"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Copts

Febe Armanios, Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt (OUP 2011), 288pp.

The plight of the Copts in Egypt has perhaps never been as well known as it has been in the last six weeks since the bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve. And then, of course, in these last days, the whole world has been watching the on-going revolt in Egypt against the Mubarak regime. While it is notoriously difficult to get an entirely accurate estimate of the size of the Coptic population, what is beyond dispute is the extent to which Copts have profoundly shaped and enriched Egyptian history and culture, and continue to do so.

Oxford University Press, later this month, is about to release the above-named book telling more of that history. This continues Oxford's long-running interest in various aspects of Coptology.

The publisher provides us the following blurb:

Egypt's Coptic Christians are the largest non-Muslim minority in the Middle East. Yet Copts, one of the world's oldest Christian communities, remain understudied relative to other ethnic and religious minorities in the region. They have been marginalized in existing scholarship, their experience subsumed by that of the majority Muslim population within Egypt. This is particularly true in studies of the Ottoman era (1517-1798), a pivotal period in the shaping of modern Egypt. This book is the first monograph to examine the religious beliefs and traditions of Christians in Ottoman Egypt and to understand Coptic religious expression in the context of its surrounding culture. More broadly, this study reveals Ottoman society's diversity by examining the intimate interaction between Muslim and Christian practice, and between the Muslim majority and ethno-religious minorities generally. This book will not only enrich our understanding of the Ottoman period but also elucidate the complex relations between majority and minority populations in the Middle East today.

This will be reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.  

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