The Islamists’ goal is not the annihilation of Copts. Copts are not likely to face a holocaust in the future, though local pogroms are all but guaranteed. The Islamists’ goal is to subjugate Copts to their notions of their proper place as dhimmis under benevolent Islamic rule. It is for Copts to accept dhimmitude, live by it, and embrace it. Copts will be allowed to live in Egypt, tolerated as second-class citizens recognizing and accepting their second-class status. Any attempt by Copts to break those chains of dhimmitude and act as equals is frowned upon as an affront to the supremacy and primacy of Islam in its own land.
Indisputably, there is today a Coptic nation. It is however not a nation that seeks to achieve independence and statehood. That nation is not racial nor, after the loss of the Coptic language, is it based on a distinct language or on purely religious lines. Instead, it is a nation that is founded on the unique history of a church. It is a nation, as S.S. Hassan described it, whose topography is invisible. The nature of the dangers facing that nation have varied throughout its history from assimilation in an imagined liberal Egypt, to the erosion of Coptic uniqueness, the threat of Protestant missionaries, and of modernity and its discontents. Today, this nation faces a more serious threat. It can fight back against persecution although overwhelming odds lined up against it assure its defeat. It can accept dhimmitude and live as second-class citizens, or it can withdraw inside the walls of its ancient church finding comfort within those walls.