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TRADITIONAL ISLAM CANNOT BE A CULTURAL FOUNDATION FOR DEMOCRACY, TOLERANCE OR HUMAN RIGHTS

June 25, 2014

I will post the following at the risk of upsetting some of my Muslim friends but it’s an important one and intended to brainstorm and not upset any of them: Islam, sadly, is incompatible with democracy, tolerance to others or human rights. The only way to observe these is by bypassing it. What I am saying is this: Traditional Islam cannot be a cultural foundation for democracy, tolerance or human rights. Let’s not pretend there is no deep problem within or in Islam. The future in the Middle East, and to a large extent the world’s, depends on this.

Islam must reform to be adaptable to the modern concepts of democracy, tolerance and human rights. As I said before, I am not interested in the non-political part of Islam but I believe its political part sucks. The truth is that it’s not the application of Islam in politics which is to blame but its very political theory which is defective. The defence that Islam is actually peaceful, democratic, tolerant and attentive to human rights; and that what we see in practice is the fault of the Muslims as they apply Islam on the ground and not Islam in its actual teachings, and as embodied in its sacred text whether Quran or Hadith or Sunna or Fiqh or Sharia, is frankly repulsive more than it’s inaccurate. But how many Muslims are brave enough and intellectually honest to face up to this? I know many are but there is no doubt that the majority aren’t and hurry up to defend Islam than see the truth. The effect of this is that the world will continue to witness the evil that has been introduced and created by Islam’s political theory. The abominable acts of the Islamists, of all sorts, that we watch day in and day out, whether in Nigeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and even in the West, are bound to continue because they are driven not be a corruption of Islam but by its very political theory as established in the seventh century and augmented since then by practice.

However, let no one equate Islam with Muslims – there are many good Muslims as there are many bad Christians (or followers of other religions). Further, I am not interested in apolitical Islam, and I do believe there is much in it which is good, but Political Islam, I believe, is pure evil.

 

THE BEAUTIFUL COPTIC MURALS IN THE MONASTERY OF SURIAN IN EGYPT REVEALED

May 11, 2014

deir al surianOne of the beautiful murals revealed at Deir Al-Surian in Wadi Al-Natrun in Egypt

 

I would like to draw your attention to this important project of restoration by the Levantine Foundation. Start with this video:

 

 

Then visit the conservation project on Facebook and enjoy.

 

GEORG GRAF’S MONUMENTAL WORK: HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN ARABIC LITERATURE (GESCHICHTE DER CHRISTLICHEN ARABISCHEN LITERATUR [GCAL])

April 1, 2014

NOTE: LINKS ARE BROKEN. WILL REPAIR THEM ASAP.

 

Georg Graf (1875 – 1955) was a German Orientalist. His monumental work, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur [GCAL] (History of Christian Arabic Literature), which was published in 5 volumes in the Vatican City between 1944 and 1953, covers Christian literature in Arabic to the end of the 19th century, including Copto-Arabic literature.

graf_georgGeorg Graf (1875 – 1955)

have pleasure to put up below links to his great work.
VOLUME 1: CONTAINS THE TRANSLATIONS INTO ARABIC, INCLUDING THE BIBLE:
Georg Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur. Erster Band. Die Übersetzungen. Città del Vaticano (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 1944 (Reprint 1959).

Prelims: pp. i-xliv;
Einleitung: pp. 1-51, pp. 52-82v;
Erster Abschnitt. – Bibelübersetzungen: pp. 83-135, pp. 136-185, pp. 186-195;
Zweiter Abschnitt. – Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen: pp. 196-245v, pp. 246-297v;
Dritter Abschnitt. – Patristische Literatur: pp. 298-345, pp. 346-395, pp. 396-445, pp. 446-486;
Vierter Abschnitt. – Hagiographie: pp. 487-535, pp. 536-555;
Fünfter Abschnitt. – Kanonistische Literatur: pp. 556-605, pp. 606-621;
Sechster Abschnitt. – Liturgische Literatur: pp. 622-662;
Nachträge und Verbesserungen: pp. 663-696.

VOLUME 2: CONTAINS WRITERS TO THE MIDDLE OF THE 15TH CENTURY:

Georg Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur. Zweiter Band. Die Schriftsteller bis zur Mitte des 15. Jahrhunderts. Città del Vaticano (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 1947 (Reprint 1960).
Prelims, pp. i-xxxi;
Erster Abschnitt. – Die Melchiten: pp. 1-55, pp. 56-93;
Zweiter Abschnitt. – Die Maroniten: pp. 94-102;
Dritter Abschnitt. – Die Nestorianer: pp. 103-155, pp. 156-205, pp. 206-219;
Vierter Abschnitt. – Die Jakobiten: pp. 220-275, pp. 276-293;
Fünfter Abschnitt. – Die Kopten: pp. 294-335, pp. 336-385, pp. 386-435, pp. 436-487.

VOLUME 3: CONTAINS WRITERS FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE 15TH CENTURY TO THE END OF THE 19TH CENTURY, AND COVERS THE MELCHITES AND MARONITES:

Georg Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur. Dritter Band. Die Schriftsteller von der Mitte des 15. bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Melchiten, Maroniten. Città del Vaticano (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 1949 (Reprint 1960).

Dritter Teil. Die Schriftsteller von der Mitte des 15. bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts: Prelims, pp. i-xxxiii;
Einleitung: pp. 1-41, pp. 42-77;
Erste Abteilung. – Die Melchitischen Schriftsteller: pp. 79-125, pp. 126-175, pp. 176-225, pp. 226-275, pp. 276-298;
Zweite Abteilung. – Die Maronitischen Schriftsteller: pp. 299-345, pp. 346-395, pp. 396-345, pp. 436-481, pp. 482-520.

VOLUME 4: CONTINUES VOLUME 3, AND INCLUDES COPTS, JACOBITES, NESTORIANS, AND ARMENIANS:

Georg Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur. Vierter Band. Die Schriftsteller von der Mitte des 15. bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Syrer, Armenier, Kopten. Missionsliteratur, Profanliteratur. Città del Vaticano (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 1951 (Reprint 1960).

Dritter Teil. Die Schriftsteller von der Mitte des 15. bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Fortsetzung: Syrer, Armenier, Chaldäer, Kopten, Missionsliteratur, Profanliteratur: Prelims, pp. i-xxxvi;
Dritte Abteilung. – Die anderen Westsyrischen Schriftsteller: pp. 1-45, pp. 46-86, pp. 86-93;
Vierte Abteilung. – Die Ostsyrischen Schriftsteller: pp. 95-113;
Fünfte Abteilung. – Die Koptischen Schriftsteller: pp. 114-153, pp. 154-168;
Sechste Abteilung. – Katholische Missionsliteratur: pp. 169-213, pp. 214-259, pp. 258-271;
Siebente Abteilung. – Protestantische Missionsliteratur: pp. 272-285;
Achte Abteilung. – Die Profanliteratur christlicher Orientalen im 19. Jahrhundert: pp. 286-338.

VOLUME 5: AN INDEX:

Georg Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur. Fünfter Band. Register. Città del Vaticano (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 1953 (Reprint 1960).

Namen- und Sachregister: A-G, H-O, P-Z, Arabische Buchtitel.

PREVALENCE OF AND SUPPORT FOR FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION WITHIN THE COPTS OF EGYPT: UNICEF REPORT (2013)

March 12, 2014

I a previous article, I surveyed Egypt’s statistics in respect of the prevalence of and support for female genital mutilation (FGM) as revealed in the UNICEF’s document, published in July 2013, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change. The figures given are concerned with Egypt as a whole, and so when the percentage of 91% is given as prevalence of FGM in Egyptian girls and women in reproductive age, that is between 15 and 49 years, it does not differentiate between Muslim and Christian Egyptian girls and women.  Now, I am going to try to find the statistics relevant to the Coptic Christians.

Unlike in Islam, FGM has no religious backing whatsoever in Christianity; nonetheless, it’s practiced by Copts, and it has become a social norm within Coptic communities, in the sense that Coptic families that have their daughters cut do that a. because others who matter to them have their daughters cut; and b. and because they believe that others who matter to them think they should have their daughters cut. This is a consequence of assimilation to the dominant Muslim society.

When the UNICEF published its general figures about Egypt as a whole, it made use of the Egyptian state Demographic and Health Surveys of the years 1995, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2008; however, when separating figures by religion, it used only the latest DHS 2008. This survey studied some odd 900 individuals. We do not know how many Copts were represented in that sample, and so there are criticisms about its accuracy when it comes to the Copts.  There is a real need to study the Coptic community separately, using large samples, and asking more relevant questions.

But let us use what we have in the UNICEF’s Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. The first thing to note is that the prevalence of FGM in the Copts is lower than that in Muslim Egyptian society but, nevertheless, it’s still high: 92% in Muslims and 74% in Copts, a difference of 18%.

FGM7Figure 1: Percentage of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years who have undergone FGM, by religion

 

How many Coptic girls and women aged 15-49 years support the continuation of FGM in comparison to Muslim girls and women of the same age group? 56% of Muslim girls and women support FGM while only 22% Copts support it.

FGM8Figure 2: Support for the continuation of FGM among girls and women in Egypt, aged 15-49 years, by religion[1]

 

Coptic boys and men are, too, ahead in their support for the discontinuation of FGM when compared to Muslim boys and men, all aged 15-49 years: Only 20% of Coptic boys and men support FGM while 60% Muslim boys and men support it.

FGM9Figure 3: Support for the continuation of FGM among boys and men in Egypt, aged 15-49 years, by religion[2]

 

This is not to demonise one group over the other but it’s an attempt to study the prevalence of and support for FGM within the Copts, an essential matter for us to know where we stand on FGM. The strategies that one can employ to end FGM must differ to some extent in each group. The problem of FGM in both Muslims and Copts, despite the noticeable difference in prevalence, is huge. Further, the mechanisms by which FGM endures in each community are different. In my opinion, the FGM problem within the Muslim society is religious[3] and social – in the Coptic society the forces that work to sustain it are social and not religious. One hopes that the lesser support for the FGM within Coptic communities, together with the support of the Coptic Church, which clearly condemns the practice[4], and the activism of Coptic civil society, will end this child abuse. The Coptic nationalists strongly condemn it, inter alia, as an alien tradition and a produce of Arabisation and Islamic assimilation[5] that must be resisted by all means.

Our efforts must not undermine the general Egyptian attempt to eradicate FGM from Egypt. Muslim girls and women concern us no less than Coptic girls and women. But by better understanding of the variation in prevalence of and support for FGM within the Muslims and Coptic Christians of Egypt, the causes of its endurance, and the strategies we should employ to tackle the problem, we will be more successful in our common efforts to end this barbaric tradition.


[1] The graph is mine and created on the figures given in UNICEF, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (2013), pp. 178-179.

[2] The graph is mine and is based on the figures given in p. 180.

[3] It is not the intention of the writer to talk about the religious support in Islam for FGM but there must be no doubt that Muhammad’s traditions support FGM as is the Shafii School of Islamic Jurisdiction that is widespread in Egypt. The UNICEF report gives a figure of 52% of Egyptian boys and men (15-49 years) and 49% of Egyptian girls and women (15-49 years) who regard FGM as a religious requirement (see p. 73). Again, 72% in DHS 1995, 73% in the DSH 2000, and 72% in the DHS 2003 of ever-married girls and women aged 15 to 49 years in Egypt agreed with the statement that “FGM is an important religious tradition (see p. 95). This, in this sense, let’s agree, is a Muslim problem that needs to be tackled religiously.

[5] For these two processes, go here.

PREVALENCE OF AND SUPPORT FOR FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IN EGYPT AS REVEALED IN THE UNICEF REPORT 2013

March 12, 2014

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has published in July 2013 its Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change. I will confine myself to Egypt, and in the first part I will discuss the prevalence of and support for the hateful practice in Egypt, and then in the second part I will try to find what one can find in the report in respect of the Coptic Christians. The UNICEF’s report relies on Egypt’s statistics on Egypt’s Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in the years 1995, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2008.

 

FGM1Figure 1: Egypt has one of the highest prevalences of FGM in all 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is concentrated. It is the country with the most girls and women with FGM (27.2 million at least)

 

FGM is concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, and it is estimated that at least 125 million living girls and women have been cut. Egypt is the worst of all 29 countries: it has at least 27.2 million cut girls and women, which account to 1 in 5 of the global figure! In terms of percentages, Egypt’s FGM prevalence in women of reproductive age (15-49 years) is astonishingly high, 91%, joining the worst club made of six countries, Somalia 98%, Guinea 96%, Djibouti 93%, Eritrea 89%, Mali 89%, Sierra Leone 88%, and Sudan 88%.  In nearly twenty years or so, the prevalence of FGM remained high in the nineties, decreasing only slightly over the years.

 

FGM2

Figure 2: Prevalence of FGM in Egypt since 1995 has not dropped to below 91%

 

The age at which Egyptian girls undergo FGM varies, but the majority of them (51%) get it done between the ages of 10-14 years, and 38% at the age of 5-9 years. 8% of the girls undergo the procedure between birth and 4 years.

 

 

FGM3

Figure 3: In Egypt, the majority of girls are cut between 10 and 14 years, but many get it done before that

 

Contrary to what many think, prevalence of FGM in urban areas of Egypt, in its cities and towns, is not very highly different from its prevalence in Egypt’s rural areas, its villages and remote areas: 58.3% of cut girls and women reside in rural communities while 41.7% reside in urban areas.[1] It’s less encountered in the wealthiest households[2] but the effect of maternal education is not seen unless the mother has attained secondary or higher education (primary education makes no real difference from no education)[3].

 

zeichen-71

So, these are the facts about the prevalence of FGM in Egypt, and they are not good at all! Egypt is at the top of this shameful league in term of the number of girls and women with mutilated genitalia and has one of the highest percentages. How much is the support for this barbaric procedure within Egyptian society?

 

Egypt has one of the highest levels of support for the continuation of FGM in both women and men.  54% of girls and women in the age group 15-49 years think FGM should continue and 11% are not sure of what they think[4], while 35% only think it should stop. Egypt joins Gambia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Mali in this notorious group with over 50% in support of FGM.

 FGM4

Figure 4: The support or no support by girls and women aged 15 to 49 who have heard about FGM for the practice

 

 

There are, however, good indicators that the support for the continuation of FGM in Egypt is dwindling despite its remaining still very high. While 64% of women aged 45 to 49 who have heard about FGM support the procedure, only 34% of girls 15 to 19 years who have heard about it support its continuation.[5] The decline in support can also be seen in the subsequent Demographic and Health Surveys: it was 82% in DHS 1995, 75% in DHS 2000, 71% in DHS 2003, 68% in DHS 2005, and 62% in DHS 2008.

 

The UNICEF’s report tries to put a rosy picture on the Egyptian women’s understanding of FGM, so it says, “In Egypt, many more women now understand the serious, potentially fatal, consequences of FGM/C,”[6] and it produces the following table in support of this statement:

 

FGM5Figure 5: Percentages of ever-married girls and women aged 15 to 49 years in Egypt who agree with various statements about FGM/C as presented by the UNICEF. This does not strike one with being good progress

 

 

A quick read of the progress in the understanding of Egyptian girls and women since 1995 of FGM and its problems fills the reader with pessimism rather than optimism. The observed increase in the percentage who agree with the statement that FGM “can lead to a girl’s death” to 44% in 2008 is mainly due to the highly publicised death in 2007 of a 12 year girl who underwent the procedure.[7]

 

But what about boys and men aged 15 to 49 years who have heard about FGM? How many think it should stop? You will be perhaps surprised, perhaps not, to know that FGM has higher support within males: 57% think it should continue, 17% undecided, and only 26% believe it should stop! In this, Egypt joins Mali and Mauritania as the worst.

 

FGM6Figure 6: Boys and men (15-49 or 59 years) who have heard about FGM and support or not support its continuation

 

There is no doubt that FGM is widely spread in Egypt. It’s entrenched in society and is a social norm[8]. In 2008, Egypt banned the practice by a parliamentary decree; however, in 2011, after the revolution, the Islamists worked hard to undermine the drive to eradicate from Egypt, claiming that FGM is consistent with, and indeed demanded by, Islamic Law (Sharia). It’s tragic that today we hear of another death of a young 13 year Egyptian girl, who has died of the complications of FGM.[9]

 

 

 


[1] Figures produced by studying Figure 4.6 in UNICEF: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change (2013), p. 38.

[2] Ibid, Figure 4.7, p. 40.

[3] Ibid, Figure 4.8, p. 41.

[4] They have mixed feelings on the subject, do not have a strong opinion or prefer not to express what they think.

[5] UNICEF: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, Figure 6.3. p. 56.

[6] Ibid, Table 8.1, p. 95.

[8] Two factors define if a the FGM practice is a social norm: a. that families have their daughters cut because others who matter to them have their daughters cut; and b. families believe that others who matter to them think they should have their daughters cut.

ABNUB WAS MOSTLY COPTIC IN THE 15th CENTURY: COPTIC CENSUS

February 25, 2014

The decline in the Coptic population and changing demography of the Copts since the Arab Conquest in the 7th century has been a matter for discussion and controversy for a considerable time; and many of the statements on it have been conjectural. I am speaking in particular about the age in which the Copts stopped being majority and were finally reduced to a minority status in Egypt. There is a wrong impression that the Egypt became Muslim in its majority in the 9th century, largely the result of some of the writings of al-Maqrizi (1364 – 1442), the famous Muslim scholar and historian, which focused on the settlement of Arab tribes to the east of the Nile Delta following the Bashmuric Revolt of the Copts in 831/832.

But the truth is that the Copts remained the majority in Egypt for centuries after in both Lower and Upper Egypt, though the decline in Coptic numbers started in Lower Egypt first. There is plenty of evidence for that historical truth but it’s scattered in so many books, Coptic and Islamic. It’s the job of the blog to collect all evidence and present it to the reader under the thread, “Coptic Census”. This evidence may be in respect of all Egypt, part of it, or even a town or village.

This time, I use evidence from the manuscript of ‘Iqd al-Jūman fī Ta’rikh Ahl al-Zamán (عقد الجمان في تاريخ أهل الزمان), a history book on the Bahri (Circassian) Mamluk Dynasty (1381 – 1517). The book was written by Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni  بدر الدين العيني‎ (1360 – 1453), who was an Islamic scholar and historian of the period. He was born in Turkey and later his destiny took him to Egypt, where he became closely connected to the sultans, Barqūq,  al-Nasir Faraj, Mu’ayyad Shaykh and al-Ashraf Barsbāy, taking several important religious, social and political roles under them, competing with the other historian, al-Maqrizi.

Under the events of 799 AH (1396/7 AD) he tells us about an Arab by the name of Abu Bakr ibn al-Ahdab al-Araki, emir of the Araki Arabs of the area of Asyut. On 15 August 1397, he crossed the Nile to its eastern bank, and there he was murdered by another Arab, together with eleven others. His body was “buried in a village in the east (meaning on the eastern bank of the Nile), called Abnub, where most residents are Nasara (Christians).”[1]

Abnub, which is in Upper Egypt and is now a large town, was then just a village; but the evidence on its Coptic population, taken with other evidence, helps to correct the erroneous view that the Copts, particularly in Upper Egypt, lost their majority status by the 9th or 10th century.


[1] Al-sultan Baquq, mo’a’sis dawlat al-mamalik al-jarakisa min khilal makhtut ‘Iqd al-Jūman fī Ta’rikh Ahl al-Zamán li Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni; edited by Iman Omar Shukri (Cairo, 2002), p. 414.

THE POSITION OF THE COPTIC CHURCH ON FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM)

February 21, 2014

THE COPTIC CHURCH: FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IS UNCHRISTIAN AND CONTRADICTORY TO GOD’S WILL

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IS STILL PRACTICED BY SOME COPTS IN CONSEQUENCE OF SOCIETAL PRESSURE FROM THE DOMINANT MUSLIM SOCIETY

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION WITHIN THE COPTS MUST STOP. IT’S FOREIGN, BARBARIAN PRACTICE

THE COPTS, CLERGY AND LAITY, NEED TO DO MORE TO ERADICATE FGM

H.G. BISHOP YOUSSEF MUST BE COMMENDED FOR HIS BRAVE POSITION

THE COPTIC CHURCH OPINION ON FGM IS NOT ONLY RELEVANT TO CHRISTIANS BUT TO ALL EGYPTIAN WOMEN

zeichen-71

Female genital mutilation (FGM) has no religious textual backing in Christianity (as it has in Islam[1]), or any support by the Coptic Church. In fact, the Coptic Church clearly and openly opposes the practice of female genital mutilation and finds it contradictory to divine values.[2]

One of the largest bishoprics of the Coptic Church is the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States, which was established by the late Pope Shenouda III (1971 – 2012) in 1993. The Diocese covers the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. It includes 26 Coptic communities with 37 churches that are currently served by 44 priests. His Grace Bishop Youssef, one of the most learned and dynamic bishops of the Coptic Church, oversees it.

In the official site of the Diocese, Bishop Youssef asks the important question: What is the Christian perspective on Female Genital Mutilation? And he unambiguously answers that female genital mutilation is “contrary to divinely revealed principles.” Very clearly, he states that female genital mutilation destroys human life and disfigures God’s creation – the female body is part of that creation, which was seen by God as very good;[3] and it shouldn’t be interfered with. Further, female genital mutilation is “detrimental to health, threatening to life, and harmful to sexual function,” and, therefore, it “contradicts the will of God.” Adding to the opposition to this practice is the fact that it threatens healthy childbirth. Furthermore, God has blessed marriage as the Bible says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your use.”[4] Female genital mutilation, therefore, Bishop Youssef says, is a violation of God’s blessing of, and defying of His intention for, marriage – that is, as the lay reader will understand, the rejoicing and enjoying, wife and husband together, of each other’s body and life.

Female Genital Mutilation is practiced by some Copts in Egypt, particularly in Upper Egypt, as a matter of assimilation to the Muslim majority. This must stop. There is no doubt that Bishop Youssef’s answer to the question about the Christian perspective of female genital mutilation is that of the Coptic Church; however, to be more effective in stopping the barbarian practice, other bishops of the Coptic Church must speak out against it more strongly. One is optimistic that, in the near future, Pope Tawadros II will condemn this very unchristian practice at the highest level, and lead the Coptic Church Holy Synod to issue an ecclesiastical canon banning it as contrary to God’s will. Meanwhile, Coptic organisations must work harder to educate the Copts on this issue: practices that have been followed by centuries die hard, but we can present female genital mutilation not just as unchristian, risky and unhealthy, but, also, as barbarian and foreign to us.


[1] Although there is nothing in Koran about female genital mutilation, there is no doubt that Muhammad approved it. Sunna (the traditions of Muhammad) is a major source for Muslim beliefs and customs.

[2] See below.

[3] Genesis 1:31.

[4] Proverbs 5:18.

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