Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – XII. Societal Context (1 of 4)

Egypt was a complex society.

Let’s start with the “true” Egyptians; those individuals that do not claim a foreign origin.

The South of Egypt (Upper Egypt) was called the Sa’id and its inhabitants were called Sa’idi.  Sa’idi were not greatly regarded.  They were poorer and more ignorant than the average Egyptian.  They were mostly in agriculture, and they put food on our tables.  And yet, we disregarded this important fact.

The Nubians were more to the South, closer to the Sudan.  I don’t believe they were numerous.  They came to Cairo and Alexandria and worked mostly in the hospitality industry:  restaurants and hotels.  They did well.  Many worked as doormen in major hotels; often they didn’t get paid nor did it matter, for they relied on tips.  Many went back home wealthy.

The majority of Egyptians lived in grinding poverty.  While schools, and even universities, were free, many were illiterate.  There was a middle class, but it was not large.  Quite a few were Westernized and spoke French and/or an acceptable English.  And then there were the very wealthy; they owned vast tracts of land which they rented to the fellahin (peasants).  They lived in mansions, traveled to Europe where they gambled, drank, and bedded the most gorgeous women they could lay their hands on.  Many had one of two existing titles:  Pasha and Bey.  Egypt, in those days, took inequality to its limits.

While mostly Muslim, Egypt had a small (Orthodox) Christian minority, the Copts.  The Copts will tell you that they are the original Egyptians, straight descendants of the ancient Egyptians.  But is this true?

If you were to travel to Egypt today, and look at the inhabitants, you’ll find it impossible to determine who is Muslim and who is Copt.  Indeed, you will conclude that there is a common genetic origin to the present Egyptians.  And that their roots, no doubt, go to those faraway days of antiquity when the Egyptians established on the River Nile one of the first human civilizations.

If you were to travel to Egypt today, you can interact with the very descendants of this extraordinary human race.

So what gave rise to the theory that today’s copts were the true Egyptians?  I’ll provide with my explanation based on what I learned in my history classes.  Do not, however, consider it as definitive; remember that historical “facts” should always be taken with a grain of salt!

When the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) died, his followers fanned out of Arabia to establish what would become known as the Arab empire.  This, however, was an empire with a difference; its purpose was to spread Islam.  But the conquerors were not allowed to blindly impose Islam on the conquered realms.  Pagan people were forced to convert, if they refused, they were executed.  On the other hand, Ahl el Ketab (the People of the Book) were urged to convert since Islam was the last revealed religion, in a manner of speaking, God’s last word.  If they refused, they were allowed to keep their religion.  Who are the People of the Book?  The Christians and the Jews; and the Book referred to is obviously the bible.  But was this edict respected?  No.  Not in Egypt at any rate.

Egypt was conquered by Amrou Ibn el Asseh.  How many Egyptians were Christians (Jews were a small minority and are not a factor here), and how many were idol worshipers is not known.  Supposedly, a majority of the population were Christians, but this has never been proven.  At any rate, Amrou gave the Christian population four choices:  a) convert to Islam; b) pay a redemption fee; c) teach ten people; or d) off with your head!  The last choice was obviously an unpleasant one; few people had the wealth to pay the fee; even less had the necessary education to teach; the remaining majority therefore had to convert.  Does that mean that Egypt would have been largely Christian today if they were not forced to convert?  Perhaps.  But Islam is a monotheistic religion, and so is Christianity.  There is but one God.  So what difference does it make?

In truth, most Egyptians pay no heed to the claim that the Copts are the only descendants of the ancient Egyptians.  I suspect many do not buy it, but otherwise, do not pursue it further.

Where matters take a tragic turn is that recent developments indicate that the Copts are a persecuted minority.  As long as there were Jews and Afrang (foreigners) in Egypt, they were blamed for the ills of the people.  Today, unfortunately, the only scapegoat left are the Copts.

Early Muslim conquerors has sometimes been accused of spreading their religion by the sword.  Maybe.  But how do you think Constantine spread Christianity throughout Europe?  With the sword!  The barbarians that inhabited Europe were not flocking voluntarily to the baptismal font!  They were forced to.  Is that good or bad?  The generation that is forced to convert will go along with the whole charade.  Their conversion will not be a sincere one.  But their children, grandchildren, and future generations will be true Christians or Muslims.  And that ultimately is a good thing.

I fear I have strayed too far from the original topic.  So after the true Egyptians, let us look at their closest relatives, people that came from the Middle East and North Africa.

The majority of the above mentioned came from Syria, with some from Lebanon.  As well, some of these congregations came from Morocco; I do not remember there being too many Tunisians and Algerians.  At any rate, I will focus exclusively on the Syrians since they constituted the majority of the Immigrant-Arab population (my appellation).

Leave a Reply