Egyptian Christians are often discriminated against in school books, novels
A group of Egyptian and foreign Christians sought government action recently against a suit they filed against the Muslim author of a bestselling, award winning novel that they say discriminates against their Christian faith.
The novel, entitled Azazeel (Beelzebub) by Youssef Ziedan, won the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, backed by the Booker Prize Foundation.
However Mamdouh Ramzi, a Coptic (Christian) lawyer, called the novel offensive adding, “He insulted priests and bishops and said many things with no proof or evidence from books or history…He is not a Christian man, what does he know about the Church?” Reuters reported.
The case has been joined in by Coptic groups in the United States, the Netherlands, Canada and Austria.
This reflects broader complaints by Copts that they are discriminated against and marginalized in Egypt, where they comprise only 12 percent of this primarily Muslim nation of 78 million.
“We should receive attention from the authorities or we will start to wonder why the law does not respond unless the matter includes an insult to Islam,” Ramzi said to Reuters.
Egyptian law prohibits insults against Islam, Christianity and Judaism. However, even Al-Azhar, the world’s preeminent Sunni Islamic institution, has published a pamphlet declaring the Bible a corrupted document and Christianity a pagan religion, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Al-Azhar’s textbook for its high-school students, called “Al Iqna’,” states that killing a Muslim is punishable by death, but if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim he is not subject to capital punishment since the superior cannot be punished for killing the inferior (p. 146).
It also states that the blood money (compensation for manslaughter) rates for a woman is half that for a man, but for a Christian or Jew it is one third that of a Muslim (p. 187); and that there can be no stewardship (such as a superior in work) of a non-Muslim over a Muslim (p. 205), the WSJ reported.
Hundreds of thousands of Azhar schools in Egypt, monitored by the state, indoctrinate and discharge annually hundreds of thousands of young Muslims into Egyptian society with an ideology of intolerance, contempt and hatred toward Copts (and even more intensely toward Jews), the WSJ said.
Meanwhile, the hand of the law is more clearly seen when it involves writings that criticize Islam—even when the author is Muslim.
For example in 1995 an Egyptian sharia court declared Egyptian intellectual Nasr Abu Zayd to be disloyal, and called him an apostate from Islam. They took issue over Zayd’s liberal, critical approach to Islamic teaching. As a result his marriage was annulled and he was forced into exile, Reuters reported.