The recent slaying of a Coptic Christian family in New Jersey is being linked by many (on somewhat specious evidence) to Islamic extremists (typical headline: "Jihad in Jersey City"). An attempt by Newsday to shed some historical light on Coptic-Muslim tensions gets an E for Effort, but definitely not an A for Accuracy, prompting me to write the following letter (published in the Jan. 26 edition):
I applaud Newsday’s efforts to bring some historical context to the current religious tensions surrounding the horrific murder of the Coptic Christian family in New Jersey ["The roots of Coptic, Muslim enmity," News, Jan. 18]. But the impression that the Coptic Church’s defining experience with martyrdom was at the hands of Muslims is false. It was the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s harsh persecution that led to 284 in our calendar becoming 1 Annus Marturius (Year of the Martyrs) for the Copts. Persecution certainly existed in Islamic times, and persists today, but in comparison to the preceding Roman and Byzantine eras, early Islamic rule generally seems to have been a time of relative tolerance for the Copts.
Editor’s note: The writer is the producer of "Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade" on WBAI-FM.
Source: Encyclopedia Coptica