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

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs