41. A new visit to Copts (4)

Publisher (s):


Article summary: 


article presents three important questions that deal with the sensitive

relationship between Christians and Muslims

in Egypt.

Article full text: 

[Editor: The conclusion

that Muslims or Christians need to change their way

of thinking about each other is fine, but the accuracy

of several examples provided is questionable and therefore

this article has been classified as quality

The author asks three questions concerning the

relationship between Christians and

Why do Copts like the Shaykh of the Azhar and hate

Shaykh al-

The two shaykhs represent two different

tendencies of

Muslim scholars in dealing with Copts as partners in the same country. In his sermons and writings,


Grand Shaykh of the Azhar Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantāwī tends to build good relations with

Copts in order to enhance the spirit of tolerant coexistence between Muslims and Christians. He attends


Christian celebrations and has constructive conversations with Pope Shenouda III, which makes Copts

feel he is a

close friend of theirs.
On the other hand, the late Shaykh al-


explained Christian theological matters from Islamic perspectives during

his weekly program on the Egyptian

television. He promoted the story of the Bible’s corruption, casting

doubt on the nature and crucifixion of Jesus

Christ, which had a negative impact on Copts.

current Islamic thinkers, such as Fahmī

Huwaydī, Muhammad Salīm al-

‘Awwā, and Tāriq al-Bishrī, have taken al


Sha‘rāwī’s side. They have adhered to aggressive philosophies in dealing with issues

relating to Copts. The author says that they unpleasantly asked the Coptic Orthodox church about the

sources of its

wealth, claiming that the church stores weapons inside tunnels to use in a war against

Muslims [Editor: did any of

the previous authors claim that Copts store weapons? These false allegations

date to the late 1970s when Egypt was

rife with tensions between Muslims and Christians but it is highly

unlikely that Fahmī Huwaydī,

Muhammad Salīm al-‘Awwā, and

Tāriq al-Bishrī ever made such claims. Likely

false claims such as these just incite

sentiments of Copts against these Muslim thinkers and of these thinkers and

their supporters against

Why does the Azhar authorize cassette tapes that accuse Copts of Kufr


Despite the fact that the Shaykh of the Azhar is considered a good friend of Copts, the

Azhar has authorized some books and cassette tapes that attack Christian beliefs. Such materials are sold

by al-

Jam‘īyah al-Sharī‘ah [the Sharī‘ah

Institution] and

Jam‘īyah Ansār al-Sunnah [the Institution of the Sunnah

Supporters]. A number of

prominent Muslim preachers are involved in making these tapes, like Muhammad

Hassān, Muhammad Husayn

Ya‘qūb, and ‘Umar ‘Abd al-

In the early 1990s

Shaykh ‘Umar ‘Abd al-

Kāfī issued a cassette tape saying that greeting

Copts or eating with them was Kufr

[apostasy]. The minister of endowments at the time arranged a meeting between

him and Pope Shenouda,

bringing the crisis to an end.
The author wonders how the Azhar authorizes such

materials, since

there is a committee in the Azhar checking everything before it reaches people.
How many


friends has a Muslim got?
Aside from the extremist preaching of some Muslim shaykhs, Copts

still suffer from the day-to-day behavior of some Muslims. For instance, they powerlessly hear such


cassette tapes on public transportation [Editor: this indeed does happen]. In addition, some

Muslims promote

distorted ideas about Copts to tarnish their reputations [Editor: and some Copts promote

distorted ideas about

Muslims to tarnish their reputations]. For example, they say that Copts’ food is

harām for Muslims

and that their personal relations with each other are suspicious [Reviewer:

he probably means relations between men

and women].
On the Coptic side, they transfer their hatred

of Muslims’ behavior to their children in the

process of upbringing. The author says that a Coptic adult

may tell a small child who has misbehaved, “Do not be

impolite like Muslims.”
He concludes that

Egyptians—whether they are Muslims or Christians—need to change

their way of thinking about each


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