Defending the Egyptian nation: National unity and Muslim attitudes toward the Coptic minority

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This article discusses the Muslim discourse concerning the Coptic Christian minority since the 2000s in Egypt. Emphasizing the effects of the January 2011 uprising, the paper analyzes the role of nationalism and the national unity discourse in suppressing the debate regarding discrimination against the Copts. Despite the fissures that were created in the discourse, which rejects any reference to discrimination against the Copts, the Coptic issue remains trapped among the contested interpretations of national unity. All narratives of national unity and Egyptian essence, whether the official one pursued by the regime or the one promoted by pro-democracy activists, require the Copts to suppress their demand for rights for the sake of national unity. Adherence to the national unity discourse by all forces precludes the possibility of developing a form of nationalism or a national culture which embodies pluralism of identities and cultures and reinforces the role of nationalism as a tool for stifling pluralism and democracy for all Egyptians, whether Muslim majority or minorities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-654
Number of pages17
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 4 Jul 2019


  • 2011 uprising
  • Copts
  • Egypt
  • Minority rights
  • National unity


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