The latest print edition of the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati features a front-page story on a tour last month of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral by representatives of the Islamic Center of Cincinnati, partner of the Hamas front CAIR and seeded by a $6 million check from a Saudi trust whose express goal is the spread of Wahhabism, an anti-Western form of Islam. During the tour, the center’s former chairman gave Archbishop Schnurr a copy of the so-called “Ashtiname” by which Mohammed gave protection to the monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. As students of history may know, the document is almost certainly a forgery. Here’s a snippet from a column by Robert Spencer in which he debunks its pedigree:

The document to which Considine is referring, the Achtiname, is of even more doubtful authenticity than everything else about Muhammad’s life. Muhammad is supposed to have died in 632; the Muslims conquered Egypt between 639 and 641. The document says of the Christians, “No one shall bear arms against them.” So were the conquerors transgressing against Muhammad’s command for, as Considine puts it, “no Muslim to fight against his Christian brother or sister”? Did Muhammad draw up this document because he foresaw the Muslim invasion of Egypt? There is no mention of this document in any remotely contemporary Islamic sources; among other anomalies, it bears a drawing of a mosque with a minaret, although minarets weren’t put on mosques until long after the time Muhammad is supposed to have lived, which is why Muslim hardliners consider them unacceptable innovation (bid’a).

The document exempts the monks of St. Catherine’s monastery from paying the jizya. While it is conceivable that Muhammad, believing he bore the authority of Allah, would exempt them from an obligation specified by Allah himself in the Qur’an (9:29), the Achtiname specifies that Christians of Egypt are to pay a jizya only of twelve drachmas.

Yet according to the seventh-century Coptic bishop John of Nikiou, Christians in Egypt “came to the point of offering their children in exchange for the enormous sums that they had to pay each month.”

The Achtiname, in short, bears all the earmarks of being an early medieval Christian forgery, perhaps developed by the monks themselves in order to protect the monastery and Egyptian Christians from the depredations of zealous Muslims.

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