First Published: 2011-11-01


Egypt’s Muslims Must Not Forget Coptic Christians


It should also be remembered that Coptic Christians were the main inhabitants of Egypt at the time that Muslim-Arabs conquered the region. Even though some converted to Islam, Coptic Christians still supported many Islamic policies, stresses Dallas Darling.


Middle East Online

Earlier this year as the world witnessed some of the worst religious violence in decades among Muslims and Coptic Christians living in Egypt, Egypt’s predominantly Muslim majority must not forget its rich and tolerant and liberating history towards faith-based minorities. Tragically, dozens of people have been killed in clashes between Egyptian security forces and mainly Coptic Christian demonstrators protesting against attacks on churches. Yousef Sidhoum, editor of the Coptic news paper al-Watani, warned that the situation for Egypt’s Coptic Christians have worsened since recent Egypt’s Revolution.

Egypt’s initial uprising, consisting of both Muslims and Christians whom flocked to Tahrir Square and called for more rights and social justices, was reminiscent of how some Islamic successors and caliphates to Prophet Mohammad were greeted as political and ecclesiastical liberators and messianic economists for both Christian and Jewish communities. Throughout the Eastern Roman Empire, institutions and infrastructures had collapsed due to Emperor Justinian’s final attempt to re-conquer the Western Roman Empire and complete enormous building projects and fund the luxuries of the court.

As Justinian’s imperial army drained much needed resources and impoverished the peasants, the Church alienated many by imposing religious conformism. Not only was Paganism brutally attacked and temples ransacked and demolished, but there were repeated attacks on the Jews and bloody persecutions against adherents of the Monophysites, or Coptic Christians. Therefore, when Arab-Islamic armies marched into Egypt, which was dominated by the Eastern Roman Empire, Egypt’s Coptic Christians greeted Muslims as liberators and hoped their economic lives would be improved.(1)

Coptic Christians and others were not disappointed. Muslim leaders rebuilt roads and canals, vastly improving infrastructure. New irrigation and farming techniques increased the production of foods. At the same time, Muslim rulers emphasized learning and toleration, especially towards the Coptic Christians and Jews who were considered People of the Book. Trade, commerce and economic opportunities revived as new goods and skills flooded Egyptian communities. Still, Egypt’s Coptic Christians benefited from Islam’s House of Wisdom that produced the latest scientific innovations and medicines.

The Monophysite Church, or Coptic Christians, experienced religious freedom under Islam. They believed that instead of the divine and human natures joining to form one person in Jesus, Jesus possessed but one nature in which divine life and human were indistinguishable. It was this doctrine, then, the “one nature” doctrine, which is more comparable to Islam and Monotheism, that caused the Eastern Roman Empire and Orthodox Church to persecute Coptic Christians. Under Islam, Coptic Christians became the largest Christian body in Egypt and completely separated from Eastern Orthodoxy.

It should also be remembered that Coptic Christians were the main inhabitants of Egypt at the time that Muslim-Arabs conquered the region. Even though some converted to Islam, Coptic Christians still supported many Islamic policies. However, the arrival of Western European and Christian crusaders forced Islamic empires to become more defensive and aggressive in defending their Islamic rights, laws and customs. More recent Westernized market economies, support of dictators, and militarization has caused Islamic extremism to surge. It also has helped produce anti-Coptic unrest and Muslim-Copt clashes.

The Qur’an states, “Be merciful; slay neither old men, children, nor women.” It also encourages Muslims to be just to all people and to show “kindness to the young, generosity to the poor, to have forbearance with enemies, and respect to the learned.” Still, the law of life requires one to treat others as one expects to be treated. There is no room in Islam, nor in Egypt, for unprovoked violence towards Coptic Christians or in attacking Coptic churches. With at least ten million adherents, Egyptian Muslims and authorities should be vigilant to prevent more hostilities towards Coptic Christians

Over the years, Coptic Christians have served admirably in prominent political positions. Others have experienced a beneficial standard of wealth and education. Egyptian Muslims should consider de-regulating the building of new churches and the renovation of existing ones. They should allow Coptic history to be taught in schools, recognize Coptic language, and implement fair representation in Egypt’s new parliamentary government.(2) This will ensure a tolerant Muslim-Coptic society and avoid tragic conflicts of the past, like the Kosheh Pogrom. Such actions will show how Islam is liberating and democratic.

Dallas Darling

(1) Harman, Chris. A People’s History Of The World. New York, New York: Verso Publishers, 2008., p. 119.

(2) Sela, Avraham. The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. New York, New York: Continuum Press, 2002., p. 257.


Senior Saudi prince blasts Trump's "opportunistic" Jerusalem move

Kuwait ruler’s son named defence minister

Israel PM faces renewed pressure in Europe

Bahraini civil society group criticised after Israel visit

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel

Jordan referred to UN for failing to arrest Sudanese president

Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

Netanyahu expects EU to follow suit on Jerusalem

Putin orders withdrawal of ‘significant’ amount of troops from Syria

Putin to meet with Sisi in Cairo

GCC at a critical juncture

Houthi rebels tighten grip on Sanaa after Saleh’s assassination

Israel’s Syrian air strikes risk renewing escalation as Iran expands presence in Golan

Qatar to acquire 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Palestinian stabs Israeli guard in ‘terrorist’ attack

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed says US Jerusalem decision could help terrorists

Fateh encourages more protests, refuses to meet Pence

Chinese electric carmaker to open Morocco factory

Iraqi victory over IS remains fragile

Morocco’s renewed ties with South Africa likely to consolidate support for Western Sahara stance

Lebanese security forces fire tear gas at protestors

Syria’s justice system: ‘working without a written law'

Egypt revives controversial desert capital project

Iran sentences fugitive ex-bank chief to jail

Iraq announces 'end of the war against Daesh'

Israeli air strike kills 2 in Gaza

UK foreign minister in Iran to push for Briton's release

Turkey's Erdogan seeks to lead Muslim response on Jerusalem

Iraqi Christians celebrate in town retaken from IS

Isolated US defiant at UN Security Council

Putin to visit Turkey for talks on Jerusalem, Syria

Protests sweep Muslim world over Jerusalem

US urges Saudi to show caution in regional disputes

Thousands march in Istanbul to protest US Jerusalem move

Bahrain Shiite leader undergoes surgery

Malaysians, Indonesians protest US move on Jerusalem

EU, Jordan voice backing for Palestinian state

Clashes in West Bank over US Jerusalem move

Macron appeals for calm over US Jerusalem embassy move

World leaders to 're-legitimise' Lebanon PM at Paris talks