Most adamant was popular TV personality Muhammad Hassan, a cleric who appeared several times assuring Copts that they have “nothing to fear from the application of Sharia,” which he portrayed as the best guarantor for their safety and freedom. A day before the elections, Hassan implored the Copts “to elect Sharia and vote for Dr. Muhammad Morsi, promising them peace and security, and that they would live in prosperity under Sharia law.”
Sheikh Muhammad Hassan is, incidentally, the same cleric who says Islam forbids Muslims from smiling to infidels—except whenever Muslims need to win them over. One week before he began beseeching Copts to vote for Sharia, he was in Saudi Arabia making disparaging comments about “those who say Allah has a son,” the Koran’s condemnatory language for Christians.
What does all this mean? For long, the various Egyptian regimes and Islamist organizations have downplayed the numbers and significance of the nation’s Christians, the Copts, sometimes saying they amount to as few as 5% of the total population—a statistic which many Western resources quote without hesitation. Others, however—some pointing to the Coptic Orthodox Church’s birth and death registry—say Egypt’s Copts amount to up to 20% of the total population. Based on the Islamist response to the first presidential elections, such a figure may not be so farfetched.
Either way, Copts constitute the largest Christian bloc in the Middle East—a circumstance that has other implications. As seen during the presidential elections, large numbers of Christians may help stave off, or balance out, the Islamization of Egypt.
But if Egypt’s government does go Islamist—and early presidential elections indicate it is—fears of persecution on a grand scale become legitimate precisely because of the Copts’ large numbers, which under an Islamist regime will work against them: millions of powerless Christians will be seen as troublesome and unwelcome infidels, not just by “extremists,” but by the government as well—which, as history teaches, is often the first step to genocide.
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