Copts and the Egyptian Revolution: Christian Identity in the Public Sphere

  • Gaétan Du Roy
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)


A relatively small number of Copts appear to have participated in the first week of the Egyptian uprising in January 2011. Christians did participate in the revolution however, despite warnings from the Coptic Pope Shenouda to avoid Tahrir Square.1 Most of the Copts who chose to join the action in the streets did so as Egyptians without openly displaying their Christian identity. Some of those present in the square did proclaim their Christian identity, however, using symbols and engaging in collective prayers and religious chants. The unity of the two religions in Tahrir Square became a frequent topic in the press and on the Internet, fueling hopes that a new Egypt was in the process of being born.


Cultural Anthropology Television Channel Garbage Collector Muslim Brotherhood Christian Community 
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  1. 2.
    Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen, “Que partagent les Coptes et les Musulmans d’Egypte? L’enjeu des pèlerinages,” in Dionigi Albera and Maria Couroucli (eds), Religions traversées. Lieux saints partagés entre Chrétiens, Musulmans et Juifs en Méditerranée (Arles: Actes Sud/MMSH, 2009).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Alain Roussillon, “Visibilité nouvelle de la ‘question copte’: entre refus de la sédition et revendication citoyenne,” in Florian Kohstall (ed.), L’Egypt dans l’année 2005 (Cairo: CEDEJ, 2006).Google Scholar
  3. See also Sebastian Elsässer, The Coptic Question in Contemporary Egypt. Debating National Identity, Religion, and Citizenship, Doctoral dissertation, Free University of Berlin, 2011;Google Scholar
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    Sebastian Elsässer, “Kreuz und Halbmond wieder vereint? Revolutionäre Solidarität und religiöse Spannungen während und nach der ägyptischen Revolution,” in Holger Albrecht and Thomas Demmelhuber (eds.), Revolution und Regimewandel in Ägypten (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2013).Google Scholar
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  8. 17.
    See Anna Dowell, The Church in the Square: Negotiations of Religion and Revolution at an Evangelical Church in Cairo, Egypt, Master’s thesis, American University in Cairo, 2012, pp. 3–8. Sat 7 welcomes Christians of every denomination and broadcasts in English, Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    Pope Shenouda, bid’at al-khalas fi lahza, 6th edition (Cairo: Anba Ruîs, 2009 [1988]); see also the hagiographic biography of the priest by the evangelical Protestant Stuart Robinson, Defying Death. Zakaria Botross. Apostle to Islam (City Harvest Publications, undated reference).Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    An interpretation that is close to that of Muslim tele-preachers such as Amr Khaled. See Yasmine Moll, “Building the New Egypt: Islamic Televangelists, Revolutionary Ethics, and ‘Productive’ Citizenship,” in Cultural Anthropology. Journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, published online on January 31, 2012 at (accessed March 3, 2015).Google Scholar
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    See Khalil al-Anani, “The Role of Religion in the Public Domain in Egypt after the January 25 Revolution,” in Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (case analysis), available online at–44ef-aacb-c0177157c490 (accessed February 3, 2015).Google Scholar
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    Regarding the disputes surrounding certain martyrs, see, for example, the case of Sally Zahran, which was rapidly adopted by postrevolutionary martyrologists via posters and stickers. The fact that she was not veiled in the most frequently circulated photo (although other photos of her wearing the veil exist) provoked numerous debates on social networks. There were also questions raised about whether she was actually even in Cairo when she died, with some suggesting that she may not even have died during a protest. Walter Armbrust, “The Ambivalence of Martyrs and the Counter-Revolution,” in Cultural Anthropology. Journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology (May 8, 2013), at (accessed February 3, 2015).Google Scholar

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© Gaétan Du Roy 2016

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  • Gaétan Du Roy

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