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September 14th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

Controversy over anti-Islamic film shines light on Coptic Christianity

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) -Violence in the Muslim world over an anti-Islamic film that appears to have been produced by a Coptic Christian is bringing uncomfortable focus on the religious tradition.

A staffer on the film, which has provoked anti-American protests and violence across the Muslim world, said he believed that the filmmaker is a Coptic Christian, information that has sent shock waves through the Coptic community.

The staffer said the filmmaker told him he'd been to Alexandria, Egypt, to raise money for the film, suggesting that Copts were helping finance it. Media in Egypt, where Copt-Muslim relations are tense, jumped on the news.

"Islamists' use of this idea that Copts were behind it was apparently effective in drumming up support for those attacks," said Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement Wednesday condemning the film, its funding and its production. The film's "release at this specific time is part of a malicious campaign targeting defamation of religions, aiming to divide the people, most notably the Egyptian people," the statement said.

"The defamation of religion, its symbols and teachings is incompatible with Christian values, the teaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles as is demonstrated in the Bible," the statement continued, "so those who participate in such a production, display or promotion of such a films should be held fully accountable for operating outside of Christian principles and church laws."

Coptic Christians are part of the Orthodox Christian tradition, one of three main traditions under the Christian umbrella, alongside Catholicism and Protestantism. Copts split from other Christians in the fifth century over the definition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Copts trace their history to the Apostle Mark, the New Testament figure who they say introduced Christianity to Egypt in A.D. 43. Egypt holds a special place for Coptic Christians because, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus' family fled there shortly after his birth to escape King Herod, who was calling for the execution of all Jewish boys under the age of 2.

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The largest group of Copts in the world is still in Egypt, where they make up between 8% and 11% of the nation's 80 million citizens, most of whom are Sunni Muslims.

In the United States, there are approximately 90,000 Copts organized under 170 parishes, according to Alexei Krindatch, research coordinator for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States. Many Copts came to the U.S. from Egypt, Kridatch said.

"Most of them came here as highly professional people, so you've got a lot of medical doctors and electrical engineers," he said. "So basically, the Coptic community in the United States is very well-educated and, you could also say, a very prosperous community."

Coptic churches tend to be ornately decorated, and members often stay at the church all day on Sunday for worship services and communal meals, Kridatch said.

The American Coptic community is close-knit: The tradition's churches tend to be social hubs as well as religious centers.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians have been target of recent violence.

A Coptic church was bombed in Alexandria in January, killing 21 people. Last fall, during clashes with Egyptian security forces, two dozen Coptic Christians and their supporters were killed.

Sectarian violence in Egypt is nothing new. Maha Azzam, associate fellow of the Middle East and North African Program at the Chatham House think tank in London, says the sources of tension have focused on religious conversions, attacks on places of worship and Coptic resentment that they are not being given licenses to build new churches.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent bipartisan federal agency, added Egypt this year to a list of the worst violators of religious freedom.

- CNN's Dave Gilbert and Brian Todd contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Coptic Church

soundoff (350 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  2. David in Tampa

    Wow this saga is like the Movie "The Kingdom of Heaven" Same kind of people on both sides.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  3. SASP

    I thought it was a really funny video. If Muslims are offended by it, it simply shows how shallow their hateful little religion is.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  4. OMG

    Few 100% true Reasons why Islam is a terrible and evil religion to stay far away from...

    1. "Prophet" Muhammed was an evil & disgusting pédophile who had several wives like a maniac!
    2. Islam = submission. Allah tell Muslims to submit to his will; otherwise he will torture and torment you in life for eternity.
    3. Islam treats non-adherents worse than animals. If they are people of the books (Christians or Jews), classify them as "dhimmis" and make them pay a special tax (Jizya) to the Islamic government, or they should be enslave, rob, rápe, and lynch them as you please unless they convert to Islam.
    4. Death Penalty for any Muslims leaving Islam, being gay, atheist or insulting Muhammed.
    5. Quran says "Men are better than women", "Men could have many wives", "Men could hit their wives" and other evil things.
    6. Unlike Christians – Muslims pray and serve Allah, rather than praying for themselves or someone else.
    7. Islam is the most violent Religion by far –>> http://www.thereligionofpeace.com <<–
    8. Muslims frequently persecute and kill Christians unless they convert to their cult. Churches have either been converting into Mosque. (Hagia Sophia an example) or being burned down in Islamic countries.
    9. Non-Muslims are forbidden visiting Mecca, and no freedom of/from religion in Saudi Arabia and several other Islamic nations.
    10. Islam is spreading like rats in western countries (Europe & North America), and seek to spread their "Sharia Laws", as well as trying to convert as many people to their "peaceful" religion and ev. taking over the nation.
    They start by opening mosques and marry Christian or Jewish women so they will convert to Islam and raise Muslim kids.
    11. It is the DUTY of every Muslim to expand Islam and strive for world domination.
    12. Quran is nothing but hate and violence. Muslim children are brainwashed and brought up with violence and hatred towards non-Muslims. God forbid you are Christian minority in any Muslim country!
    13. Islam says they believe in Jesus (Isa), yet they deny his words and the Bible.
    14. Muslims in western nations tries to act and make non-Muslims believe their religion is peaceful so people fall into their cult and convert.

    May our Lord save us from Islam and its violence & disgusting people!

    Muslims could openly practice their religion freely in western (Christian) nations, but Christians or Non-Muslims would risk getting their head cut of doing so in any Islamic nation, both secular and extremist.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  5. Kittyg

    No foreign aid to ANY country! All monies used to pay our own debt and take care of our own!

    September 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • SASP

      Right On!!! Quit giving our money away to people who hate us. Well... just quit giving our money away.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  6. anon

    why attention on Copts now for this stupid film, rather than for ongoing persecution in egypt?

    September 14, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  7. OMG

    Few 100% true Reasons why Islam is a terrible and evil religion to stay far away from...

    1. "Prophet" Muhammed was an evil & disgusting pédophile who had several wives like a maniac!
    2. Islam = submission. Allah tell Muslims to submit to his will; otherwise he will torture and torment you in life for eternity.
    3. Islam treats non-adherents worse than animals. If they are people of the books (Christians or Jews), classify them as "dhimmis" and make them pay a special tax (Jizya) to the Islamic government, or they should be enslave, rob, rápe, and lynch them as you please unless they convert to Islam.
    4. Islam kills those who leave Islam and/or convert to another religion. It also says to kill gays, atheists and those who insult Islam & Muhammed.
    5. Quran says "Men are better than women", "Men could have many wives", "Women are worth half a man", "Selling a wife is perfectly ok".
    6. Unlike Christians – Muslims pray and serve Allah, rather than praying for themselves or someone else.
    7. Islam is the most violent Religion by far –>> http://www.thereligionofpeace.com <<–
    8. Muslims frequently persecute and kill Christians unless they convert to their cult. Churches have either been converting into Mosque. (Hagia Sophia an example) or being burned down in Islamic countries.
    9. Non-Muslims are forbidden visiting Mecca, and no freedom of/from religion in Saudi Arabia and several other Islamic nations.
    10. Islam is spreading like rats in western countries (Europe & North America), and seek to spread their "Sharia Laws", as well as trying to convert as many people to their "peaceful" religion and ev. taking over the nation.
    They start by opening mosques and marry Christian or Jewish women so they will convert to Islam.
    11. It is the DUTY of every Muslim to expand Islam and strive for world domination.
    12. Quran is nothing but hate and violence. Muslim children are brainwashed and brought up with violence and hatred towards non-Muslims.
    13. Islam says they believe in Jesus (Isa), yet they deny his words and the Bible.
    14. Many Muslims in western nations tries to act "nice" and "tolerant" like normal humans so people think that their religion is "peaceful" and ev. people falling into converting to Islam and accepting them.

    May our Lord save us from Islam and its violence & disgusting people!

    Muslims could openly practice their religion freely in western (Christian) nations, but Christians or Non-Muslims would risk getting their head cut of doing so in any Islamic nation, both secular and extremist.

    ****PLEACE WATCH THE VIDEO CLIP TO SEE AN EXAMPLE OF A TYPICAL MUSLIM THOUGHTS (In English)****

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8b3vhTO248&feature=related

    September 14, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • sam

      KOSUMAK

      September 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Kittyg

      And yet the Muslim in Chief holds the highest office in America! Americans are so stupid!

      September 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Lisa

      Your post is useless except for the video. If you want people to grasp your points make sure they're not exaggerated generalizations and contain an actual point.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Rafik

      100 Reasons why Islam is a great universal religion that one should carefully consider

      Thank you for your comments.

      1 (a). "Prophet" Muhammed was an evil & disgusting pédophile who had several wives like a maniac! Answer: In the Bible (Old Testament), several prophets had many wives: In Exodus 21:10, a man can marry an infinite amount of women without any limits to how many he can marry. In 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, 14:3, King David had six wives and numerous concubines. In 1 Kings 11:3, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. In 2 Chronicles 11:21, King Solomon's son Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines. Similarly in the New Testament, Jesus did not prohibit polygamy: Thus, a man can be one flesh with more than one woman. In the case of Matthew 22:24-28, the man can be one flesh with his wife, and one flesh with his deceased brother's wife.
      1 (b). Prophet Muhammad was not a pedophile. Answer: Aisha (ra) had been engaged to someone else before she became engaged to the Prophet (p)–this means that in that society, it was the norm to have younger spouses. There is no record of anyone including any of his enemies accusing him at that time of doing something wrong.
      2. Islam = submission. Allah tell Muslims to submit to his will; otherwise he will torture and torment you in life for eternity. Answer: Submitting to God means recognizing that one owes everying to the Creator of everything. Moses (p) lay prostrate for 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain for example (Deuteronomy, 9:18), Other prophets (p) submitted to God too: Abraham (Genesis 17:1-4 ), Joshua (Joshua 7:6-7) , Aaron (Numbers 16:20-22), and Jesus as well in Matthew 26:36-39. In Matthew 26:39, the Bible says, "And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed [...].
      3. Islam treats non-adherents worse than animals. If they are people of the books (Christians or Jews), classify them as "dhimmis" and make them pay a special tax (Jizya) to the Islamic government, or they should be enslave, rob, rápe, and lynch them as you please unless they convert to Islam. Answer: look at what the Qur'an says: (a) 2:62 Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians -all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. (b) 5:69 for, verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as
      well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. (c) 5:82 [and] thou wilt surely find that, of all people, they who say, "Behold, we are Christians," come closest to feeling affection for those who believe [in this divine writ]: this is so because there are priests and monks among them, and because these are not given to arrogance.

      4. Islam kills those who leave Islam and/or convert to another religion. Answer: During the time of the Prophet (s), no person was ever put to death simply for becoming an apostate. God says in the Qur'an in 2: 256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.”
      5. Quran says "Men are better than women", "Men could have many wives", "Women are worth half a man", "Selling a wife is perfectly ok". Answer:I already answered your question about polygamy above. Please cite Qur'anic verses to support your claims. It is easy to make unfounded a statement. I have never come across a verse in the QUr'an where it says that selling one's wife is o.k. In fact, a woman in Islam cannot be married to without her consent, and she can seek divorce on her own. Some other faiths neither allow women that right nor allow divorce.
      6. Unlike Christians – Muslims pray and serve Allah, rather than praying for themselves or someone else. Answer: Yes, we pray to and serve God, and we alwo pray for ourselves as well as for others. Right now, I am praying that God guides you to Islamm.
      7. Islam is the most violent Religion by far. Answer: Scholar Phillip Jenkins, a professor at Penn State states in an NPR article that "Violence in the Quran," he and others say, "is largely a defense against attack."By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane," he says. "Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide." It is called herem, and it means total annihilation. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: "And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them," God says through the prophet Samuel. "But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom
      8. Muslims frequently persecute and kill Christians unless they convert to their cult. Churches have either been converting into Mosque. (Hagia Sophia an example) or being burned down in Islamic countries. Answer: See 2:256 above, Muslims are now allowed to persecute or convert anyone to their faith according to the QUr'an. Go to Jerusalem and see how for almost a thousand years while the Holy City was under Muslim control, they respected Christian and Jewish Holy places and permitted them to worship in freedom. In comparison, go to Spain, and look at how many mosques were forcibly changed into churches during the Inquisition, and how Muslims were killed or tortured into converting to Christianity.
      9. Non-Muslims are forbidden visiting Mecca, and no freedom of/from religion in Saudi Arabia and several other Islamic nations. Answer: Non-Muslims are not permitted to visit Makkah because it is the holiest place in Islam. Even Muslims who are not in a state of ritual cleanliness cannot enter Mecca. During the Time of the Prophet, Christians, Jews and Muslims lived side by side. The uncle of Khadija was a Christian himself. The Treaty of Medinah allowed Jews to live in their own quarters by their own laws.
      10. Islam is spreading like rats in western countries (Europe & North America), and seek to spread their "Sharia Laws", as well as trying to convert as many people to their "peaceful" religion and ev. taking over the nation. They start by opening mosques and marry Christian or Jewish women so they will convert to Islam. Answer: Islam spreads because people inquire into it and embrace it like my wife who is a born again Christian did some time ago. No Muslim can force anybody else to embrace Islam (2:256). In fact, we respect Christianity and Judaism so much see verses in answer #3 above that their food is allowed to us, and we are allowed to marry from them. They are our Abrahamic brethren and all prophets (p) including Abraham, Moses, Jesus are prophets from one same God carrying the same message.
      11. It is the DUTY of every Muslim to expand Islam and strive for world domination. Answer: No. If that were true, Muslims would have subjugated the countries where they had been in charge. Take Spain for example: A sizeable population of Jews lived in Islamic Spain after they fled persecution from the remainder of Europe. Similarly, the majority of the population in Muslim India were Hindus, and Muslims did not convert them by force. This is true again in Indonesia and Malaysia.
      12. Quran is nothing but hate and violence. Muslim children are brainwashed and brought up with violence and hatred towards non-Muslims. Answer: Read my answer #3 above. Read the Hadiths fo the Prophet (s). God in the QUr'an calls himself the Compassionate and the Merciful. That is not hate.
      13. Islam says they believe in Jesus (Isa), yet they deny his words and the Bible. Answer: We believe in Jesus as the Prophet of God, not the son of God because we believe that God is One, and does not need either a father or a son. We also believe that each person is responsible for his/her own actions and as such we don't believe that Jesus had to die on the cross because of the original sin. Both Adam and Eve (p) sinned, repented and were forgiven by God.
      14. Many Muslims in western nations tries to act "nice" and "tolerant" like normal humans so people think that their religion is "peaceful" and ev. people falling into converting to Islam and accepting them. Answer: WHy then do 99.99% of those who convert to Islam stay as Muslims We are in a free country and anyone can change their faith anytime they want.

      May our Lord guide us to Islam and its peace and light!

      Muslims could openly practice their religion freely in western (Christian) nations, but Christians or Non-Muslims would risk getting their head cut of doing so in any Islamic nation, both secular and extremist. Answer: The facts speak against this statement. Go to Syria, Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Malaysia, and count the number of houses of worship of other faith-based communities. I pray that God guides you towards the light of Islam.

      September 14, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  8. OMG

    I thought an Israeli-American Jew was the producer of the movie 😮

    September 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • diktracy

      An Israeli-American Jew WAS and IS behind this film. This article is 100% pure disinformation!!!

      September 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  9. Gdaddy

    I just watched his video on youtube, it was nothing more than a Muslims are bad and terrible and kill everyone type of video. From someone who is so obviously anti-Muslim its disgusting. Looked like a really bad B-Movie too. I'm sorry but most Christians are good and guess what, so are most Muslims, they're good too. It's crackpots like this film-maker that we all can do without. If this film-maker is Egyptian, then the Egyptians have a right to put him on trial under Islamic law for not only his highly negative portrayal of the prophet Muhammad but for doing an image of him as well violating Islamic law with whatever consequences are in store for him. I hope the Muslim world sees this for what it really is, one individuals attempt to hate on another religion and just calm down against innocent people who had ZERO involvement with this. Take it out on this stupid film-maker, not on people who have respect for you and your religion.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Lisa

      Most muslims do not live in the US. The "most" muslims that you're accustomed to interacting with in the US are nothing like the real "most" Muslims around the world.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • mdfaraone

      sorry idiot ! , NOTHING should be "taken out on the filmmaker" as you say , this is America , still at least partially the land of free speech, EVERY opinion should be able to be voiced without repercussion, especially those critical of dangerous ideas (religion). I guess by your philosophy if you say your neighbor has an ugly daughter he should have the right to stone you for your "grave" insult.

      September 14, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  10. New Yorker

    Fúck Muhammed and Islam...... Muslims are fúcking monsters

    September 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • saywaaat

      why??? remember ww1 ww2,korean war,vietnam war,granada, american spanish war,american extermination of native americans,etc etc etc. moooosssllemmms were not involved in in of those .

      September 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Checked the mirror lately?

      September 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • sam

      KOUMAK YA IBN ELSHARMOOTA

      September 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  11. saywaaat

    religion makes one dumb as a door nail.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  12. ummmm

    NO, damage has been done- public will think it's an 'israeli jew' – people are to stupid to follow a story or read more then a few minutes- most just hear from others based on hearsay. No, coptic christians will not be remembered at all for this- years and years will go by where they think it was an 'israeli jew' lmao- damage already done by cnn and other media outlets like the wall street journal- nice work guys- at least this will start more suicide bombings and beheadings that will give you more headlines and idiots like me to post comments–

    September 14, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  13. Drink my Kool-aid

    The middle east is fvcking backwards. Women are treated like sh•t. Fvck these people and their religious stupidity.

    September 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  14. Dark Poet

    So one guy in Egypt made the film and brought it to LA to try and publish it?! Is that what this is saying?!

    September 14, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      No. The film was made in California by a Californian (with something like 17 aliases and a criminal record), who is at this point, presumed to be a Coptic Christian.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  15. John

    Replace Muhammed on the video with God and let's see how long that stays on Youtube.

    September 14, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      EXACTLY!!!
      All those angry xtians had better stop and think how they would respond to a similar portrayal of Jesus.
      But they won't.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  16. cowboys and indians

    Doesn't anyone see what is coming – is it not obvious, war is coming, and it will be middle america against these religious groups, and they already love violence and know how to kil. I hope americans start taking seriously defending this country, our land, because they are here already and just waiting to strike in the name of whatever mythic legends they believe in

    September 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  17. Striker

    Why can't these guys just make anti-jewish or christian movie and put it up on youtube. As far as i know, the iranians already air propaganda type cartoon movies on their tv channels.

    September 14, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  18. penny wright

    An Egyptian made the film, not an American.

    They should be attacking the Egyptian embassy.....

    September 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  19. Scott603

    Why would one crazy Coptic Christian filmmaker have to do with all the other Coptic Christians??? Muslims, Jews and Christians aren't bins that you can use to sort people based on what they think. I know lots of Muslims, lots of Jews, lots of Christians, tons of Hindus, and some are kind, some are mean, some like animals, some like sports, some are liberals, some are conservatives, some like to swim, but it has nothing to do with what religion they are.

    September 14, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  20. tuffboy

    I feel like humanity is getting in the middle of all these psychos. People making movies just to stir controversy and psychopaths out killing in the name of religion.

    September 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.