Mubarak regime and Saudi Arabia, and accepting and allowing the propagation of the Saudi Wahabi doctrine, encouraged fundamentalist groups along with Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque to OK the gospel of hatred. Generous endowments of money changed hands between the Saudi government, some of the al-Azhar Sheiks, and fundamentalists bent on demonizing Christians and Jews, and a whole market was established that many people were beneficiaries.

The Mubarak era witnessed the emergence of preachers given access on national TV, radio, and press, publicly denouncing Jews and Christians. The Mubarak regime helped create several mega star Sheiks from al-Azhar or academia, who competed for public recognition which meant a stardom status within the Arab and Muslim worlds. The stardom status meant official invitations by wealthy Arab Gulf countries, royalties from books, TV and radio shows, and syndicated newspaper columns. The whole phenomenon turned into an elaborate lucrative industry that turned religion into hatred for others.

These intolerant sermons received the blessings of many Arab regimes. They found the intertwined nationalist and fundamentalist tides useful in venting the public’s anger towards an outside enemy, rather than against their failing governments.

Aladdin Elaasar is author of The Last Pharaoh: Mubarak and the Uncertain Future of Egypt in the Obama Age (Excerpts from The Last Pharaoh in this article by permission of Beacon Press). Email: [email protected]

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