On 9 October, a demonstration in Cairo protesting an attack against a Coptic
church in the Aswan province last week erupted into the worst violence since
Mubarak’s ouster in February. Between 17 and 24 people were killed and
between 180 and 200 people were wounded.
Coptic Christians, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million
people, blamed the church attack on Muslim radicals.
According to media reports, Egyptian troops, which accused the Cairo
protestors of shooting at them, shot rubber bullets and tear gas into a
crowd of thousands. Demonstrators denied the charges and said the protest
was a peaceful one, though perhaps others not associated with them had fired
at the soldiers.
Addressing the nation on state television on today, Egyptian prime minister
Essam Sharaf said the clashes between army forces and Coptic Christian
protesters had brought the country back to the kind of violence seen at the
onset of the revolution. “Instead of going forward, we found ourselves
scrambling for security,” said Sharaf.
Despite scenes of unity during the revolution, when Muslims joined
Christians in protests against continuing sectarian violence and Christians
were seen protecting Muslims during their prayers at Tahrir Square, attacks
against Christian targets have continued. Prior to the recent attack, some
24 people had been killed, 200 injured, and three churches attacked during
the first five months of the post-Mubarak regime.
Christians say they fear growing control by conservative Islamic groups. The
second article of the Egyptian constitution declares Shari’a, or Islamic
religious law, as the law of Egypt, leaving Christians fearful of their
future place in the country if that provision is enforced.