Political Islam, Citizenship, and Minorities: The Future of Arab Christians in the Islamic Middle East

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Political Islam, Citizenship, and Minorities: The Future of Arab Christians in the Islamic Middle East. By Andrea Zaki Stephanous. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2010. 243 pp. $37.50, paper.

As the Middle East smolders under the threat of an Islamist resurgence, too little has been written about the plight of Arab Christians and other native minorities. Stephanous 's Political Islam, Citizenship, and Minorities would be a welcome addition to this meager repertoire - except for its excessive and largely irrelevant theorizing.

Stephanous, a Coptic Evangelical Protestant based in Cairo, sets out by surveying the region's political trends in the twentieth century, including the Arab Christian contribution to the formulation of Arab nationalism. He focuses mainly on the Copts of Egypt and the Maronites of Lebanon, recognizing clear differences in their respective historical experiences. Unfortunately, he fails to articulate these differences as starkly as necessary where the dhimmitude (secondclass but protected status) of the Copts contrasts with the relative freedom of the Maronites. Further, he repeats the hackneyed accusation leveled against the Maronites by their 1970s leftist Palestine Liberation Organization and Islamist opponents that they initiated the 1975 Lebanese civil war to protect their political privileges. This narrative is false; Maronites defended the last remaining free Christian community in the Middle East from vicious attack.

Stephanous strains to find answers to how Arab Christians can integrate into a Middle East influenced by political Islam. …