Breaking Glass

Egypt’s Momentous Event

Every American knows that Egypt is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, by far the most populous Arab Muslim state.  Many Americans, on consideration, might also be aware that, before the arrival of Islam, Egypt was just as solidly Christian, the cultural and spiritual heart of the early Church.  How did one situation give way to the other?

Although Egypt’s Christians had been subject to previous outbreaks of persecution, these events now reached an alarming new intensity.  Mobs demanded that Christians and Jews recite the Muslim profession of faith upon threat of being burned alive.  The government struck at churches and confiscated the estates of monasteries, destroying the financial basis of the Coptic Church.  And the persecution now reached the whole country, rather than being confined to Cairo.  Under increasingly violent conditions, many Christians accepted Islam, in a massive wave of conversions.  Muslim historian Al-Maqrizi reports the unprecedented scale of the change:

Many reports came from both Upper and Lower Egypt of Copts being converted to Islam, frequenting mosques and memorizing the Quran . . . In all the provinces of Egypt, both north and south, no church remained that had not been razed; on many of those sites, mosques were constructed.  For when the Christians’ affliction grew great and their incomes small, they decided to embrace Islam. ...

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