Recently, a seminar was held at the church of St. Mina in the district of Foum Al-Khaleg under the title "The Coptic language and culture…How did they die out and how to revive them?"
The seminar was attended by a number of archeologists, Coptic language professors and scholars.
A debate developed between those who stress that the Coptic language disappeared as a result of the Islamic conquest and others who believe that Islam had nothing to do with the disappearance of the Coptic language. An official document kept at the Coptic museum, which is dated back to the Fatimid age, was cited as proof of the former point of view.
Dr. Kamal Farid, Coptic language professor, spoke about the reasons for the disappearance of the Coptic language, explaining that the expression "the Coptic language" is inaccurate, as it connects the language to a specific faith [Christianity] while in fact it is [was] the language of the Egyptian people.
"The Arab conquest of other countries such as Persia and Turkey did not harm the languages of these nations as they maintained their original language and learned the Arabic language [as well]. Yet the Arab conquest of Egypt harmed the Coptic languages because those who continued using the Coptic language after the spread of the Arabic language felt isolated," said Dr. Farid.
"Egyptians learned the Arabic language in order to be able to deal with Arabs, yet certain actions by Arabs and Arab rulers harmed the Coptic Language. Arabs set the Library of Alexandria on fire and the churches that existed in the district of Al-Foustat were burned at the time of Marwan Bin Muhammad. Abdullah Bin Abd Al-Malek Bin Marwan [705-708 AD] ordered the dismissal of public servants who did not know Arabic. Al-Hakim BiAmr Allah [997-1020 AD] banned using the Coptic language. This is in addition to the collapse of monasticism," added Dr. Farid.
Dr. Al-Hagagi Ibrahim, head of archeology at the faculty of arts of Tanta University, defended Islamic history in a scientific, civilized manner. He reviewed the good relations between Muslims and Copts over history, citing a number of historical events. Dr. Al-Hagagi responded to the claim that Arabs burned the Library of Alexandria, saying that Arabs captured Alexandria peacefully after they negotiated a truce with the inhabitants of Alexandria. Later, they discovered that some people breached the pact, so they were obliged to use force. Arabs allowed people to keep all their personal property, including books. Concerning the burning of the churches of Al-Foustat, Dr. Ibrahim explained that the fire that took place in Al-Foustat destroyed the whole area, including the mosque of Amr Ibn Al-Ass. Dr. Ibrahim added that Al-Hakim BiAmr Allah had a Christian mother and when he wanted to hide, he went to the Monastery of Abu Maqqar, which means that he held Copts dear.
Dr. Ibrahim made clear that the mistakes of an individual or a ruler should not be attributed to the group [he belongs to] stressing that the core of the Islamic faith is tolerance and justice.
Dr. Kamal Farid, stated that the attempts to revive the Coptic language have been unsuccessful due to the fact that there are not enough Coptic language teachers or Coptic educational books. He added that learning the Coptic language will not help young people to earn their livelihood.