Does Optimism with Egyptian Revolution Fade with the Return of Sectarian Violence?
No one in Egypt would have imagined that with the outbreak of the revolution on January 25, many of the chronic problems that the Egyptian society had suffered for decades, especially sectarian strife, sexual harassment, violence and uncontrollable explosions of anger for trivial reasons would fade away. It is certain that Egyptians rejoice with eradicating such phenomenon that is comparable to their joy with the historic overthrow of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime, because they believe that such crises are made by Mubarak’s State Security Service who tirelessly work to differentiate between the social fabrics of Egyptian society.
The peaceful revolution’s triumph made everyone suddenly realize that sectarian troubles have returned to Egypt by the remnants of the ousted regime, the hidden hands of rogue security bodies and extremists from both sides bent on counter-revolution and working on re-igniting much wider and uncontrollable sectarian strife across the country and crushing the revolution.
Egyptians woke up last Friday to the expected news of killing two Muslims wounding another, setting fire to a church and demolishing it in the village of Sol in Atfeeh, Helwan. Last Friday, the discovery of a relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman ignited fights between the two families that led to the death of two Muslims and to the injury of another. Angry youth then headed towards Shahedain (Two Martyrs) Church and partially demolished it in revenge.
The incident triggered large Coptic demonstrations in Cairo throughout the week that led to clashes on Tuesday, resulting in at least ten deaths and over 100 injuries. Some observers fear that Egypt’s infamous State Security may have instigated the recent wave of sectarian strife in order to distract protesters who are demanding that State Security be dismantled.
More than 1,000 Copts continued days of demonstrations on Thursday outside state television headquarters in Cairo, demanding the rebuilding of a church burned down earlier in the week. The head of the Military Council promised to rebuild the church in its original location, but they also increased other demands, including the release of a sentenced priest in a criminal case. Indeed, their demands have also been implemented, but they decided to continue their sit-in in front of Maspero.
In contrast, dozens of Salafist Muslims demonstrated in Tahrir Square on Tuesday and then headed toward the Egyptian Cabinet and Ministry of Interior. The group called for the release of Camilia Shehata, the wife of a Coptic Christian priest whom the group claims has converted to Islam and is being held against her will in a monestary. Tension escalated again when Coptic protesters blocked the roads leading to the 6th of October and May 15 Bridges, and all streets and entrances to the Maspero building. Demonstrators blocked the vital Autostrad route near Mansheiyet Nasr neighbourhood and destroyed cars and hindered traffic during their protests. Those who were killed were hit by gun fire, and at least five of them were Muslims.
Political activist George Isaac described the Muslims who destroyed the church and Coptic Christians who are demonstrating in front of the Radio and Television Union building and blocking roads are "enemies of the January 25th Revolution". He told Ikhwanweb that the revolution eased the tensions between Egypt’s Muslims and the Coptic Christian minority, but this no longer exists, and what is happening now is a result of conspiracy by remnants of the ousted regime, extremist Copts and Salafi leaders, who are attempting to undermine the peaceful revolution and abort it in favor of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime.
"Sectarianism is completely rejected now as further protests – particularly labor strikes – will harm national security and I urge the protests to stop," Isaac said, calling on the media not to host what he described as Copts, tainted with fanaticism and Salafi extremists because their debut on TV is not in the national interest of Egyptians. He also emphasized the need to enforce the law against anyone who commits an offense against a church or mosque or any public property or disrupts work in state institutions.