Religious tensions lead to bloodshed in Egypt

Plans for the future of the Egyptian government have been put on hold due to recent religious violence between native Muslims and Coptic Christians. In the midst of transforming the Egyptian government into a civilian rule, security forces in Cairo are being blamed for a violent religious outbreak that occurred Sunday, October 9.

At least 25 people were killed and over 300 were injured after a Coptic protest due to the burning of a Christian church in Aswan. Egyptian military forces responded to the protest with rapid gunfire and fighting soon spread throughout Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Witnesses reported that at least 10 people were run over by military vehicles and protestors were responsible for a great deal of property damage.

Much of the blame has been put on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which helped break up the protest. Business Day Online describes the violence displayed on October 9 as a clear example that the army is “woefully ill-equipped” for dealing with sectarian issues.

Coptic Christians, who make up only 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have attributed the behavior to religious discrimination. Fearing that the current political chaos could lead to an entirely Islamic rule, Coptics are concerned that more restrictions will be put on social minorities and intolerance will ensue. Currently, Egyptian law allows more freedoms to native Muslims than it does minorities like Christians. As a result, much tension has developed between the two groups as Christians have attempted to find loopholes to these restrictions.

With the country attempting to move from the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak to a more civilian run system, this violent outbreak has put much strain on the Egyptian people and the upcoming political movements have been questioned. Fearing that SCAF is resulting to the same tactics as Mubarak, many Egyptian government officials have suggested that the November elections be delayed while others urge that the elections are more needed than ever.

Still, Egypt’s army denies the blame of the Coptic crackdown. “The armed forces would never and have never opened fire on the people,” General Mahmoud Hegazy, a member of the ruling military council, said. Attempting to calm the military bashing, interim Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf has attempted to make the issue about safety rather than religion. “What is taking place are not clashes between Muslims and Christians but attempts to provoke chaos and dissent.”


Sources: Business Day Online, The Guardian, BBC News


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