In 1960, a law passed by the Egyptian government stated that all Coptic waqfs were to be placed under the supervision of a special committee of Coptic waqfs.32 From 1968 on, the ministry of waqfs, which was responsible for Islamic endowments, acquired rights over certain Christian waqfs on the grounds that some of the beneficiaries might be Muslims. This was possible, for example, if the endowment made general provision for helping the poor. Some 150 to 200 waqfs were expropriated in this way. The Coptic Church's continued call for the restoration of these waqfs from the ministry has become a particularly sensitive issue in church-state relations.33
But to pass to the situation today, a profound change has been perceptible in the Coptic community, the only community of importance in Egypt after the disappearance ofpractically all the other Christian minorities. The Coptic leaders are no longer the same: the notables among the laity, who came from the great Coptic families or had risen to official posts in the administration, have given way to a group of bishops and monks. Because this change places the relationship between Coptic Christianity, the Muslim community, and the Egyptian society and state on an altogether different footing, its impact must be carefully weighed.
Among the conditions and the social consequences of the Coptic renewal, the following should be noted: the dismantling of the influence of the great landed 'Wafdist' families, which beginning in 1952 led to a diminution of the influence of the Coptic notables on their community. From which follows the decline of the Majilis al-Millî, a decline hastened by the government's determination to strengthen the 'unity of the nation' by playing down community differences and above all differences with Christians, for example over reform of the 'personal status' laws.34 Under Nasser we see the abolition of political parties, and the militarisation of the upper ranks of the administration and political positions, a situation exacerbated by the fact that no high-ranking Coptic officers participated in the revolution. Symptomatic too was the fact that no Copt was elected to the Majilis al-Umma (parliament) in the elections of 1964,1968,1971,1976 or 1979. Copts were still represented, however, because a new law empowered the government to appoint up to ten members of parliament, but this meant that Coptic representation in parliament now depended
32 O. Meinardus, 'The emergence of the laymen's movement in the Coptic Church: the Majilis al- Milli, Publications de l'Institut d'Etudes Orientales de la Bibliothèque Patriarcale (Alexandrie) 12 (1963), 75-82.
33 J. D. Pennington, 'The Copts in modern Egypt', Middle Eastern Studies 18 (1982), 170.
34 For a historical overview of questions of 'personal status' within the context of Islam for the Christian communities in Egypt see Ernest Semaan Freig, 'Statut personnel et autonomie des chrétiens en Egypte', Proche-Orient Chrétien 24 (1974), 251-95.
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