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Coptic Bishop Rejects Islamic State, Jizya Tax

Close to ten percent of Egypt’s population remains Christian more than 1400 years after early Muslims drove Byzantine forces out of the country.  Relations between the two communities have had their ups and downs and, as both political and economic conditions deteriorated for many Egyptians in the Mubarak era, the spread of radical Islamist ideas in Egypt contributed to rising violence.

The last 150 years have been a tough time for Muslim states as power in the world system moved dramatically away from pre-modern Muslim empires (Ottoman, Persian, Moghul) to western and especially to English speaking countries. Conditions for Christian minorities in the Muslim world deteriorated during this time as Muslims came to associate the Christian minorities within and the powerful Christian enemy states outside.  Failure and defeat led some Muslims to search for more potent forms of Islam that could rally and inspire Muslims against the growing external challenge; those forms of belief often drew on harsher and less tolerant strands of Islamic tradition.

One of the important questions for the Arab Spring movements will be the fate of religious and ethnic minorities.  How the new regimes treat their minorities will not only be important from the standpoint of human rights and the condition of those minorities; it will provide important insight into the will and capacity of the new governments to complete the still-unfinished construction of the foundations for economic and political success.

In this three part interview with Zenit (a Catholic news service based in Rome), Bishop Zakaria of Luxor describes the situation of Egyptian Christians today.  Highlights from the first part: a categorical rejection of a non-secular state in Egypt and opposition to the imposition of Islamic law or of the jizya tax on Egyptian Christians.

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  • Jim.

    The West needs to take up the banner of protector of Christianity again.

    There’s no excuse for “human rights advocates” to shy away from condemning countries that do not allow freedom of religion, including freedom to preach your religion with a view to persuading converts.

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