Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Coptic Flag, Meanings and Colors


Few days ago, a number of Coptic activists from both Egypt and the Diaspora have adopted the design of a Coptic flag that underlines the Egyptian and Christian identities of the Copts. Yet, before certain people embark on accusing us of causing sectarian tensions, or of being the mouthpieces of Zionism, Imperialism, Crusaders, and all these meaningless accusations, we have decided to make our dear readers aware of the meaning of this flag and of the motive behind it.

Flags and Emblems:
It is well known that any group has the right to create an emblem or a flag that represents it and which would be its window on the world. Examples of such in the Middle East include the emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood (two swords surrounding the Koran), and the flag of the Lebanese phalanges (a red circle surrounding a green cedar tree). Furthermore, there is the flag of the Lebanese Hezbollah or the flag of the Assyrian minority, which flies side by side with the Iraqi flag at the Assyrian churches. It is thus noteworthy that flags do not call for isolation from their surrounding entities, but rather represent certain components of these surroundings. Therefore, in view of the above examples, the suspicion of national betrayal or sectarian isolation that some might raise as we talk about the Coptic flag would be groundless, particularly in light of the fact that the number of Copts worldwide (more than ten millions) surpasses that of entire countries.

The Motive behind the Coptic Flag:
It is indubitable that Copts have taken too long to voice their opposition to many aspects of the Egyptian political life. One of the things that bother Copts the most is the actual Egyptian flag, and that in turn is due to many reasons. First are its colors that closely resemble those of other Arabic-speaking countries, then there is this odd insistence to add the word Arab next to Egypt’s name, as if to distinguish between an Arab Egypt and one that is not. In this respect, taking into consideration that Copts are Egyptians and not Arabs, the current Egyptian flag represents an alienation of the Egyptian Christian minority in its homeland. Nevertheless, in view of the Copts’ nationalism and their attachment to their country, and from the standpoint of respecting the opinion of the majority of the Egyptians who might consider Egypt to be an Arab country, we as Copts are called upon to respect the current flag of Egypt as a representation of our Land, in spite of our disagreement with what it represents. Therefore, we found that the best solution for this dilemma is designing a Coptic flag that represents us and highlights our non-Arab identity. This flag would be used by the Copts alongside the official Egyptian flag. In that way we would have reconciled our pride of our Coptic identity, our allegiance to our beloved Egypt, and our respect for the opinion of the majority of our Egyptian Muslim brothers.

The Coptic Flag:
The Coptic Flag consists of two main components: a blue cross and a colorful coat of arms.
1. The cross represents Christianity, the religion of the Copts. The blue color of he cross stems from the blueness of the Egyptian sky and water. It also reminds the Copts of their persecution, when the Arab rulers and tyrants forced their ancestors to wear heavy crosses around their necks until their neck bones became blue.

2. The top of the coat of arms is decorated with some crosses, which refer to the Christianity of the Copts, intertwined with lotus flowers, which refer to their Egyptian identity. The three main crosses are Coptic crosses, for they are made of four arms equal in length, each of which is crossed by a shorter arm. Those crosses are different in that respect from the more conventional crosses that possess three short arms on top of one longer arm. The lotus flower, also known as the Egyptian White Water Lily Nymphaea lotus, is one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous flowers. It used to represent creation and resurrection, for it closes during the night and disappears under water, then resurfaces and opens at dawn. A creation myth from Ancient Egypt states that the first thing to have been born from the watery chaos of the beginning of time was a giant lotus flower, which, on the first day of creation, gave birth to the sun. The black background behind the ornaments is a symbol of Kimi or Kemet, the Egyptian name of Egypt, which means the black land. Ancient Egyptians gave their country this name since the waters of the Nile used to bring black African soil during the inundation season and deposit it on the banks of the Nile, thus fertilizing them. The contrast between the yellow and the black is a symbol of the Copts’ Christian faith and Egyptian identity that still shine amid the darkness of the persecutions they have been suffering over the centuries. Beneath these ornaments is a green line in the Middle of the coat of arms, which represents the Nile Valley. Around it are two yellow lines that symbolize the Eastern and Western Deserts of Egypt. These two lines are in turn flanked by two blue lines that represent the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea that surround Egypt. Finally, these lines are separated by red lines symbolizing the Coptic blood, which has been shed all over Egypt since Egyptians adopted Christianity and until today.

75 Comments:

At 11:28 AM , Blogger Koptikjihad said...

great job, it's been my dream to have a flag for the Copts. By having a flag can we unite our peoples towards the journey of equality and justice that we so deserve.

keep up the good work.

 
At 11:43 AM , Blogger myfingerisonthebutton said...

i agree.

we need to talk to the bishops around the country to get their backing.

 
At 12:54 PM , Blogger Peter said...

What a SPECTACULAR idea! This is something that should have been done a long time ago. Any one who claims that the Copts are doing this in betrayal to their country is simply an ignorant person!! Next time I go to Egypt I hope to see this flag being flown by all Copts.
There is not a drop of Arab blood that courses through any Copt...but the contrary for Egyptian Arabs! Many Muslims in Egypt are decendants of Copts...some estimates are up to 80% of Egypts modern day population. So a flag for the Copts and the heritage of its people only makes sense.

Let's see how many Muslims go insane about this idea...unfortunate. And the church needs to endorse this idea to further legitimize it.

May Jesus protect his children. And let us remember to intercede on behalf of Abu Sufein the great Christian warrior who's feast was this past weekend.

Peter
St. Mark Chicago

 
At 12:28 PM , Anonymous twelver said...

What a fantastic idea! A flag to focus and unite the Coptic people. Your objection to Arabization is fully justified; believe me, some Copts need to be reminded as to who they are (and who they are not).

Not so sure about this design in particular. The blue stripes and coat of arms seem European. I would opt for a simpler and more powerful image: the Ankh Cross of the early Coptic church.

 
At 3:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very beautiful flag. I hope that all Coptic websites place it in their front pages

 
At 6:57 PM , Blogger Bent El Neel said...

Absolutely brilliant!! May I post it on my blog with a link to yours. Every Copt needs to see this.
God Bless

 
At 10:04 AM , Blogger Copts said...

Dear Bent El Neel:
Sure, please do

 
At 11:44 AM , Anonymous alexander6 said...

I really like the meaning that the designers have incorporated into the coat of arms. I'm not Egyptian myself, but now that I've come to learn it I won't forget. The Nile, the deserts, the seas, and the sacrifices of the Coptic people.

I'm glad Coptic Egyptians are more openly asserting their old hertiage, identity, and rights.

 
At 5:00 PM , Anonymous Alif said...

Many Egyptian non-Christians are not fund of the current Egyptian flag and of the prefixing of "Arab" before the name of the state, as well as the stamping of the state in the constitution as being 'Islamic'.

However, by claiming exclusive possession of the adjective "Copt" you become indistinguishable from those who call themselves "Islamic".

I refuse with statements such as "The cross represents Christianity, the religion of the Copts."

'Copt' means 'Egyptian' and I refuse the hijacking of my identity by religious pretences, whatever they are. Egyptians have had religions before Christianity.

The other concept you fail to understand is that whether we accept it or not, us modern Copts, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Baha'i, or atheist, are Arab by culture; the language we speak, the heritage we have shared for centuries; and the common interest which many are miserably failing to see.

All the talk about racial purity or ethnic significance is nonsense. So is the talk about Egyptians being racially distinguishable from their neighbours in the east and the west. When researched deeply enough and traced back enough in time, this dogma fails completely as it becomes clear that Egyptians are part of a larger ethnic family called Afro-Asiatic which includes Amazigh (Berber) and Arabs (in the wider ethnic sense), who all have had mutual cultural and genetic influences since before history.

Of course I understand that all of this is in reaction to the status quo of imposed religious dogma and references on our life, but I still have to sound my objection here as I do on the side of Islamists.

 
At 8:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Alif;
If it makes you so unhappy to see a "Coptic Flag" then please consider it a Coptic Christian flag, or an Egyptian Christian one. As you can see, most, if not all, the Copts replying to this topic have expressed enthusiasm about and acceptance of the new flag and its meanings. While we, the Christian Egyptians, the Copts, respect your opinion, the simplest rule of democarcy equally suggests that you respect ours.
On another note, Egyptians are Hemites. Yes we may have Semitic and European influences, and our language may be Afro-Asiatic, but we still belong to the Hemitic ethnical stock. This means that we indubitably share more similarities to the Amazighs (Tamazighs/Berbers) of North Africa than the Semitic Jews and Arabs. Furthermore, we are NOT culturally Arabs. We, Coptic Christians, have kept our Egyptian language, music, calendar and many more aspects of our Egyptian identity. The unfortunate fact that we are quiet about it and that our Muslim brothers and sisters don't know anything about that truth simply does not deny it.
Egyptians we are and Egyptians we will remain.

 
At 7:49 PM , Anonymous ألِف said...

Dear Anonymous,
I can't prevent you from making a flag and calling it what you want.

However, your talk about 'Hemites' and 'Semites' is a proof of what I'm saying: You don't know what your talking about. The archaic ethnological science that once used terminology from religious mythology no longer exists. It has been revised and its terminology altered to be able to express what is closer to the facts we now know. The very words 'Semitic vs. Hamitic' has no meaning and are not used by any self-respecting ethnologist.

As for Egyptian culture I claim to know about it at least as much as you do; it's not a good-kept secret :)

I know about a language that hasn't been the mother tongue of almost anybody for at least 400 years. As much as I love the idea, I can't deny the fact.

I'm saying 'almost anybody' as a pre-emptive because I heard, probably like you did, about the family they discovered in ElSeieed that still spoke it at home.

Even in liturgical use, a so-called normalisation of the Coptic language that took place in the 1850s remodelled its pronunciation after ancient Greek, thus effectively ridding it of itself and transforming it to something else. An effort is needed to re-re-fix it now (don't tell me IT IS related to Greek because then I'll know that I shouldn't have been talking with you in the first place :)

Besides Christians didn't invent this language you know it was there since before. So it is logically tied to the nation rather than the faith.

Music? Other than form used in church and the works of AlBatanouny, we can't say it's a main stream alternative taste in music. I don't say it must die, I'd like to see it revived as much I'd like to see Coptic language revived; its just that there isn't really a culture that is apart from the mainstream here.

The calendar! Who isn't using the Coptic calendar (at least until recently) it's our national calendar and Egyptian non-Christians own it as much as Christians.

As for Arab culture, you likely don't grasp what I meant. I'm talking about the language that all Egyptians have been using for the past few centuries to pray, sing, write prose and poetry and produce their culture.

 
At 10:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Alif;

You said:
"I can't prevent you from making a flag and calling it what you want."
- Then why were you disturbed when we launched the idea of the Coptic flag? As someone wrote on your website, if you ask any person on the street, in Egypt or elsewhere, what "Copt" means, he/she will tell you it means "Christian Egyptian". This is the reason why we called our flag "the Coptic flag". Again, you can call it the "Egyptian Christian" flag if that will make you feel better; but we will still refer to it as the "Coptic flag" because it makes much more sense to almost everybody. By doing so, we by no means intend to deny you your Egyptian/Coptic identity. You can call yourself anything you want, and so do we. Very simple.
Frankly, I am not personally fond of the term "Copt". Before Arabs came to Egypt, we were "remenkimi" or "Egyptians". The term "Copt" was forced on us by the Muslim Arab invaders. As time went on, it became a synonym of "Egyptian Christian", maybe because the Egyptian Christians were more proud of their Egyptian heritage than their brothers and sisters who converted to Islam (again: MAYBE). But this is history and we cannot change it now, unfortunately. We, Egyptian Christians, are stuck with the term, so we'll carry it and move on.

You said:
" [...] You don't know what your talking about. [...]"
- Thank you, but let's take a closer look at who is the one who has no idea what they're talking about: the ethnologocal/linguistic category called "Afro-Asiatic". It encompases the six following sub-groups: (Egyptian, Semitic, Berber, Cushitic, Omotic, and Chadic.) What you call "archaic ethnological science that once used terminology from religious mythology" is clearly still there: Semitic! And since the latters includes Arabs and Jews/Hebrews, then Arabs and Egyptians are different groups, both ethnically and linguistically.

- You said:
"I know about a language that hasn't been the mother tongue of almost anybody for at least 400 years. As much as I love the idea, I can't deny the fact. I'm saying 'almost anybody' as a pre-emptive because I heard, probably like you did, about the family they discovered in ElSeieed that still spoke it at home."
- Well I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I know (and personally) one family in Germany, one family in Boston, 4 families in Upper Egypt, and 2 families in Alexandria who speak Egyptian/Coptic as their mother tongue. I'm certain there are more than I do not know. Then, there are people like me and my family who understand a great deal of the language, although it's not our mother tongue. You're more than welcome to visit our chat room in the paltalk on Saturdays to hear all of us talk in the tongue of our ancestors and hear with your own ears that there are many Egyptians who, in spite of keeping a low profile to avoid problems with the pan-Arabists/pan-Islamists, still remain faithful to their Egyptian heritage. I guess that will refute your point about "re-re-fixing" the language, since it was kept uninterrupted in many families. I urge you to read more about the differences between the Bohairic/Sahidic dialects because that will rid you of the confusion you have about the normalization of Coptic.

You said:
"Besides Christians didn't invent this language you know it was there since before. So it is logically tied to the nation rather than the faith."
- Great! I can't agree more! But who else other than the Christians took the effort of preserving it? Why didn't the Egyptian Muslims adopt Islam without adopting the Arabic language? Like the Turks and the Iranians and many other Muslims? Yes, the Egyptian language belongs to all Egyptians, but it seems that only Christians want it.

You said:
"Music? Other than form used in church and the works of AlBatanouny, we can't say it's a main stream alternative taste in music. [...]"
- Hmm, ok, let's think about that for a second. There is an Egyptian liturgical music (and by liturgical I strictly mean used in liturgy, not other forms of prayer). Then there is the traditional Egyptian Christian non-liturgical music, such as the works of Habib Girgis and many older Coptic songs writers and composers. Then nowadays there are still new Christian songs being written and sung, whose music expresses elements of innovation but within the mainstream of Egyptian Christian/Coptic music. I would bet that at least 4 out of 5 Copts would indubitably distinguish an Egyptian Christian/Coptic melody (without words) from any other sort of music, Egyptian or else.

You said:
"The calendar! Who isn't using the Coptic calendar (at least until recently) it's our national calendar and Egyptian non-Christians own it as much as Christians."
- Wonderful, but again, please explain to me, why is it always we, the Christians, who kept it and still use it in our everyday life while Muslims don't??? Why do you guys make us feel that you are less Egyptian than you should be?

You said:
"As for Arab culture, you likely don't grasp what I meant. I'm talking about the language that all Egyptians have been using for the past few centuries to pray, sing, write prose and poetry and produce their culture."
- Does language = culture? Are Austians Germans? Are Colmbians Spanish? Are Senegalese French?

You said:
"As for Egyptian culture I claim to know about it at least as much as you do; it's not a good-kept secret :)"
- I'm curious if you still think so after what I wrote.

On a final note, we may disagree, but I still respect your love for your Egyptian identity. Please keep the discussion alive.
Ougai khen Efiot (here is some Coptic for you)

 
At 6:06 AM , Anonymous Alif said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your reply and for following the discussion on my blog. I repeat here what I said there: I never said that my opinion reflects that which is common in the street, but I have one which I claim to be more rational, and which I display in order to discuss and not to preach.

What disturbs me is not the idea of a Coptic Flag, but the design and wording that imply that those who are Christians are the only bearers of the Coptic identity.

>By doing so, we by no means intend to deny you your Egyptian/Coptic identity.
I understand this, as my statement about my identity is the only statement I take seriously.

I find this whole issue a result of having different understandings of culture and national identity. So it's not simply calling it what will make me feel better. If it were that I wouldn't have taken the effort to comment :)

Despite your unfondness of the term 'Copt' it is a fact that this term was later borrowed into met rem en kemi itself. It may also be relieving for you to know that it was not the Arabs who were the first to use a term form their language (albeit borrowed) to denote the people of Egypt; Greeks - in their very dualistic relationship with Egypt - has done this before them.

(the use of foreign terms to denote peoples have always been problematic: Amazigh/Berber, Indian/Native American....etc)

I'm also glad that we agree that the use of the adjective 'Copt' to denote 'Egyptian' was the outcome of a historical moment when almost all Egyptians where Christians (with pockets of Hellenic faiths maybe) and all Moslems were conquering, foreigner Arabians. The ideology of citizenship of that moment and its cultural context have long gone. No?


Ethno:
I know the term 'Semitic' still exists, but the meaning of this label has changed from the mythological one it once carried into Anthropology, and even then, its existence today is only because of lack of an established alternative (while Israelis use the same label oxymoronly to indicate what they call anti-Semitism). For this reason it has been once suggested in Arabic anthropological literature that the term جُزُري (pennensulaic) be used instead to make things clearer.

You can find this very clearly in respected English anthropological literature where scientists sound their dismay of the term. And where holding a grasp on the subject as a whole will make it obvious why an alternate clear and more factual term is needed which doesn't carry the history of the current.

Most importantly, I didn't say that ethnic Egyptian (if such a thing ever existed) and ethnic Arab (same reservation applies) are one and the same. This cannot be said even about two branches of the same family in one small village.

What I hinted to was that the relations, cultural and genetic, between these peoples are far much deeper than what most people think. And I'm talking about prehistoric times; about the dawn of civilisation; about fluxes of nations on the move, and about the mutual and continuous effects in languages, religions, and technology in a time that didn't record credits.

In addition to the fact that unlike some of the homelands of some these nations, Nile valley Egypt, which had lost its tribal nature early on, has always a place where peoples mixed. Talking about an Egyptian 'race' never made sense not even as early as the old kingdom.

I'm not a professional anthropologist either, but keenly interested, and this is the synthesis I made upon researching into the subject. You may differ.

In this light, any talk about an identity based purely on Ethnology/Language becomes void of meaning.


Language:
I'm not disappointed at all to read what you wrote. I grew in house where I constantly heard that we, Egyptians, have a language which we should learn and preserve.

However, I find the cases you mention to be extreme; influenced by the ideological beliefs of one or both parents. I can't call, (and I'm blindly guessing here) the family of a linguistics professor or a migrant priest or an immigrant whose causes for immigration were the same subject we're tackling here, the normal family.

As much as I'd love to see Coptic language revived, when I compare it to languages like Siwi or Nubian varsities or Manda'i I find them to be preserved much more better than Coptic (scientifically officially extinct). And even these languages are used only domestically and face great troubles when taken into the "wild". (heck, even modern Arabic faces troubles with a majority of speakers who are largely uneducated, you can find our debates about the viability of Arabising technology as a means to empower people all over the web)

Thank you for the invitation, I'll sure join you in a chat as soon as I'm equipped with a reasonable vocabulary to start.

I had read about the dialects of Coptic; Saidi, Bohairi, Akhmemi, Fayyumi and others. I had also read about the transition from using Saidi as the liturgical language into Bohairi AND I had read about the 'reformation' of Coptic language mandated in the end of the 19th ce. by Abba Cyrilius IV which modelled the pronunciation of Coptic letters after their Greek counterparts. And I assume that you know how different the voices of the two languages are due to their different locations in the tree of human languages, even though Coptic is written in an alphabet borrowed from Greek (and this is another story). Please clarify to me where I'm confused regarding the reformation here?

I'm in support of language engineering as pillar of national identity. I know of cases where extinct languages were (almost) revived, in this case Hebrew, to support a created nation (arguably). And of other cases where a language was synthesised from local dialects to support the existence and national identity of a nation: German.

I'd like to see as much done for Coptic, but in a way that keeps its spirit, and not mutate it like modern Hebrew.

"Why didn't the Egyptian Muslims adopt Islam without adopting the Arabic language? Like the Turks and the Iranians..."
Don't ask me. I'm curious to know as much as you are, and this is one of the reasons behind my interest in the subject. I even want to know why couldn't Egyptians be bilingual like many other nations. But I don't see Coptic in the streets of even the highest Christian concentrations. So blaming Muslims for denouncing it is unfounded to me. Besides, taking into account the nature of a nation that invented religion, I can easily see where Christians kept close to a language that held their spiritual heritage, while Moslems aspired to learn another that did the same for them. So it's the issue of religion again! But still this doesn't explain your initial question. Is there something wrong?

Maybe not. Maybe at that time the promise of being an integral part of a civilisation that was on the rise was good enough to make its language desired. This is no longer the case as it appears and similar attitudes are witnessed among nations that, for example, are beginning to use Latin to write their languages which were written, for the first time ever, using Arabic-based scripts.

I'm not implying opportunistic behaviour here, pardon me; there's not such a thing on that scale, but rather that cultures become influential when they have something to give, and not so when they decline.


Music:
I claim I can distinguish a Coptic melody when I hear one. I can also distinguish the influences of Coptic melodies in modern and experimental compositions or in traditional music that is not strictly Christian, and in cases of Egyptian traditional Islamic chanting. What I meant is that while you see Coptic music as a clearly defined taste that doesn't cross to the mainstream and that the other taste is purely non-Egyptian, or alien, I differ. Unless the composer is self-aware as to follow a hypothetical puritan approach in his composition, and unless you are comparing it with Turkish or Syrian or Greek music for instance, this doesn't exist in the form you imply. In other words, non-religious Coptic music isn't as alien sounding to the Egyptian non Christian ear (!) as Chinese music for example, as to say that it is in a realm of its own.

It is known that post-Islamic music was based on the different national components of the nations that nurtured it, as pre-Islamic cultures of the Arabian Peninsula didn't excel in music.

I didn't deny the existence of a Coptic taste in music, I just argue that its existence outside of the Christian religious domain is not as obvious. Or is it? and if not, why?

And since you brought pan-Arabism in the subject, I don't assume I need to remind you that fifty years ago, at its height, Arab Christian figures were among the leaders and theorisers of pan-Arabism.

I also argue that the dictatorship and suppression and enforced conformity we suffered (still), and the later failure of a pan-Arabic agenda that was not founded on religion and what followed of politicisation of Islam and the marginalisation of Arab Christians (with the Egyptians of them being the largest group), something that they (we all?) didn't resist soon enough, are all the cause of this belated take on Arab culture and search for another core for identity.

I'm not a pan-Arabist in the traditional sense, and I don't blame anyone on the past.


The Calendar:
All I can say is that everyone who is over fifty years old uses it in his casual, non business talk. And I don't need to repeat what you probably know of the farmers dependence on it. Its replacement with the Lunar Arabic calendar in recent times is stupid at worst; and at best, it is an imitation resulting of a misunderstanding of identity - very similar to the what I'm tackling here. On the other hand its replacement with Gregorian calendar is a symptom of globalisation and an aspect of westernisation like many others.

But maybe because Christian seasons are so tightly integrated in the Coptic calendar this kept Egyptian Christians closer to it. What about Egyptian Christians who are not Coptic Orthodox, are they as close to it?

If it was up to me, I would have made the Coptic calendar the primary official one in this country.

To answer your questions:
I never said that language alone is culture, although because of its integration in the way we perceive the world, think, and express ourselves, it is very close to being so.

Austrians are not Germans as much as Syrians are not Iraqis; but cultural bonds between Germans and Austrians are undeniable. German is a pluricentric language, much like Arabic. And again I never said language should determine nationality!
Senegalese are Francophone, but are not Frenchmen/women. Much like Egyptians are Arabophone but are not Arabian. Likewise Latin Americans are so much influenced by Castellan culture, but are not Spaniards, while Catalan who are Spanish citizens are not Castellans.


All this talk about ethnology/language, etc was not my main issue, but was brought in by those who use them as a support to claim of a national identity founded on religion, or were religion is the ultimate manifestation of this identity. Something I don't see.

Lastly I will say that since I claim to be pro-cultural diversity when it comes to actual cultural minorities in the area, I sure am a supporter of a national Egyptian/Coptic heritage but with a view that it is an integral and vital part of a greater culture, and without reliance on Chrisyanity or any other faith as an axis.

I hope I haven't lost focus here.

Thank you again for your interest in the discussion, and for the respectful arguments which enlightened it.

Regards,

 
At 12:16 PM , Anonymous Alif said...

In an Exhibit in the British Library a few years ago, I saw the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the Book of Kells (8th ce.) and saw how fully ornamented pages سجادة as well as iconography were inspired by Coptic ones.

I had long known the influence of Coptic art on the arts of other nations in the region. I then found out how the little artefacts that might have found its way to faraway lands inspired their artists to borrow motifs of Coptic designs. So I know how Coptic art inspired not only other cultures in the region, but also places as far as far as northern Europe.

And not only art, but also how a probable missionary from Egypt reached Ireland and influenced both its religious teachings and material life.

I also saw the handyman crafts from as early as 13th century, and I was privileged to be able to read the simple prayers left on them by the makers; on the wooden chest I read اذكر يا رب عبدك ابانوب and on the fine priest's garment I could easily read: اذكر يا رب عبدتك مارية; a tradition still practiced today by those handy men and women who donate to the church.

Those are few more points in your arsenal of defending Coptic heritage.

They also explain what I mean by cultures influencing each other, and transforming while they do so.

 
At 9:03 PM , Anonymous Masry saheb Alef said...

Pathitic.
It doesn't make any logic to me trying to vreate something doesnt exist.
I am Sorry it is a joke and it is not Funny

 
At 12:53 PM , Anonymous ألِف said...

In another discussion about Egyptian Arabic I found reference to an article by Edward Sai'd; a paragraph in which I consider to be an indication to how modern Arabic language (much like pan-Arabism) is no longer the sacred language of Muslims it could once be thought of as:

"ولدت الفصحى من تحديث بدأ في آخر عقود القرن التاسع عشر أو حقبة "النهضة" كما تسمى. إنها في الأساس صنعة مجموعة من السوريين واللبنانيين والفلسطينيين والمصريين، عدد المسيحيين بينهم لافت للانتباه... فعمدوا معا إلى تعديل القواعد الأساسية العائدة إلى القرن السابع وتبسيطها، ومارسوا الاستعراب أي إدخال تعابير، كالقطار والشركة والديموقراطية والاشتراكية، لم تكن مستعملة في المرحلة الكلاسيكية. كيف؟ من خلال موارد اللغة الغنية ومبدأ "القياس". فرض هؤلاء الرجال قاموسا جديدا يمثل اليوم حوالى 60 في المئة من اللغة الشائعة فأدت النهضة إلى تحرر من النصوص الدينية بإدخال تعابير علمانية خلسة إلى ما يقوله العرب ويكتبونه."

"Fusha (Standard Arabic) was born in a process of modernisation that began in the last decade of the 19th ce., or the era of 'renaissance' as it is called. It is primarily the make of a group of Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Egyptians, of whom the number of Christians is noteworthy, who together altered the basic syntax which dates back to the seventh century and simplified them, and practiced arabicisation which is the introduction of terms like 'qiţār' قطار (train), and 'sharika' شركة (company), and 'dimuqrāţeyya' ديموقراطية (democracy), and 'ishtirākeyya' اشتراكية (socialism), which were in no use in the classical period. How? Through the rich resources of the language and the concept of 'qiyās' القياس. those men imposed a new dictionary which represents today 60% of the common language. This renaissance was a liberation from religious texts by introducing secular expressions to what Arabs say and write."

 
At 9:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Alif,

I'm really impressed by the fact that you know so much about the history of our, mine and yours, country, it's like a breath of fresh air when you see it.

A quick comment on "why Egyptians didn't keep their language like Turks and Iranians", from my humble readings into history, Arabs usually would try very aggressively to change the language of any conquered nation. In the Middle East there was 3 main civilizations/cultures, Persian, Byzantine and Egyptian, besides the other small groups. At the end of the day they were not successful in Byzantine (Now Turkey) nor with the Persia (Now Iran), but they were in Egypt. The reason for that (as per what I read) was mainly due to the fact that a large number of Egyptians remained Christian for a long time after Egypt was conquered by the Arabs, as oppose to Byzantines and Persians, which, over time, associated the Egyptian language with the Christian religion in Egypt.
That effectively made them, the Arabs, enforce the language through a lot of tough methods, like for example; employment in the government was only for Arabic speaking people, as well as any official paperwork. Later, during some dark periods in history, it reached the point were there was punishment for people if they were caught speaking Coptic, like jail, flogging, and up to cutting their tongues.

Thank you,
Rafik

 
At 8:53 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the coptic flag is Beutifull. May it fly all over Egypt.

 
At 8:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with you that all egyptians are copts , egypt =coptic , I am originally from Egypt ,, I am muslem , Arabicspeaker and I love this Language, and I love being from Arabic Nation , rather than I am coptic , or u forget that all egyption belong tyo the ancient tribe , COPTIC ?or u r waiting for the arabic occupatrion to end ?
i cant uderstand why you are accting like that , I am not against You to have community , I respect christian comunity , as i do respect my arabic and muslem comunity , but it is weired for me , that you egyption christains always call yoursef COPTIC like you are the pure Egyptians!!!!!!!

 
At 4:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful flag, funny how non-copts get so incesnsed about any assertion of a National Identitity for the Copts, why are we alone nationalistic, because farnkly I could care less about Afgahnistan's well being, or for that matter Sweden, but Moslem Egyptians have flocked to Afghanistan to protect it leaving their motherland to basically deteriorate and fall into the cultural, moral and economic bancrbucty that is Egypt right now.
We ache for Egypt, while you ache for Bosnia, we want to see our Country's glory days, we look inward, while most Moslem Egyptians look east, we are proud of our ancestry, while you sit there and allow Sharawy to call the Pyramids a work of some evil spirits and magic.
And you now begrudge us even the thought of pride in our heritage.

 
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Hopefully the day will come when this flag will fly all over Egypt.

 
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At 1:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with this whole idea of having a christian flag!! Is this some kind of JOKE?!

As Copt. Orthodox we are always complaining that we are not regarded as real egyptians and that we are being treated as second citizens. Tab fee eeh yea gama3a, don't you think having our own flag only deeps that notion, which we are trying to get rid of in the first place?

I completely and whole heartedly disagree. I AM EGYPTIAN and my flag is the EGYPTIAN FLAG.

Coptic Orthodox Gizawiya

 
At 12:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Copt Orthodox Gyzaweya;
Enjoy the Egyptian flag with its Arab colors and Arab symbols. The same symbols, like the Sakr of Koraysh for example, were used by the Arab armies that killed your Egyptian ancestors. At least the Coptic flag has Egyptian symbolysm NOT Arabist decorations.
In any case, I am glad some people came up with the idea, and I'm very happy to see so much enthusiasm from MOST of those who commented on the topic. One day we will be flying this flag in Coptic gatherings and demonstrations.

 
At 8:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks To Everybody ! It's Great Brothers and Sisters, The Simbols in the coat of arms Convinced Me but not the shape ( why A coat of Arms?)and the Blue Cross on White Field Which Is a little too european, nobody tought about a blue Ankh Cross, With Its Deep Meaning Both on the Christian side And for Our Heritage? Anyway The White and The Blue are soo peace inducing to the mind...You've done a great job.
Alif, Rafik Would You Mind To post your Bibliographical references for the enlightened Chat You Had?

 
At 8:04 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

well..am not egyptian or coptic, however I'd like to comment on this flag. Coptics are egyptians, whim are arabs! You are arab because your land is in the midlle of the middle east represneting the arab nation. You speak arab and teach it, I live in a western country and its coptics who teac arabic in schools??? so stop contradicting yourselves na dmaking yourselves arab for the money. Also if you truley stick to your rights as coptics why dont you speka your mother language anymore??? No excuse accept it, assyrians in Iraq still speak their language even during saddams dectoratism??? Also assyrians in syria stil speak Jesus's language. Admit it you are arab but wanna be on the US side because arab muslims are humuliating you. You have no ponit and this whole coptic flag business will just isolate you from your egyptian identity. majority of egyptians are muslim and so the government has the right to make it an islamic country. Thats how it is in the US, they have public holidays for christmas and easter but not for mulsim eid or jews feasta..even though most of the people that live there are athiest. you have no point so stop causing trouble

 
At 1:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

adressing a line:
1st, we are trying to let our language revive.
2nd Our Heritage has not to be violated in anyhow.
3rd...U.s: I never liked them , as a governement and as "Christian(?)" Country. I ( And I speak For Myself) Believe In a Laicist Governament.
secondly A country Needs EQUALITY Before, any Form Of Freedom. That's Why I don't Like the U:S. Also their Foreign Policy I don't Like.
4thAnd Lastly, You are NEITHER EGYPTIAN NOR COPITC...Why Bother Yourself With Superfluous Thoughts?
Might The light of The Almighty be onto thee.
Peace.

 
At 9:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Coptic egyptian who does not live in the homeland. I was a little distraught about the fact that I feel no patriotism toward my immigrant contry. I am proud to be Egyptian, but every time I visit Egypt, I realise how different the country and it's culture is from mine. The flag represents the Arab republic of Egypt. I found myself on the net tooking for the original flag of Egypt, one before arab occupation, one that would represent my ancestors but my efforts were in vain. So I searched "coptic flag" and fell abpon your site. I think you should present this idea to the diosease and have it authenticated. Those who agree, bear the flag and those who don't... don't...

 
At 12:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear American...
I read your blog and was distraught that there are still people who can express such unfounded opinions in a public forum. However, they are anonymous, so I guess I understand. USA Anonymous: Copts are not aligning themselves with the US, it's quite the opposite. Muslims do not give Copts a bad reputation because we are not Muslim?? Perhaps you were unaware that your governement recognises the Coptic people as the aboriginals Christians of Egypt seperat from the Arabs, check with the UN as well. And unlike your governement, who have suddenly felt the power of Islam, our people have been persecuted at its hand long before you were born I'm sure. However, I must say as a christian, Copts live amoung the Egyptian Arabs and we do not hate them but we are not like them.
Oh and by the way, Egypt is in Africa, the aboriginal people of Egypt (the Copts) are African not Arab, but I'm sure you know that... One more thing, you should look up how we lost our language, and if you incounter a Coptic person you should bask in the history. Being Coptic is really something to be proud of and we have a history like no other.
I agree, May God Inlighten you as well as the rest of us.

 
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I'm sorry, as a Copt, I must express my dismay at the racially charged chauvinism pulsating through this discussion. First and foremost, we are not "pure" Egyptians. Besides the fact that racial purity is a nonsensical fairytale there are plenty of practical local reasons we must accept that this is not true. It appears that when most Copts say that they are pure Egyptians they simply mean they didn't inter-marry with Arabs. While in many cases this is true, Copts are forgetting that there are many Christian Arabs whose communities pre-date Islam and a number of Copts have married and had children with them. So there are Copts with Arab heritage. Beyond this, Copts have intermarried with Greeks and Armenians. There are also Copts who have married Europeans, both in modern times and during the days of European colonial rule.

Realistically, the "racial purity" of Muslim Egyptians is little different than that of the Coptic community (the mere discussion of such an arbitrary thing is rather eerie, to be honest. It's something of a throwback to the eugenics-type debates we saw in Europe in the first half of the 20th century). The most basic evidence one needs is to look at Egyptians. Whether they're Christian or Muslim they look alike. Here in the US, people regularly comment on how Egyptian I look (Even an Iraqi Kurd told me so once). If the overwhelming majority of Egyptians, who are Muslim, are so "racially disctinct" then how would I, a Copt, remind people of what a "typical" Egyptian looks like. Maybe because we're all extremely similar in terms of our heritage and look alike.

It was argued that by naming Egypt the Arab Republic of Egypt there was an attempt at denying Copts a place in the state. The actual basis for the name was to assert Egypt's Arab identity. Many Arab Christians were leaders in the Arab Nationalist movement. Why? Because it was an opportunity to offer a religiously neutral identity, which Christians and Muslims could share. The identity of Arab is, today, an ethno-linguistic one. The fact that Copts are Arabic speaking makes them Arabs, as far virtually all Arabs, and much of the rest of the world is concerned. When I discuss with Arabs how many Copts see themselves as racially distinct, they're generally surprised. The same is the case when explaining this to non-Arabs. If the intention was really to exclude Christians then a name such as the Islamic Republic of Egypt would have been chosen. Arab was meant to transcend relgio-sectarian divides and instead Copts have insisted on using it to inflame them.

I think Copts should work together to oppose the real problems facing our community in Egypt, such as discrimination and religious violence. However, I fail to see how such baseless racial aloofness will help us with that cause. We are Egyptian, no more or less than our Muslim counterparts. They have a history with this nation too. Those who try to deny them that or suggest that their connection is inferior are playing with fire. It's a short skip from racial sectarianism to racism, outright.

Is our community special? Yes, of course. We have shared a long and, at times, quite difficult history. We also share a religion. Elements of our culture are unique while many others are shared with Muslim Egyptians. I must continue to insist, however, that blood and race do not define us. Muslim Egyptians are descendants of those who spoke Coptic and built the Pyramids, as well. These should be points of commonality we emphasize, rather than attempting to use them to exclude 80-90% of Egypt's population.

-Tim

 
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i think most of the ideas posted in the blog intesify the idea of racism between copts and muslims in egypt which i think is very harmful for our country. not to repeat what already been said please refere to comments of Alif and that posted by Anonymous : 5:14 PM.and i quite agree with every word in them both.let us unite instead of splitting.By the way..the idea of coptic flag doesn't annoy me more than the muslims brotherhood flag..to me both are alike in the meaning.

 
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my soul delighted when i saw our true new flag.you woke up in my heart the dream of resuming our Coptic identity and it's special taste as it's not arabic as they always and constantly ,in day and in night trying to convince themselves and the outer world that the origins of egypt are arabic and islamic.

 

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