A Washington Post article about Copts under Islam manages a bit of objectivity, though subtle Islamic apologetics abound. “Egypt’s Coptic Christians Are Choosing Isolation,” by Ellen Knickmeyer for the Washington Post, July 7:
CAIRO — Under pressure from fundamentalist forms of Islam and bursts of sectarian violence, the most populous Christian community in the Middle East is seeking safety by turning inward, cutting day-to-day social ties that have bound Muslim to Christian in Egypt for centuries, members of both communities say.
Unfortunately, the writer of this article is under that popular delusion that Coptic-Muslim relations over the centuries have been grand, and that it is only recently that “bursts of sectarian violence” have occurred. Newsflash: the “social ties” between Muslims and Christians over the centuries have always revolved around the fact that Copts had to pay tribute (jizya), and live, in accordance with Koran 9:29, in humility and submission to their Islamic overlords. History uniformly shows this. In short, they were (and, according to sharia, are) second-class citizens.
Attacks this summer on monks and shopkeepers belonging to Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, and scattered clashes between Muslims and Christians, have compelled many of Egypt’s estimated 6 million to 8 million Copts to isolate themselves in a nation with more than 70 million Muslims. […]
Incidentally, before the Islamic conquest of Egypt in 640-641 AD, Copts made up approximately 100% of the population. Shows how “motivating” the jizya, persecutions, and over all second-class treatment of Copts have been in “persuading” the latter to Islam.
The Apostle Mark founded the Coptic Church in the 1st century, bringing Christianity to Egypt. Theological disputes split the Coptic faith from the West in the 5th century. Muslims brought their faith to Egypt in the 7th century, and the 14 centuries of conversions to Islam that followed have made Copts a minority here.
How nice: Muslims “brought their faith to Egypt.” You know, they came peacefully to the borders of the Christian nation, careful not to trespass or offend, proclaiming the good tidings of Islam, and Copts in droves simply converted. It is bad enough that the author does not note under what sort of circumstances the vast majority of Coptic conversions to Islam took place, but that she can’t bring herself to use accurate terminology””Muslims did not “bring” their faith to Egypt in the 7th century, they ruthlessly conquered it in the name of their faith””betrays apologetic tendencies, which, of course, are not surprising: this is, after all, the Washington Post. One is impressed enough that the liberal paper actually dared address the Coptic issue in the first place.
Tensions between the Arab world, Israel and the West all but swept away the region’s Jewish communities outside Israel by the 1960s.
Since the 1970s, the growth of Islamist politics and the flow of laborers back and forth from the Arab Gulf, where they absorb that region’s stringent form of Islam, have increased the influence of fundamentalist Islam and made life more difficult for Christians.
War has devastated Christian communities in countries such as Iraq, where the number of Christians has shrunk from 1 million in 2000 to an estimated 400,000, according to a widely used estimate by Christian organizations. In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, the proportion of Christians has fallen from 90 percent in the 1950s to an estimated 50 percent or less.
About one Egyptian in seven in the 1950s was Coptic, but that has shrunk to one in 10 by some estimates, although the Egyptian government publishes no census numbers on the sensitive issue.
Violence between Muslims and Christians flares every few years. In the most dramatic confrontation this summer, settled Arab Bedouins on May 31 attacked monks who have been reclaiming the 1,700-year-old monastery of “Abu Fana,” from the desert in southern Egypt.
Monks say the attackers fired on them with AK-47 assault rifles and captured some among them to torture. Attackers broke the legs of one monk by pounding them between two rocks. One Muslim man was killed.
A few days earlier, gunmen in Cairo killed four Copts at a jewelry store but left without taking anything. Strife over liaisons between Christian and Muslim men and women led to recent clashes between the communities in Egypt’s countryside.
Egypt’s government invariably denies that sectarian tension lies behind the violence. It blamed the violence at the Abu Fana monastery on a land dispute.
Abu Fana’s monks deny that.
“Is it a land dispute when they kidnap monks and torture them?” Brother Michael, 34, asked from a hospital bed in Cairo, where he cradled an arm hit by shrapnel in the attack.
“Is it a land dispute when they tell you to spit on the cross, when they try to make you say the words to convert to Islam?” asked Brother Viner, 30, sitting on Brother Michael’s bed. He wore a neck brace because of the beating he received in the attack. [“¦]
Many Copts think Egypt makes them second-class citizens — requiring presidential approval, for instance, for construction of any church. Copts say state security services have little interest in protecting Christians.
Meanwhile, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood movement has helped squeeze Copts out of competition in politics and trade unions, increasing the importance of [Coptic Pope] Shenouda’s role as intermediary between the Copts and Egypt as a whole.