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
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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs