On the death of the caliph, Muhammad al-Mudabbir arrived in Egypt as minister of finance (861), coming from Palestine where he had long subjected the inhabitants to every type of misery. He tripled the jizya [non-Muslim poll tax] on Christians and Jews "so that he filled the prisons in every place." He ordered churches to be pillaged and confiscated for the diwan (Islamic treasury) the money and alms intended to maintain bishoprics and monasteries. Monks were imprisoned and put in irons, while the patriarch, unable to pay the taxes demanded from the Coptic episcopate, fled from place to place and went into hiding. (p.84)
Flash forward to today, and it is becoming increasingly clear that Egypt is reverting to its former self, with the Copts still being bullied and humiliated at the hands of the Muslim majority. Disturbingly, the attacking of churches and the kidnapping of monks is still not an uncommon occurence there.
Recently, Muslims reacted with predictable "outrage" over some statements by Bishop Bishoy, secretary of the Coptic’s Church’s Holy Synod. He believes that certain verses of the Qur'an contradict the Christian faith and were added into the book after the death of Muhammad by one of his successors.
Now, Muslims have never been known for their openness to critical scrutiny of "The Mother of the Book", but what makes this case particularly worrying is the official statement issued by Al Azhar University and its Grand Sheikh, Ahmad al-Tayyeb. Al Azhar is the most authoritative institution of Islamic learning in the world, with al-Tayyeb being the closest equivalent in Islam to the Pope in Christianity - a worrying prospect, given that al-Tayyeb justifies wife-beating and suicide bombing, and is hesitant about condemning the 9/11 attacks.
The recent Al Azhar statement decried Bishop Bishoy's statements, and further:
The Statement went on to say the Council stresses the fact that Egypt is an “Islamic State” according to the text of its Constitution, which represents the social contract between its people. “From this stems the rights of citizenship, as taught to us by the Messenger of Allah in his pact with the Christians of Najran, in which he decided that they were to enjoy rights and duties as the Muslims. However, these rights are conditional to respect for the Islamic Identity and the citizenship rights as set by the Constitution.”
The Christians of Najran, Medina, refused conversion to Islam in 631 AD, and were subsequently subjugated under Islamic rule, where they had to accept the dominance of Muslims and pay an annual tribute (the jizya).
So in this statement, al-Tayyeb was explicitly advocating the return of Egypt's Coptic population to an inferior second-class status, where they would be denied their rights as equal individuals before God. As the popular manual of Islamic law Reliance of the Traveller (which was endorsed as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy by Al Azhar in 1991) explains, jizya-paying subjects of the Islamic state are subject to all of the following and more:
“[Dhimmis] are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunnar); are not greeted with as-Salamu 'alaykum [the traditional Muslim greeting 'peace be with you']; must keep to the side of the street; may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims' buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed; are forbidden to openly display wine or pork, [or] to ring church bells or display crosses, recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals and feastdays; and are forbidden to build new churches.”
Al Azhar's advocacy for this inhuman, oppressive system of governance, whereby basic human rights are grossly violated, is extremely sad, but also extremely telling - despite Western Leftists' deluded fantasies - of how wholly immoderate mainstream Islam is. Now, the Copts of Egypt suffer the consequences. Unless the harsh realities of Islamic doctrine and law are confronted, others will surely follow.