Muslim–Coptic Christian tensions are at their height in Egypt after security forces killed 27 Copt civilians demonstrating peacefully. The October massacre at Maspero—a Cairo neighborhood—is the latest of several cases of violence and repression against Egypt’s Christian minority.
The democratic revolution in Tahir Square was marked by a religious consensus, but since last spring, this interfaith tolerance has given way to sectarian violence and fears of discrimination, write Anthony Banout and Emran El-Badawi in the e-newsletter Sightings (Nov. 3). The violence at Maspero was unleashed against protesters of recent demolitions of several churches in Upper Egypt. The way in which false information about the supposed violence of the demonstrators was spread by state television suggests the “continued role of the federal government—now controlled by the armed forces—to manipulate the religious sensibilities of Egyptians in order fan the flames of sectarian violence,” according to the authors.
The mistrust between the Muslim and Coptic communities may have been heightened “in the wake of a costly revolution and subsequent economic hardship…” Even after redrafting the Egyptian constitution and promising equal citizenship, Copts remain wary; they are not mentioned in the constitution and Islam is still referred to as the religion of the state, with Islamic jurisprudence as the principal source of legislation.