Talk:Copts/Archive 1

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Descent

It says:

Some Egyptian Christians claim exclusive, direct ancestry from the Egyptians of Pharaonic times, while claiming that Muslim Egyptians are descended from invaders from the Arabian Peninsula. However, most modern Egyptian are the descendants of the original Egyptians.

But isn't it virtually certain that most modern Egyptians, regardless of whether Muslim, Christian, or other, have ancestors among both Arabians and ancient Copts? Michael Hardy 03:09, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

Well, what can we say except that sectarian conflicts find the most trivial of ideas hard to grasp! Someone has removed that paragraph as a pretence to instate the opposite claim. --Alif 00:34, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Well, too, Alif, it is not really "most trivial". We know almost nothing about the historical ethnicity of modern Egyptians. And nothing is certain in here, especially virtually! The "most modern Egyptians are the descendants of the original Egyptians." is based on nothing, and I can't allow myself even of considering it an original research; it is no research at all. __Maysara 07:25, 10 September 2006 (UTC)

Identity as Native Egyptians section

I have re-updated that section I initially added to reflect that it is not conclusive as to the origin of the Copts. The claim above is correct that most Egyptians decend from the original native inhabitants; my update reflects this, but that certain communities tend to reflect more closely the indigenous inhabitants, although most individuals in Egypt are of multiple backgrounds. I've done research providing the opinion of at least one Egyptologists who claims that the Copts immigrated to Egypt during the early 4th Century; the article reflects this as an opinion of an individual and not as fact. Also, I have cited another source which claims that Copts are not ethnically distinct from other Egyptians, which means that if the previous claim is true, than the Copts have become genetically absorbed into the general population. Please do not remove the section. If you want to better a Neutral POV voice, go ahead, but please do not completely cut the section as it expresses the fact that an indigeous idenitity of Copts is BY NO MEANS conclusive.Herikaius 05:52, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

I'm afraid I will have to remove it because there are simply too many problems with the section you added and your claims above. Briefly, there is really no way to know how "most Westerners" view Egyptians, or to verify the random percentages that you gave. The idea that Copts are descended from Greek immigrants is not based on verfiable facts. The person on whom you base some of your ideas is not an actual Egyptologist, but someone who claims to practice "independent Egyptology." Most importantly, your statement above that you provided this information "as an opinion of an individual and not as fact" is precisely why it does not belong in the article or anywhere else in Wikipedia: WP:NOR and WP:V[ziʔɾɪdəʰ] 06:48, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

Maybe so, but I think that because the identity of the Copts is not conclusive, we should include various positions on possible truths. Instead of merely stating one possible explanation, as the idea of them being ancestors of ancient Egyptians is disputed, we should include a few different explanations from various sources. I provided 2. 69.254.201.64 05:17, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

The "Usage" section

I'm really amazed by this "usage" section.

I want to clear some things out.

The word "Copt" was initially used to refer to the people of Egypt before the Arab Conquest, that is, the Egyptians who may or may have not mixed with the Greeks/Romans (many of them did).

Muslims, however, are not in this group. Muslims descend from Egyptians, Arabs and Turks. It is ridiculous to refer to Muslims as "Copts", except for those who recently converted to Islam.

Indeed, most early Muslim writers referred to the Egyptians who converted to Islam as "Copts" just as the Christians. However, they quickly stopped using this term because almost all Copts who converted to Islam have immediately intermarried with Arabs, and their descendents no longer identify themselves as “Copts”. It is a known fact that the conversion to Islam in Egypt was via intermarriage, and this is true even for today.

Therefore, the "Coptic Muslim" label can only be applied to the Copts who converted to Islam "recently", and not those who have already intermarried with Arabs or other Muslim foreigners.

The Egyptian nationalists’ argument is also very weak. Although there are Egyptian nationalists who prefer to use the word "Copt", there are far more “nationalists” who completely reject it and prefer the word "Arab". In fact, if you called an average Muslim in Egypt today a "Copt", he will take it as an insult. Quoting Morcus Semika Pasha also doesn't help at all in supporting the argument; there are many other Coptic Pashas who said just the opposite.

Therefore, I highly recommend removing this section, and leaving the term “Copt” to refer to the Christians Egyptians, period. If anyone wants to add anything related to ethnicity, then you could mention that it refers to the pre-Islamic Egyptians whether they were Ethnic Egyptians or Greco-Egyptians.The preceding unsigned comment was added by 62.114.163.166 (talk • contribs) 01:21, 1 February 2006 .

The statement that "almost all Copts who converted to Islam have immediately intermarried with Arabs" is utter nonsense; that's the kind of thing that you cannot back up with any verifiable facts. And your argument that many "Egyptian nationalists" prefer to be labeled as "Arab" (sic) is not correct either! Egyptian nationalism, both contemporary and pre-1952, is the antithesis of what you're suggesting. Arabism is a question that Egypt contended with for more than a century, and in fact I've heard many, many Muslim Egyptians who reject it.
Whatever edits made to the article need to be based on verifiable facts, not Coptic nationalist sentiment. Interestingly, this is what another encyclopedic entry on the Copts looks like [1]. Notice it states, "Copts are not ethnically distinct from other Egyptians". — Zerida 16:09, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

Racial traits of Copts vs. Egyptian Muslims

I have reverted to the version in "Coptic Christianity" article that said there was a "massive immgration of Arabs", and someone reverted it back, and I have a few questions that are better suited in this discussion page.

I'm just wondering, how could Muslims of Egypt be descended from Copts while many Copts, if not most of them, are recognizable and identifiable from the Egyptian Muslims in terms of looks and facial features, even if the difference is little?

I am a Copt, and wherever I go here in Egypt I'm always recognized as Coptic, even though I don't wear a cross and I don't have a cross tatto or anything like that. From taxi drivers who keep nagging me about the "strange beliefs of christians" to people almost everywhere -- in my school days and till today -- asking for my last name to confirm that I am coptic as they have thought.

How could this possible?

It is also interesting that most of the Muslims I know have Turkish grandparents. My family in the south (Upper Egypt) also have so many Arab neighbors who belong to real and still existing tribes.

Isn't this an indication that Arabs and Turks have mixed with the large number of Copts who converted to Islam in the 8th and 9th century? Aren't those Arabic tribes the remaining of the huge Arab settelments in the Egypt that were diffused in the Egyptian soceity?

I'm asking whoever edited after me (Zerida I guess), what is your opinion about this?

Please be aware that I'm not a "racist" and I don't hate Muslims, its just the idea of both of us having the same ancestory confuses me.

-Girgis 05:28, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

I can't really answer your question as to why you are distinguished by your "looks and facial features" as a Copt, because it doesn't deal with objective facts or observation. It's a rather odd question! I can only describe the evidence at hand. Many people in Egypt and neighboring regions cling to local legends with regard to their history and descent. For example, some people across Africa and the Middle East, including many black communities, have constructed genealogies linking them to prophet Muhammad or his immediate family in order to maintain political and social advantage within their societies. Similarly, some Coptic and other Eastern Christians (e.g. Serbs vis-à-vis Bosniaks) cling to the myth of "racial purity". These are not objective facts and are not treated as such in the scientific community.
As to casual observation of Egyptian society, your experience certainly contradicts those of any observers with whom I'm familiar—from Lane's Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians to Edward Wakin's A Lonely Minority: The Modern Story of Egypt's Copts to Lord Cromer's famous remark to the effect that the only difference between a Copt and Muslim is that the former is an Egyptian who worships at a church, while the latter is an Egyptian who worships at a mosque. How is it that someone like Boutros Boutros-Ghali "racially" different from say Amr Moussa "even if the difference is little"? Or the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Maged George [2] from someone like Mubarak? I don't know; maybe you see something I don't.
Copts exhibit fairly the same range as Muslim Egyptians—they are not abstractions to Muslims or to the rest of the world [3] [4]. It's true that Muslims absorbed some Turkish, Arabian, Circassian and Albanian elements. Similarly, Copts have absorbed some Armenian, Greek, Italian, and Syrian (Syriac) elements. Egyptian society, like most other societies on earth, was never isolated—it was not so during its Dynastic history since its earliest beginnings.
That said, Egyptologists do on occasion get questions like these, particularly since the appearance of Afrocentric constructions of history. There are appreciable differences between Lower and Upper Egyptians overall, whether Muslim or Coptic, with the north being more Mediterranean/Berber oriented and the south more African. The late Frank Yurco was once asked about Copts in relation to the ancient Egyptians' ethnic origins, and had this to say:
Copts are found in all parts of Egypt, and those in Luxor to Aswan area are indeed very brown complexioned, just as are their Muslim compatriots in that part of Egypt. Farther north, you will find lighter complexioned Copts, and again Muslims also. In the Cairo area, they tend to be very light complexioned.
Most sincerely,
Frank J. Yurco
University of Chicago
There's been much discussion of the Copts. Well, even they come in all the varieties of brown that the Muslim population comes in. A Copt from Luxor will be brown-complexioned, one from Aswan darker still.
The facts are, there was no major displacement of Egyptians when Islam came to Egypt. Most Muslims in fact were converts from Christianity.
Amr ibn al-As conquered Egypt with a small force of about 5,000 Arabs. He settled with them at Fustat, across the river from old Memphis.
Most sincerely,
Frank J. Yurco
University of Chicago
--
Frank Joseph Yurco
fjyurco@midway.uchicago.edu

Zerida 23:29, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

I’m sorry for such a long reply.
You claimed that all foreign observers you have encountered have “different observations” from mine. This is really strange because most of the remarks I have seen that were made by foreign observers support my claims. For example, Stanley Pool Lane (in the 18th century) mentioned that “The Copts differ but little from the generality of their Muslim countrymen: the latter being chiefly descended from Arabs and from Copts who have embraced the faith of the Arabs, and thus become assimilated to the Copts in features”. Another observer (O. B. Carter, 1902) noted that “They [the Copts] are still a people apart, less mixed with alien blood than any other inhabitants of the Nile valley; their features recall those of the ancient Egyptians, as we see them on the monuments, much more than do the faces of the Muslim population.”
I also noticed that you quoted Morcus Semika Pasha, which, I believe, does not prove anything like another person have said on this discussion. Morcus Pasha’s remarks are nothing more than political-nationalist slogans that were very common at that time, and we actually still repeat it till this day, whether anyone believes in it or not. I remember reading about an Egyptian sheikh in the 18th century claiming that Arabs are racially superior to Copts and thus Muslims should “take pride of their ancestry and their glorious history.” I will try to find the exact reference and probably post the quote in the article, but regardless of the prominence of this shiekh, I think it does not prove anything, just like the comment of Morcus Pasha which I believe should be removed.
Regarding my question on the different racial traits between Copts and Egyptian Muslims, I can very well understand your inability to answer my question and my comments on the difference in features, for being largely subjective. But more importantly, I must warn you that you are relying on subjective evidences. In this article related to this discussion page (on the term “Copt”) it is obvious that you are depending on the views of “Egyptian nationalists and intellectuals”, both of whom probably don’t have any scientific proof for their claims either. Even the foreign observers depended largely on how they perceive the people they see in the towns and streets, just like the comments by “Frank Joseph Yurco”.
You said that “Muslims absorbed some Turkish, Arabian, Circassian and Albanian elements.” I disagree with combing them in one sentence as if they all carry equal weights: the Arabian and Turkish elements are far more powerful than the Circassian and Albanian, only the Arabs and Turks had large settlements since they occupied the country. Same goes to your claim that “Copts have absorbed some Armenian, Greek, Italian, and Syrian (Syriac) elements”; from all of those, only the Greek would be classified as significant since they invaded the country and migrated to Egypt in large numbers.
You have asked “How is it that someone like Boutros Boutros-Ghali "racially" different from say Amr Moussa "even if the difference is little"? Or the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Maged George [2] from someone like Mubarak?”
I don’t want to give an answer like “Mubarak looks Turkish and thus Muslim, or that Boutrous looks Coptic”, because this is truly subjective, but I would like to talk about something else. What if we compared Mubarak to Mahmoud Abbas for example. Would you notice any significant difference? Not really. All Middle Eastern people look quite similar, either Arabs or non-Arabs. For that reason, “looks” should not be taken as a proof by itself, but rather a clue. The current similarity between Copts and Muslim Egyptians does not, by any means, prove that Egyptian Muslims have actually descended directly from Copts.
It is true that Copts and Egyptian Muslims have the similar shades of complexion in different latitudes of the country, but that does not prove that Muslim Egyptian descended directly from Copts, it definitely does not prove that Egyptian Muslims have not mixed with Arabs and Turks. Turks were concentrated in the north with huge numbers, and in the south many Arab tribes remain till this day with their tribal formations, indicating that much larger numbers existed in the past.
You said that “some Coptic and other Eastern Christians (e.g. Serbs vis-à-vis Bosniaks) cling to the myth of "racial purity" and that “Many people in Egypt and neighboring regions cling to local legends with regard to their history and descent”. I believe the true myth is to ignore the racial influence of the Arab and Turkish rule. Egypt was the capital of the Arab-Muslim empire for a pretty long time. Egypt is the home of the largest Islamic education institution ever: the Azhar, and was generally richer than any other Arab country, therefore large number of people from Arabia and from other parts of the Arab world were attracted. Egypt was a “waiting station” for the Arab troops moving to the African continent and to Andalusia as well, and certainly many of whom stayed in Egypt. Ignoring the influence of the Arab influx to Egypt would be the true legend. The Turks are also part of the game: Mamluk Turks Egypt ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1517, and then Ottoman Turks rules from 1517 to 1798, which means Turks ruled Egypt for more than half a millennium. Ignoring the Turkish influence would be another “myth”.
Just as the Greek and Roman invasions had massive effect on the Egyptian (later called Coptic) population, the Turkish and the Arab invasions had massive effects on the Egyptian Muslims as well. Claiming that no racial difference exists between Copts and Egyptian Muslims is anything but logical.
The only reason that Egyptian Muslims in the last century began claiming ancestry to the early Egyptians is largely due to the French expedition and the discovery of the wonders of Egypt. Just like any inhabitant of Egypt, Egyptian Muslims wanted to take credit and be part of the Egyptian civilization which they perceived as far more superior to that of the Arabs.
Regarding your references, I was very disappointed with your linking to wataninet.com and middle-east-online.com as some sort of proof, both of which are terribly unsuitable. Even Encyclopedias should not be quoted in debates. When Britannica, for example, wants an article on Islam, they ask a Muslim Scholar to write one according to his own view that the reader is expected to trust, and encyclopedic articles in general don’t include any external references, so it makes it even worse. In Encyclopedias I have seen some of the most biased and most contradictory statements. A good reference would be a history book written by a sound historian, but most of us unfortunately don't have enough time to do that kind of research.

Girgis 00:29, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Let me quickly point out that I'm not at all inclined to have such a drawn out debate about this topic as I find the whole argument over the race of the Egyptians, whether by Afrocentrists or radical Coptic separatists or Islamists, nonnotable and rather obscene. Unfortunately, they usually spring up when those who make them don't bother to "do that kind of research" as you say. Egyptian Muslims did not begin "claiming ancestry of the early Egyptians" in the last century. It was largely Muslim Egyptians who showed any interest prior to the last century in ancient Egypt. It was Rifa'a et Tahtawi who made the initial effort in the 19th century, and many centuries before him a slew of Muslim Egyptian scholars starting in the 9th century with the likes of Zul Nun el Masri (Zul Nun the Egyptian) were heavily engaged in the study of ancient Egypt and its language [5].

As far as physical differences between Muslims and Copts, perhaps this subject is best answered by physical anthropology. Recent genetic research shows that Egyptians in general are most closely related to Berbers and Ethiopians, and far less so to people from Southwest Asia such as Arabs. A group of physical anthropologists concluded that "the Egyptians have been in place since back in the Pleistocene and have been largely unaffected by either invasions or migrations. As others have noted, Egyptians are Egyptians, and they were so in the past as well" [6]. — Zerida 04:01, 23 March 2006 (UTC)