A Christian Child Taken from His Parents, and the Fate of Modern Egypt

In 1858, papal authorities in Bologna kidnapped a seven-year-old Jewish boy named Edgardo Mortara, on the grounds that—since a Catholic nanny had baptized him—he was, according to canon law, a Catholic. Not very different is the case of Shenouda Farouk Bolous, who was found as an infant in an Egyptian church in 2018, and given by a Coptic priest to a childless couple in his congregation. Samuel Tadros explains what followed:

Official adoption was never an option. It is illegal in Islam and hence illegal in Egypt, even for Christians. [The adoptive father’s] niece Mariam was unhappy with the situation. Under Shariah inheritance laws, imposed on Copts as well as Muslims, she would inherit her childless uncle’s estate. Now Shenouda stood in the way. She made her way to the police station in February 2022 and filed a complaint. The parents were quickly summoned and a DNA test was administered. The public prosecutor’s decision was swift. Shenouda was to be taken from them and placed in an orphanage. But it didn’t stop there. Since the child’s parents couldn’t be ascertained, the child was to be automatically considered a Muslim.

Unlike the case of Mortara—who remained a ward of the Vatican until he became an adult—public outcry and a ruling by senior Islamic jurists led to a happy ending in the case of Shenouda, who was returned to his family. But, Tadros writes, the episode says much about the nature of modern-day Egypt, and of the status of dhimmi, or tolerated minority, assigned to its Christians (and, when they remained, to its Jews).

On the one hand, the state authorities had decided that [Shenouda] was Muslim by virtue of having unknown parents, and took him from the only parents he had known. On the other hand, the outcome of the case showcases a state able to make accommodations for the Coptic minority. Which of these is Egypt? The country with a constitution enshrining equality for all its citizens, regardless of their religion? Or the one whose same constitution declares Islam as the religion of the state and the principles of Shariah as the principal source of legislation? The answer is both and neither.

Read more at Compact

More about: Edgaro Mortara, Egypt, Middle East Christianity

How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion