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The Coptic Man Who Teaches Muslim Children The Quran


Cairoscene, reported an intriguing story about a revered Coptic man, Ayyad Al Areef, who has taught generations of children in his village the Qur’an. These stories upend the neat lines of separation and the narratives of hostility that predominate headlines when it comes to religion.

Cairo Scene

Wouldn’t it be interesting if you were taught the Quran by a Christian man? His name is Ayyad Al Areef, a Coptic man, born to a father who taught at the local Orthodox Church of their small village in Upper Egypt. His story as a Christian man teaching another religion is intriguing, and enlightening to Egyptians and the world alike, on the endless possibilities of coexisting and teaching others to do so as well, particularly in an area such as Upper Egypt which is now infested with strife between Islam and Christianity.

El Watan News reports Al Areef’s story, where he goes into detail about his life. He graduated with a secondary school degree, with a focus on English, and he was supposed to be assigned to a particular school as a teacher, in a city far away from his home. However, when his dad fell ill, he had to stick around – he says at that time, there were only three people in his village who knew how to read and write. This encouraged him to start a ‘kottab’ (small schools) in his church.

Kottab were a common form of school back in the day, where traditionally, children are taught Quran, and the ages of students would range, but they would generally be quite young. The story of Al Areef begins in 1948, when a young child came to him concerned about having to study the Quran, but not understanding it. Al Areef began teaching children the Quran with the goal of memorisation, and teaching its language and concepts. He says that back then, not many people lived in his village and that Christian-Muslim relations were not even an issue. But, today, he says “satan came in between them,” as in, the rising strife between the two groups in Upper Egypt.

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  • Khizer


  • I think the big question with “critics” of Islam is, “Are they telling the truth?” If what they say is very often misleading or outright false, then they’re a propagandist, not a “critic.”

  • Khizer

    You don’t need to see more of his vids, he just regurjitates the same points, but this time is insulting someone, especially in the FREEDOM OF SPEECH FROM A MUSLIM-HAHA video.

  • I agree. I edited the other comment with a LOT of text. 🙂

  • Khizer

    He does raise good points (albeit in a ver angry and somewhat misinformed tone), Islam can be criticised and Muslims should refute critical claims through actual explanation of the Quran and sunnah, instead of crying “RACISM!!!!”. I just wish so called ‘critics’ stopped using debunked bullshit to smear Islam and Muslims (“THEY ARE ORDERED TO MURDER GAYS!!!”, “MO WAS A PEDO!!!!, “OPPRESSIN OF WOMENS!!!!!”) and instead involved themselves in actual civil discussion (asking that on the Internet is like screaming at the stars to stop being so bright) without shoehorning, “since these Muslims don’t agree with some aspects of western society, THEN OBVIOUSLY THEY WILL TRY TO DESTROY US, SO WE MUST EITHER DESTROY THEM OR ABSOLUTELY EXCLUDE THEM FROM SOCIETY!!!”. I mean pluralism be DAMNED!!!

  • Khizer

    This shit is actually hilarious, muscular *insert group/ideology* are great at making fools of themselves and not solving anything.

  • Oh dear.

    If you have some free time this afternoon, head over to Harry’s Place and watch moral imbeciles try to decipher “Islamist” reactions to Feminism. Lol:

  • Khizer

    I learned from the best, McDonald Dump and his probably psychotic or sociopathic fanbase/followers:

    I shit you not that is the actual title.

    And also crazy right wing Europeans who have an obsession with castrating refugee men above age of ten (women and kids are fine, Europeans need to scam them and turn them into forced prostitutes somehow.). They too inspired me to have the urge to chop some random brown man’s dick off.

    P.S: you would be surprised how much Europeans and even Americans agree with the latter.

  • You’re good at this. David Horowitz might pay you a six figure salary to post this stuff on a hate site somewhere. 🙂

  • Khizer

    thanks for the article.

    I also went to the website, it can be summarised like this:









  • Third video. Wow. Absolutely full of false statements. I have a page and a half of notes. I’ll try to get around to editing this comment later with some analysis.

  • Khizer

    This is the video where he starts to become more aggressive, the other videos get worse.

  • When people say they’ve read the Qur’an, I like to ask questions. It’s almost always the case the person has not read the Qur’an, beyond a few cherry picked, poorly translated snippets published on hate sites.

    Anyway, Garibaldi wrote a good article on TROP a few years ago:

  • Khizer

    I have to ask Illisha, a lot of anti Muslim pundits on the internet link or gain their info from some site called the Religionofpeace or something, what is this site that fools seem so attracted to?

  • I don’t take sides on the secular vs. religious debacle because I’m ambivalent. I can make arguments both ways, and see merits in various approaches and implementations. I only run into trouble on that front with extremists on both ends, who can’t countenance anyone in earth taking a position other than theirs (Harry’s Place being an example of pugnacious, secularist tryants who can’t even accept differing opinions with regard to hypothetical scenarios).

  • I had the impress he is British from the first video, which I haven’t watched in full.

    I watched the second one about Islamophobia, and I agree with some of what he said. I’m put off by his abrasive style. He shouts angrily throughout the entire video, which is peppered with foul language. Why is he so mad?

    Anyway, I agree that sometimes people sling accusations of racism and Islamophobia where there isn’t any. Sometimes because we disagree on where to draw the line and the person thinks it what’s said really does fit the description, and other times to shut down the discussion. True, and counterproductive.

    He said he gets death threats, and I wonder from whom? Obviously that’s never a proper way to respond, but sadly, people act pretty crazy online. We get death threats sometimes too, an in all cases, it’s wrong.

    He’s of course right when he says Islam us a religion and not a race, and that Muslims are of all races. But it’s an overstatement when he says Islam has “nothing to do with race.” There absolutely is an intersection between Islam and race, because Islam is associated with brown people. I’m not sure who would reasonably deny that. I’ve en seen far right Nazis on Daily Stormer say they would support white Muslims who “put their white face forward.”

    I also think it’s an overstatement to say it’s exactly the same to criticize a minority religion and the majority religion. Ths is similar to the question of whether reverse racism is possible given the power dynamic. I don’t want to go off on that tangent, but it’s not black and white. I don’t think the argument, as he implies, is that “Muslims are special people.”

    I would argue he is factually wrong when he says Muslims are not a minority. 1% of the population is a minority. Of course what I think he means is its not equivalent to a racial minority since religion is a choice. Again, not a tangent I want to pursue, but it’s not black and white. It’s not a simple choice and you shouldn’t have to give up your faith to have your civil rights respected.

    I don’t think his towel head joke was Islamophobic. But I do think some of his other comments can reasonably be challenged. For example he said some Muslims believe homosexuas apostates should be killed and then implies these things are in the Quran. They are not. When seine says false things about Islam, then it isn’t just criticism. It’s spreading harmful falsehood.

    He also seems to imply that the reason a Muslim man left his wife was to take another wife, leaving the first in dire circumstances, as if this is sanctioned by Islam rather than his individual act. This is *not*in accordance with Islamic doctrine, which says very clearly wives are to be treated equally. There’s more to this but I can pick up every tangent. He shouldn’t state things as definitively part of Islam when they are not. Arguably spreading falsehood about Islam is Islamophobia, since it reflects and spreads irrational (not fact based) fear and hatred.

    He does touch on a point I like to emphasize, which is that there is a difference between respecting and advocating Muslim civil rights, and championing or defending Islam. Very different things, yet many people’s thinking on these matters seems muddled. He alluded to this point, but I wish he’d been more clear.

    I had a few other notes but my handwriting is so sloppy, I can’t read them. 🙂 So that will have to do.

    That said, I intend to pray for this guy, and ask God in His infinite mercy to give him comfort and ease his hardship so that he is not shouting and cursing and raising his blood pressure. This level of anger isn’t helpful to anyone.

  • Khizer

    I am not liberal, i am more in between, I have some conservative and some liberal views. I am not the most practising Muslim (I miss some of my prayers because I am a terrible procatonator and get a bit too involved in my videogames). I use to lean very left when I was young but I realised that the left is almost as flawed and biased as the right.

    I am particularly interested in your opinion since you seem to be the most nuanced and well informed moderator on the website, plus your views are more well informed and you do not take sides in this religious vs secular debacle.

  • His views make even less sense in an American context. Here Muslims are relatively well integrated, more diffuse, and generally not much of a political force at all. To they extent Muslims here are political, most of them are pretty liberal, and often seem more influenced (from my perspective) by American popular culture than Islamic doctrine. Not that Muslims are actually a threat in Europe either, but I’m saying this paranoia and hostility us even more absurd here.

    I may watch these if I have the time and the stomach for it.

    But in the meantime, can you tell me a little more about the your views? I’m intrigued since you seem to be among the wealthy in Pakistan and have suggested you lean liberal, even if not in the black and white terms. What’s your method of engagement with Islam? Since I’m not liberal, why would my opinions on these matters be of interest to you?

  • Khizer

    I agree with you, btw he is American not from the UK. I would like your opinion on the rest of the videos especially the ‘religion of peace’ ones and the ones related to ‘gays’. I use to watch him when I was younger, he use bash conservative Christians, so in my immature mind then, that meant he was a ‘good unbiased liberal’ (mind you I use to have this binary way of thinking- liberal good, conservative bad, though now that I am older I realise both sides can be pretty biased and shit), but now he become pretty much an asshole.

    Here is an older video of him criticising militant atheism, ironic that he has become a militant Athiest recently towards Islam.

  • Hmmm….I didn’t watch all of these but the “more friendly” one didn’t seem all that friendly to me. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he and others are getting more hostile toward Muslims, since there is a sustained, concerted campaign to produce that reaction, and especially in the UK. I have the immediate impression this guy is in the UK–is he?

    The Western elites want to continue their plunder and domination unopposed and Muslims along with broad swaths on the left oppose that. The elites need a scapegoat the public can blame for the problems they cause. And as Western society unravels at an alarming pace, the people become more aware of competiting ideas. Muslims, more than other immigrant communites in Europe, continue to hold socially conservative views and to be religiously observant generations after their parents’ arrival. That, along with high concentrations of Muslims in certain areas, alarms people.

    The British Prime MInister himself said it’s no longer acceptable for Muslims to simply obey the law in the UK. They must adopt “British Values” and forge a “British Islam.” He attacks social conservatives, suggesting they provide the “mood music” for terrorists as well a “conveyor belt” to terrorism. When the Prime MInister is attacking Muslims in his speeches–major speeches where he presumably is addressing major issues–what would we expect? Of course the public is going to get increasingly hostile, and extremists are not helping since they actually are attacking Western targets and feeding this narrative.

    Atheists, like the British Prime Minster, contradict their own narrative. There is a common idea among atheists that religious causes irrationality and violence, and therefore the world would be a better place if religion were eradicated. But then some atheists themselves become militant and have an irrational, disproportionate hatred of religious, and advocate or even turn to violence (as in the former Soviet Union) to eradicate it! Atheism can be just as extreme as any religion. It’s science, technology and industry that brought people the hideous weapons necessary to mass murder one another, not religion–and these days American is engaging in mass slaughter under the pretext of secular “freedom and democracy,” not waging holy wars. But this somehow escapes notice, even though it brings far more death and destruction than non-state actors of all kinds. So even though they claim to be more rational and logical, they’re just as selective, bias and irrational as everyone else–humans are often irrational and sometimes are at their worst when they remedy that by being rational!

    I’ve seen no evidence that atheism has anything better to offer humanity. I think atheists will continue to get more and more aggressive, and prove that they are no more tolerant of religious people than religious people were of them when they were a majority. But the elites who are currently in power hate all true religious expression, including Christianity. So this will have to run its course, I think. The good news is that religion is resurgent in Russia and the former Soviety republics. The idea atheism is the endpoint once people “dump their silly superstitions” is not panning out. People are going back to religion, and high level officials are making statements about how much religion means to them, as a people who’ve experienced state-sponsored atheism.

    This is why I think it’s vitally important for Muslims to set aside their doctrinal differences and join forces believers, and Christians and Jews in particular. Even when conservative Christians express dislike for Muslims (not all but many do), I still defend them against the aggressive secular attacks. Jews in many ways have even more in common with Muslims, and sadly, one of those things is that they are used as scapegoats too. And that’s still true, though now among fringe groups–but still very dangerous and especially when it seeps over into segements of the general population.

    I don’t know if I can stand to watch all these videos to address this guy more specifically. But he seems like a dime a dozen “new” atheist to me. I’m all for this sort of ranting. Excellent. He and his ilk are the best argument against the militant/new atheist narrative targeting religion.

  • Khizer

    Hey Illisha, I was scrounging around the Internet and came across this you tuber, he is some Athiest youtuber who comments on things, he use to be pretty friendly when it came to subjects related to Muslims, but has recently more aggressive towards them, here are some of his vids related to Muslims and Islam:

    Here is his older video (when he was more friendly towards Muslims, notice his difference in attitude).

    I would definately like your opinion on this youtuber, since to me, he has clearly become very aggressive and biased in his recent videos on Muslims.

  • mindy1

    Aww now that is nice 😀

  • 786 Mashallah, what an inspiring story!

  • They’ll get the worst punishment of all if they don’t repent. And it won’t be at our hands.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    How remarkable.
    Conversely, if we had an Orthodox or Jewish child (born as Othodox or Jewish that is) in our home I’d surely teach him or her in the way of their religion, if that’s what he/she wants. Asuredly, if I get asked qwuestions about Islam I’ll answer them honestly. But I’ll never coerce anybody to become Muslim. Indeed, I think that if a non-Muslim boy or girl wants to convert to Islam (but not to join ranks with Daesh!) they can only do so when they are over 18 years old, if they’re still a minor they need their parents’ permission. But they should in all case be free to inform themselves.
    On the other hand I wouldn’t want anybody to apostasize from Islam, but I wouldn’t kill or hurt them for it (as long as one’s alive there’s always time to repent). But for a prominent figure like Emir Kusturica, and in times of war, to apostasize and join ranks with the enemies of one’s own people, such a thing cannot be tolerated, and I can’t think of anything bad enough that this man does not deserve. But more for treason and collaboration with the enemy than for apostasy (but if he honestly and credibly repented I’d be willing to forgive him). Even so, I don’t care for self-hating Muslims who collaborate with the enemy (Islamophobes), like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And yes, if any act of violence directed by islamophobes against Muslims can be attributed to her statements, then she, and all of her kind, deserve the worst punishment of all.

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