News / Middle East

Clashes in Cairo Spark Fears of Sectarian Violence

A Muslim woman holds a Quran during a show of solidarity with protesting Coptic Christians, Cairo, Egypt. October 10, 2011.
A Muslim woman holds a Quran during a show of solidarity with protesting Coptic Christians, Cairo, Egypt. October 10, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Noel King

Egypt's ruling military council on Monday ordered the government to investigate the killings of at least 25 people in Sunday's street battles between Coptic Christians and Egyptian security forces.

The order came after crisis talks on the country's worst violence since a February uprising that swept then-President Hosni Mubarak from office.

The clashes began when Coptic Christians marched in downtown Cairo to protest the burning last week of a church in southern Egypt.

Coptic protesters said they expected a peaceful march. They say they were attacked by the Egyptian army. Tensions heightened further when thousands more protesters - some of them Muslims who supported the Copts, and some of them supporters of the military - took to the streets.

Coptic marcher Emad Hatef had an Egyptian flag tied around his neck. Like many of the marchers, he blamed the violence on Egyptian Islamists.

"I am here just to say 'no' to all Islamists. I hope to tell you something. There is a difference between Muslims and Islamists," said Hatef. "There is a very big difference. Muslims here in Egypt is our brothers. We are live for 14 centuries. But about Islamists take money for Saudi Arabia."

Hatef said the Egyptian military, though, also shouldered some of the blame.

Coffins of Coptic Christian victims from Sunday's violence are readied for funeral procession, Cairo, Egypt, October 10, 2011.
Coffins of Coptic Christian victims from Sunday's violence are readied for funeral procession, Cairo, Egypt, October 10, 2011.

"We saw a lot of bodies under the military cars. They have videotapes and everything. You can't imagine what happened to Christians today. The military in any place in all the world must to save his country, but here in Egypt, just to kill Christians," said Hatef.

Egypt's military-appointed Cabinet held an emergency meeting Monday. In a nationally televised address late Sunday, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said Sunday's violence had taken the country backward. He blamed the fighting on what he called the "hidden hands" of foreign and domestic conspirators.

The violence has the potential to destabilize relations between Egyptian Muslims and Coptic Christians, though some analysts say they believe moderate views - and cooler tempers - will prevail.

Youssef Sidhom is chief editor of the Coptic newspaper Watani. He said he believes that Egyptian Christians and Muslims are natural allies.

"I don't think that it is wise to call for any civil war between a 90 percent majority Muslim and a 10 percent Christian minority. I do not believe this is a wise choice because Copts are not standing alone against militant Islam or violent fundamentalist Muslims," said Sidhom. "Most of the moderate Muslims are sympathizing with the Copts and crying out for extreme equality."

What Sidhom fears is what he calls the rise of militant Islam in Egypt.

"It is not a direct fight or a civil war between Christians and Muslims. It is a direct fight - but not a civil war - between kindhearted moderate Egyptians, whether Muslims or Copts on one side, and militant Islam which is growing more and more," he said.

After the Egyptian uprising, Islamist groups that were banned during the presidency of Hosni Mubarak began to organize politically - causing anxiety among Coptic Christians and more liberal Muslims. Most groups organized under Islamist principles say they want an Egypt governed by Islamic law, but have no desire to oppress Egypt's Christian minority.


You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid