by Dexter Van Zile
Take a look at the image above.
It’s a “Pyramid of Hate” used to educate middle school students in the United States about the process of demonization that precedes mass killings. The image is part of an anti-hate curriculum created by “Partners Against Hate” or PAH for short.
PAH is an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and supported by a number of organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, the Legal Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. PAH charged with reducing hate crimes in the U.S. The goal of lesson plan in which this pyramid appears is to “examine the escalating nature of hate and to consider the difficulty of stopping the progression once it begins.”
The pyramid describes in a graphic way, the process by which societies fall prey to the impulse to engage in acts of mass violence against minorities.
At the bottom of the triangle, we see preexisting hostility toward the target population. On the next level, we see discrimination and above that, we see scapegoating. Above that are violence and hate crimes, and at the very top we see genocide.
Also included in the lesson plan are questions designed to elicit discussion from the students. One of the questions asks “What are some factors that make it more likely that hate will escalate? (e.g., hate behaviors are tolerated, the media reinforces stereotypes, friends and family agree with and reinforce each other’s prejudices.”
Looking at this pyramid in light of what has happened in Egypt in the past few months is, or at least, should be, a deeply disconcerting experience, in part because it highlights just how vulnerable Egypt’s Coptic Christians are to further acts of violence. While its unlikely that Egypt’s Copt’s will endure a full-scale genocide like the one endured by Jews in Europe, it’s entirely reasonable to conclude that we will see ethnic cleansing of Christians in Egypt on a mass scale in Egypt, just as we have in Iraq.
First, Coptic Christians are clearly the target of pre-existing hostility in Egypt. Talk to Coptic Christians living in the United States and they will tell you that Christians are regarded as dirty, unclean by their fellow Egyptians who are Muslim. To be sure, not every Muslim in Egypt feels this way about Copts, but the notion that Christians are unclean is pervasive in Egypt.
Secondly, Coptic Christians are the target of discrimination in Egyptian society and much of this discrimination is sanctioned and imposed by the state. They have been denied the right to build their churches without the permission of the Egyptian President. They have been barred from positions of responsibility in the Egyptian government. The are denied the right to display crosses on their churches or ring bells in their steeples for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities.
We also see violence and scapegoating. Christian women and girls have been kidnapped, raped, and forcibly converted to Islam. We see churches bombed, set on fire and Christians attacked in their homes during what can accurately be described as pogroms.
Coptic Christians have been scapegoated for the violence they have endured on October 9. Writing for Al-Masry Al-Youm Ahmed Zaki Osman reports that a number of columnists are suggesting that “Coptic religious leaders, clergy and intellectuals are responsible not only for the Maspero violence but also for threatening national unity.”
This is all very troubling, but what is even more troubling is the role Muslim religious leaders have played in fueling Egypt’s ascent up the pyramid of hate. Attacks on churches in Egypt often take place after Friday prayers during which imams denounce Christians as infidels. Writing about acts of oppression against Christians that took place during the month of September, Raymond Ibrahim reports that:
In a circulated video, the grand mufti of Al Azhar, Ali Goma’a, referred to Christians as “infidels”; in the same vein, Wagdi Ghoneim, a popular cleric and former U.S. imam, called Copts “Crusaders” on Al Jazeera television, insisting that they do not deserve equal rights with the Muslims in Egypt; Abu Shadi, a representative of the Salafis, told Tahrir News that the Copts must either convert to Islam, pay jizya [an increased tax for not being a Muslim], and assume an inferior status, or die.
Just how much further will Egypt ascend up the pyramid of hate?