The Egyptian culture is founded based on the religious values and beliefs of the majority of the population, whom happen to be muslims. However, there are eleven million egyptians who consider themselves coptic christians; they make up about 10 to 11 percent of the population. Furthermore, there are about 200 jews living in Egypt (this number could be higher or lower as it is fairly difficult to get a valid public estimate about the number of Egyptian Jews). The egyptian culture, as a result, is very conservative since each one of these Abrahamic religions support traditional values; such as the traditional family values and sanctity of marriage. However, the point of this article is not to talk about the Egyptian culture, but rather to discuss the discrimination that happens against the two religious minorities in Egypt, coptic christians and jews, and to provide a solution for this problem.
As a child, I attended a school called “Bader El-Islam” which is translated to “The Full Moon of Islam”; as a result, there were no coptic or jewish children in my school. Thus, I viewed coptic christians as literally, aliens. I remember going home in the school bus as a fourth grader and pointing at the cross to one of my older friends and asking them what this symbol means; their answer was “That’s a cross, you’ll find it placed on churches where coptic christians pray”. Furthermore, I viewed Jews as inherently evil, since the media does identify the differences between jews and Israelis and it only portrays the negative image of Israeli soldiers, who are mostly jewish, killing the Palestinian civilians. The fact that I never interacted with both minority groups, and the lack of education and awareness about these groups made me extremely closed-minded in the early days of my childhood. Fortunately, my family immigrated to Canada when I was ten years old; thus, I was given the opportunity to meet and interact with other children who come from christian and jewish backgrounds. As a result, I was able to learn how to accept others, regardless of their religious background. However, what about the other children in Egypt who are closed-minded due to their lack of interaction with children from minority groups?
The current situation in Egypt, regarding the level of acceptance of minority groups such as jews and coptic christians, is dissatisfying. The attacks on Egyptian churches did not stop after the revolution, nor did the hate towards jews from the media decrease. The lack of awareness and education in schools about the history, values and beliefs of coptic christians and jews is the main cause for creating a closed-minded, discriminative adults who violate the natural rights of jews and coptic christians. Furthermore, it will be hard to move an uneducated population to take a strong stand when violent events take place against these minority groups, such as the burning of a church.
Article 43 of the constitution in Egypt states “The State shall guarantee the freedom to practice religious rites and to establish places of worship for the divine religions, as regulated by law.” but realistically, if the majority of the population does not believe in the rights of coptic christians and jews, how can the law stop the discrimination and violence against these two minority groups? The answer to this problem is through education. Children in schools need to learn the history, values and beliefs of these two minority groups. All the Abrahamic religions call for similar values such as the love for one another; these values need to be stressed in schools through all grade levels. In addition, the three religious symbols should be placed on top of classroom boards; a star and crescent, which is the symbol for Islam; a cross, which is the symbol for christianity; and the star of David, which is the symbol for judaism. For children to grow up seeing these symbols every day will be the starting point for a more accepting culture and a better Egypt.