Kiralayson fi Mahabbat Al-Aqbat (Kiralayson in the Love of the Copts) by Hamdy Rizk, Rose El-Youssef Foundation, the Golden Book Series, 2018.
In his latest book, journalist and writer Hamdy Rizk documents the status of Copts in Egypt after the 25 January revolution, with a diligent attention to detail.
Rizk opens his book by citing the Sermon on the Mount, with Jesus Christ’s advice to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
He mentions that whenever an incident happens to his brothers, the Copts, he hurries to read the Sermon on the Mount and the Prophet Muhammad’s Farewell Pilgrimage sermon, pointing out that “we are in dire need of reviewing both sermons, in order to face today and tomorrow, while we look forward to a distant horizon when full citizenship will be applied completely.”
Rizk argues that nothing is more dangerous to our homeland than sectarian strife. He then devotes a chapter to his childhood, during which he never witnessed any sectarianism. For instance, when he was a young boy in the Nile Delta, he used to hear a voice calling everybody to pray for God’s peace and blessings to be upon his prophet, regardless of his religion. He commented that such a call is the product of Egyptian popular inventiveness.
He gives several examples of how Muslims love Mary and name their daughters after her, and mentions that the there is a surah in the Quran named after her.
He also mentions examples of Copts chanting poems in praise of the Prophet Muhammad, and Muslims who believe that Jesus is a light that originated from Mary’s womb. He remembers his childhood friend Albert who used to sit beside him in class, always calm and tranquil. Albert’s mother was the source of this calmness and tranquility, manifesting itself in her reluctance to hurt anybody and in her habit of lowering her voice.
Rizk writes that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi enjoys a particularly good reputation among Copts, and describes how he unprecedentedly went to the Coptic cathedral in order to wish them happy Christmas.
He also elaborates on the good relations between the president and Pope Tawadros II, and the good relations between the pope and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb. He views Al-Azhar, the Coptic Orthodox Church and the armed forces as the triangle of Egypt’s strength and the foundation upon which modern Egypt was built.
Rizk says that many a time he has enjoyed hearing the Coptic phrase “kiralayson,” which means "Lord, have mercy," especially after the Muslim Brotherhood organisation’s ascension to power. Thus, the Copts’ prayer and wish focused on asking that God be merciful and rid Egypt from the Brotherhood and their ilk.
Rizk also tackles internal relations between the pope and the old guard of the church in a chapter titled “The Pope and the Guardians of the Creed,” chronicling five years of his papacy and revealing details not many Copts are familiar with.
In a chapter titled “Hassan El-Banna and his follower Christo”, Rizk traces the pope’s relationship with the Brotherhood leader and observes that organisation’s duplicitous stands towards the country’s Copts, then how they unleashed the Salafists to inflict harm on them.
In another chapter titled “Borhami, Enemy of the Copts,” he analyses the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) of hatred towards Copts which the Salafists believe in and practice under the leadership of Yasser El-Borhami, vice-president of the Salafist Call.
He also displays in detail their scandalous standpoint towards the church-building law, whether Christians should be entitled to serve in high office, and their refusal to greet Copts on their holy days, in another chapter titled “The Fiqh of Hating Copts.”
He describes how the Salafist scholars banded together with the reactionaries to further compound the Copts’ status. This what he calls “aborted citizenship.”
Rizk chooses an unprecedented title for his final chapter: “The Fiqh of Popular Citizenship.” Here he traces the roots of national unity between Muslims and Christians as a means to refute the claptrap and lies sown by some of those mentioned.
He says that there are two enemies of all Egyptians, one external and one internal. Although the external enemy is known to everybody, the internal one is like a chameleon that changes its colours and conceals itself, one time in the name of the legitimacy and another in the name of sharia law.
The internal enemy rejoices whenever a catastrophe befalls Egypt. Previously it cheered the Sixth Fleet arriving as an invading force, and now they are instigating the White House against everything that is Egyptian. According to Rizk, Egyptians won’t overcome their external enemy before extricating and terminating the internal one and its sleeper cells in the arteries of the Egyptian state, from the smallest municipal unit to the foreign ministry.
In January 2011 Al-Qiddissayn (Two Saints) Church in Alexandria was the target of a bombing and in January 2018 the largest Coptic cathedral was opened in Egypt's new administrative capital.
Rizk lists the wishes of Egyptian Copts, beginning with the Copts of Arish who wish to return to their homes and jobs, to those who wish to to feel full citizenship and be entitled to occupy high office, to be treated as citizens in news coverage, which unfortunately often uses the description of “Copt” instead of Egyptian; and finally that the state opens up to the civil Christian community instead of focusing solely on the Coptic Orthodox Church.