developments from the Middle East over the weekend show the fragility and
uncertain direction of the "Arab Spring." First, this weekend's news
from Egypt of attacks by Salafist
Muslims on Coptic Christians, which reportedly left at least 12 people
dead, underscores the threat of violent Islamists and religious intolerance to
Egypt's political transition. Second, the ongoing protests in Syria against the
Assad regime, and the West's tentative
and feeble response, demonstrate that the popular desire for liberty in the
region has not abated, even in the face of escalating violence.
WASHINGTON, DC – In response to deadly religious violence in Egypt over
the weekend, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF) is calling on the Egyptian government to conduct a thorough
investigation to ensure that the perpetrators of the violence are
brought to justice in civilian, not military, courts, something that has
been elusive in Egypt in previous attacks on religious minorities which
continues to foster an atmosphere of impunity.
At least 12 Christians and Muslims were killed and more than 200 people
were wounded as Islamist extremists attacked Christians at the St. Mina
Church in the Imbaba district of Cairo. Another church, the Church of
the Virgin Mary, was burned to the ground by extremists and several
Christian-owned shops were vandalized and looted.
The Arab Spring has not been kind to Egypt’s Christian minority. Over
the weekend, Muslims apparently incited by Islamist hardliners again
terrorized Coptic Christians, in what is now a pattern of attacks
against them and their churches. Possibly the Islamists are jockeying
for political power in this transitional period, or even trying to
immediately effect a religious cleansing similar to the one that has
happened in Iraq.
Copts, numbering about 10 million, constitute the largest Christian
group and the largest religious minority in the Middle East. Their size
will likely prevent an escalating persecution of them from going
unnoticed for long in the West.
Coptic Christians in the Imbaba district of Cairo report that on
Saturday night they were assaulted by Muslims who looted and burned St.
Mina’s Church and the Church of the Virgin Mary and attempted to burn
St. Mary and St. Abanob Church. The press has reported that, according
to the Copts, twelve people were killed. According to the Egyptian
interior ministry, which habitually downplays or ignores attacks against
Christians, possibly six victims were Christian and six were Muslim.
More than a hundred people were injured, as Copts fought back with
sticks and stones.
Thousands of Copts marched today in Cairo chanting: Down with field marshal Tantawi
Tantawi heads the Egyptian Supreme council of Armed forces, now in control after the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
The army has been too lenient in dealing with Muslim radical attacks on Copts and did not bring perpetrators to justice in the almost daily attacks on Copts throughout the country since the departure of Mubarak
By BAHAA AL-TAWEEL, Translated by BISHOY RAMZY RAMZY
CAIRO: At least 10 people were killed and over 100 injured in
clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians early Sunday morning in
the Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba. Some speculate the clashes were fueled
by rising sectarian tension among Imbaba’s residents.
The trouble began when Salafis demonstrated outside St. Mina Church
calling for the release of a woman they claimed was being held hostage
by the church because she converted from Christianity to Islam.
Mohamed Ali, the Sheikh of al-Toba Mosque, said the story is a lie.
"A security leader called to tell me there was a demonstration in front
of St. Mina Church because a Muslim woman was kidnapped and imprisoned
in the church,” Sheikh Ali said.
Ali went to the church and met with the people who made the claims of
the kidnap. There were a number of demonstrators who were in an agitated