By Fathia Aldechacheny and Amr Bayoumi
The book ‘Mallem Ya’qub’ published by the Cultural Authority has raised a storm of anger at the Coptic Orthodox Church and many of the Coptic intellectuals. The anger arose due to the book accusing Mallem Ya’qub and his followers of building up a Coptic army during the French Occupation in Egypt to help the French army against the Egyptians.
The Chairman of the authority, Dr. Ahmed Mujahid, said that he phoned Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate, and asked him to clarify the authority’s stance to contain the crisis.It is worthy to mention that Mallem Ya’qub, also known as ‘General Ya’qub’, was born in 1745. He was well-known during the French Occupation when he built up a Coptic army at his expense. The book, which raised the crisis, mentioned that he fought with his army against the Ottoman Empire in Egypt.
Anba Rafael, the Pope’s representative, refused these accusations against Mallem Ya’qub confirming that he was a patriotic figure and he worked for Egypt’s liberation whether of the French or the Turkish occupation.
One of the Pope’s legal advisers, Naguib Gabriel, called for the confiscation of the book “as it represents incitement and intolerance against the Christians especially as it is issued by a governmental authority that issue its publications using the Copts and Muslims taxes.”
On the other hand, the Chairman of the General Cultural, Authority Dr. Ahmed Mujahid, sent a letter to Pope Shenouda stating that the book did not mean to offend the Copts. He pointed out that he also called the Pope who understood the authority’s point of view.
Mujahid told Al-Masry Al-Youm, “If the book has raised the anger of some Christians, I tell them we are sorry.” He said that the chief editor of this series, Osama Afify, is responsible for re-publishing the book stressing his ‘non-intervention’ in the chief-editors’ decisions.
On his side, Osama Afify said that he issued the book for the second time because the first edition, issued in the 1980s, has run off the market. He pointed out the present books ‘glorify Mallem Ya’qub extremely’ and he found that it was necessary to present the other point of view to the youth.
He noted that the book written by Dr. Ahmed Hussein El Sawi considered Ya’qub ‘as an Egyptian traitor not as a Coptic traitor.’ In addition, ‘it mentioned some of the Muslims traitors such as Murad Bey.’