In Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity by Samuel Tadros.

Hoover Institution Press today released Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity by Samuel Tadros. In this book, Tadros ties the story of the Copts to that of their motherland, Egypt. In providing a clear understanding of who the Copts are, including their long history, he sheds light on how the Coptic community’s struggle to modernize is inevitably intertwined with Egypt’s quest for modernity. In Egypt’s ongoing struggle to reconcile the Islamic faith with modern ideas and practices, Tadros explains that the Copts have been secluded from the public sphere even under Egypt’s most liberal order.  The hopes unleashed by the fall of the Mubarak regime have come to naught as the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power posed a colossal challenge to Copts. Now with the fall of President Morsi, Egypt’s Copts continue to face enormous challenges because they are being held responsible by the Islamists for their fall from power.

“Samuel Tadros has written an essential history of an important subject,” writes Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal. “In crisp prose and with an eye for the interesting detail, he tells the remarkable and little-known history of a people and a church that have been integral to Egypt for two thousand years. Today, with the Copts in peril as almost never before in their own land, it’s critical that this story be understood. We’re fortunate that Tadros explains it so well.”

“In Motherland Lost, his superb new book, Sam Tadros presents two stories, combined and intertwined, necessarily so, but with no sacrifice of skill and elegance,” writes Hillel Fradkin of the Hudson Institute.  “One story is the history of the ancient Coptic Church from its origins in Egypt in the first century down to the present day. The other story is the history of Egypt, especially the history of its encounter with modernity, which, as Tadros shows, cannot be understood apart from the fate of the Coptic Church.”

While the Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, Motherland Lost explains that they are still too small to play a role in deciding Egypt’s fate.  The new Egyptian Constitution, passed in December 2012, enshrined both the Islamic nature of the state and the second-class status of Christian Copts. As a result, the only option for the Copts, Tadros writes, is to pack their bags and leave, putting an end to two thousand years of Christianity in Egypt. When the Christian Copts leave Egypt, Tadros argues, it will not only be a loss to them and their church but a loss to Egypt of a portion of its identity and history. Although the Copts future looks bleak, Tadros points out that Egypt receives $1.5 billion in US aid each year and that Washington can use that and other means to encourage Egypt’s new leaders to uphold equality. 

Samuel Tadros is a contributor to the Hoover Institution Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.  He is also a research fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and a professorial lecturer at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Hudson in 2011, Tadros was a senior partner at the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth, an organization that aims to spread the ideas of classical liberalism in Egypt.

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