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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. Reality

    Just more evidence that all religions are absurd and need to be piled on the garbage heaps of the world !!!!

    September 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  2. Islam - even suckier than Christianity

    There is no good religion, only varying degrees of bad.

    September 14, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  3. OrganicManLives_N_anOraganicUNiverSE

    Coptic, the better christian.

    September 14, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  4. ma & pa

    @3:59pm Yeah.... You're right, conversations and not killing. That which nurtures life, not that which destroys life.

    September 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  5. Coptic

    Coptics have been wanting to become autonomous, like Kurds in Iraq. The movie may have been intended to cause serious clashes between Egypt's moslem majority and coptics and hopefully draw in western intervention to create an independent state for coptics. Personally I think this is the best and ultimate solution. We no longer want to be part of islamically ruled egypt.

    September 14, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  6. Wow

    I think this clod out to go back to Egypt and explain his movie

    September 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  7. greg

    Muslims have been oppresive of Copts; there is a legacy of murder, discrimination, violence, going back over a thousand years. Muslims riot in the streets. And Muslims are taking no responsibility for why the film was made.

    September 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  8. fairandbalancedfredo

    We just lost one cultist nut - Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Moonies. Now we have another cultist, the Mormon Mitt, running for President. What's the world coming to?

    September 14, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Bob

      It's 2012...religion still exists? Still screwing up the world as usual.

      September 15, 2012 at 2:11 am |
  9. fairandbalancedfredo

    Romney – the Latter Day Con Man. The Bible predicts that a wolf like this will appear in sheep's clothing and will in fact be the anti-Christ. The cultist Romney carries a lot of baggage that he doesn’t want Americans to know about – magic underwear, baptism of corpses, canine abuse, polygamy, White Horse Prophecy, secret rituals. The cultist’s final ambition is to get his finger on the nuclear button.

    September 14, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  10. TEST

    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. Allah also permits war and violence against non-Muslims!
    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: "Men are better than women", "Men could have many wives", "Men could hit their wives" etc.
    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 & many 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 'nice and tolerant' to make non-Muslims believe & think their evil religion is peaceful so people fall into their cult and convert! Blacks, prisoners, and poor women are the main targeted!

    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 any Non-Muslims would risk getting their head cut off doing so in any Islamic nation, both secular and extremist !! 🙁

    !!!! The more freedom we give those Muslims by letting them wearing their scary Islamic clothes, opening mosques (paying no tax), shoveling their evil religion in our throats, wanting Sharia Laws, etc. – the more problems will be caused !!!!
    !!!! Most Muslims are extremists, and even "moderate" Muslims still support them, so we should NOT tolerate them and we should BAN Islam unless they allow other religious minority in their countries to live in peace !!!!!

    September 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Ec

      Fact: You're an ignorant bigot.

      September 14, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Why have you posted this four times on one page?

      We get it already! Write something new for crying out loud.

      "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." – WInston Churchill

      September 14, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • mike

      everything this guy posted is true

      you cant call someone a bigot when they are stating fact

      September 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  11. Joseph

    lets kick this guy's a** back to Egypt and let them deal with him themselve. A person who insults anyone's race, religion, nationality knowingly is not an American and doesn't belong in this country.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • mdfaraone

      really ? guess what, I'm an atheist, so I guess that means ALL the christians and muslims in this country who ROUTINELY criticise non-believers should leave immediately. Sorry idiot, no-one has a RIGHT to be non insulted, as a matter of fact cowering to this idiocy only gives them more power, ALL religions should be subject to vocal public scrutiny, only then can they be shown for the shams that they are,....the muslims are showing their true colors right now, that of ignorant, backward animals barely removed from the Stone age.

      September 14, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  12. !

    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. Allah also permits war and violence against non-Muslims!
    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: "Men are better than women", "Men could have many wives", "Men could hit their wives" etc.
    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 & many 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 'nice and tolerant' to make non-Muslims believe & think their evil religion is peaceful so people fall into their cult and convert! Blacks, prisoners, and poor women are the main targeted!

    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 any Non-Muslims would risk getting their head cut off doing so in any Islamic nation, both secular and extremist !! 🙁

    !!!! The more freedom we give those Muslims by letting them wearing their scary Islamic clothes, opening mosques (paying no tax), shoveling their evil religion in our throats, wanting Sharia Laws, etc. – the more problems will be caused !!!!
    !!!! Most Muslims are extremists, and even "moderate" Muslims still support them, so we should NOT tolerate them and we should BAN Islam unless they allow other religious minority in their countries to live in peace !!!!

    September 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  13. !

    BAN ISLAM BAN ISLAM

    September 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Ec

      Yes, that's the 'merican way!

      September 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Bob

      Ban one? Ban it all!

      September 15, 2012 at 2:16 am |
  14. 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. Allah also permits war and violence against non-Muslims!
    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: "Men are better than women", "Men could have many wives", "Men could hit their wives" etc.
    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 & many 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 'nice and tolerant' to make non-Muslims believe & think their evil religion is peaceful so people fall into their cult and convert! Blacks, prisoners, and poor women are main targeted!

    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 8:46 pm |
  15. Borderless

    Seen the trailer. So inane and silly I can't see why anyone would take it seriously. But good for YouTube for not taking it off. We need to stop letting Muslims hold our freedom of speech hostage. It is time for every free country in the world to stand up to that religion. Print posters, t-shirts, signs, billboards all with Muhammed's picture on it.

    September 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • mdfaraone

      I TOTALLY agree, that is the only way to stop this nonsense, the entire free world should get together and ridicule muhammed and Islam so much and so often that these idiots finally become desensitized to it. NO ONE, no RELIGION, and no POLITICS should be beyond public scrutiny or comedic ridicule. I'm an atheist and if I burned a bible the Christians might get upset and offended but they are not going to burn buildings, riot in the streets and kill innocents, that's where Islam shows it's true colors for the backward ignorance and barbarity it promotes.

      September 14, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  16. Thumper

    ReallY?!?!? Please; someone, anyone please tell me that not all Islam people believe thier God is SOOOOOOOOoooo weak and thin-skinned as to need them to defend his honor. If Their God really exsisted and was really upset with the film, does he actually lack the ability to defend himself? If he really is that weak and that easily offended..... Sorry, but that really is a pour excuse of a God (by anyname).

    September 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Ec

      I know plenty of patriotic, American Muslims who are good people. I grew up with them. If you don't live in some back-water town, you are exposed to many religious beliefs. That's America and it's great.

      September 14, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  17. lance

    FVCK ALL MUSLIMS !

    September 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Drink my Kool-aid

      Fvck all religion, it breeds hate.

      September 14, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  18. David in Tampa

    @Kittyg Is that all you got? what a riot........ You fit right in with stupidest of Americans

    September 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  19. 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: "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 & many 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 "nice and tolerant" to make non-Muslims believe and think their violence and evil religion is peaceful so people fall into their cult and convert :/ Blacks, people in jail, and poor women are main people being target!

    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 8:39 pm |
    • Amalasan

      You are demonize Islam, and while many of your points is valid you conveniently forget the mass murder and suffering done by western religions (The Dark Ages, the Crusades, forcing people to pay a 'fee' to be buried in a consecrated graveyard, on and on and on).
      Most religions in general give excuse to execute your god's enemies in his name, without mercy.
      A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows. – Samuel Clemens

      September 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I see you've discovered the paste button.

      Please spare us by not posting your little tract on every page here. You will only create a legion of people who will make fun of you and your tract.

      Once per topic is more than enough.

      Thank you.

      September 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Troll

      By your argument we should ban those disgusting Mormons too. Also which nations are Christian? I would like to visit one sometime.

      September 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Kane

      ^^ What that guy just said... You will more than likely vote Romney and make the dream a reality. You are such a bright person! Jesus just facepalmed himself. lol

      September 14, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  20. lance

    nuke all islamic countries and throw the muslim trash out of the u.s.a. now !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Bob

      Why not nuke all religion? It serves no purpose in modern times. Unless you have a simple mind.

      September 15, 2012 at 2:14 am |
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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.