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Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernityby Samuel Tadros
Synopses & Reviews
The specifically Egyptian crisis of modernity, understood as a question of the compatibility of Islam with modernity, has resulted in the development of various state and intellectual approaches. Those approaches have shaped the way the Copts—the native Egyptian Christians—were viewed and led to their banishment from the public sphere as a community, though not as individuals. But the failure of liberalism in Egypt did not result in the Copt’s current predicament. Rather, it was the approach that liberalism followed that brought about this dilemma.
In Motherland Lost, Samuel Tadros argues against the dominating narratives that have shaped the understanding of the Coptic predicament--their eternal persecution, from the Roman and Byzantine emperors to the rule of Islam, and the national unity discourse--asserting rather that it is due to the crisis of modernity. The book aims to bridge the gap between two different groups of studies. Although excellent works in the first group tackle the Egyptian crisis of modernity, the Copts are assigned the position of secondary actors that are affected by the overall framework and picture but do not possess an independent agency of their own. The second group contains excellent historical studies of Coptic issues and history but has, for the most part, ignored completely the overall picture of Egypt. This book aims to tie the two groups’ books together. More than a history book, Motherland Lost covers the long history of the Coptic Church and people but does not thoroughly examine that history. Rather, the book approaches those questions with a focus on how they are understood by the various forces and groups in Egypt today. The prospects for Copts in Egypt are limited at best, and a new wave of Coptic immigration has already begun that will not only be a loss to them and their church but a loss to a country and a region of a portion of its identity and history.
In Motherland Lost, Samuel Tadros provides a clear understanding of the Copts—the native Egyptian Christians—and their crisis of modernity in conjunction with the overall developments in Egypt as it faced its own struggles with modernity. He argues against the dominating narratives that have up to now shaped our understanding of the Coptic predicament--their eternal persecution, from the Roman and Byzantine emperors to the rule of Islam, and the National Unity discourse--asserting rather that it is due to the crisis of modernity.
Linking the Egyptian and Coptic stories, the book argues that the plight of Copts today is inseparable from the crisis of modernity and the answers developed to address that crisis by the Egyptian state and intellectuals, as well as by the Coptic Church and laypeople. The author asserts that the answers developed by Egyptian intellectuals and state modernizers to the challenge modernity poses revolved around the problem of Islam. The Copts, then, although affected, like their fellow Egyptians, by the challenge of modernity, were faced with a separate crisis: a specific challenge to their ancient church and the need for a new orientation and revival to be able to deal with modernity and its discontents. Tadros concludes that the prospects for Copts in Egypt appear bleak and are leading to a massive Coptic exodus from Egypt.
Samuel Tadros provides a clear understanding of Copts—the native Egyptian Christians—and their crisis of modernity in conjunction with the overall developments in Egypt as it faced its own struggles with modernity. He argues that the modern plight of Copts is inseparable from the crisis of modernity and the answers developed to address that crisis by the Egyptian state and intellectuals, as well as by the Coptic Church and laypeople.
About the Author
Samuel Tadros is a research fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and a professorial lecturer at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Hudson in 2011, Tadros was a senior partner at the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth, an organization that aims to spread the ideas of classical liberalism in Egypt. His current research focuses on the rise of Islamist movements in Egypt and the implications for religious freedom and regional politics.
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History and Social Science » Africa » Egypt