(The Tablet) Caught in the crossfire—the Plight of the Copts

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamist radicals accuse Christians of being behind the 3 July coup against the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood and the toppling and detention of its leader, President Mohamed Mursi. But Christians point out that although the Copts’ leader, Pope Tawadros II, was pictured on television alongside the coup’s protagonist, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, following the take-over, also present was Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Shaikh of Al Azhar, the beating heart of Sunni Islam. Despite that, since the army carried out its mostly popular coup some 40 churches have been looted and torched, and 23 others heavily attacked.

This is a relatively new development as even hard-line Muslims, like all of Islam, recognise Jews and Christians as Ahl al-Kitab (“People of the Book”) or dhimmi, a status which affords rights of residence while requiring them to pay special taxes. While they stress their inferior status and see them constantly as potential converts to Islam, a more moderate attitude often prevails. For example, the Franciscan nuns at Bani Suef were initially paraded like prisoners of war but were quickly given refuge by kindly Muslim women, an indication that Egyptian innate kindliness survives.

Furthermore, just as Muslims and Christians protested together in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after the revolution against President Mubarak began on 25 January, 2011, so many Muslims have helped to protect churches from Islamist fanatics.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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