24 dead in worst Cairo riots since Mubarak ouster
Â ‘At least 24 killed’ in Muslim attacks on Copts yesterday.
FILE – In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 file photo, Egyptian Copts hold Christian crosses and chant slogans as they demonstrate against the sectarian violence, in downtown Cairo, Egypt. In the past few weeks, riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angered by rumors that Christians were building new churches. The violence is particularly frustrating for Christians because soon after Mubarak’s fall the new government promised to review and lift heavy restrictions on building or renovating churches that Mubarak’s regime had long enforced. The promise raised hopes among Christians that they would be put on equal footing with Muslims and establish a clear legal right to build, resolving an issue that in recent years has increasingly sparked riots. But the review never came, and ultraconservative Muslim clerics have increased their rhetoric against Christians, including accusing them of seeking to spread their faith with new churches. Photo: Khalil Hamra / AP
AP rubs it: “Sectarian Violence” and “ultraconservative Muslims” who are, you guessed it, just as nutty as our conservative Christians…..
CAIRO (AP) â€” Flames lit up downtown Cairo, where massive clashes raged Sunday, drawing Christians angry over a recent church attack, hard-line Muslims and Egyptian security forces. At least 24 people were killed and more than 200 injured in the worst sectarian violence since the uprising that oustedÂ Hosni MubarakÂ inÂ February.
The rioting lasted late into the night, bringing out a deployment of more than 1,000 security forces and armored vehicles to defend the state television building along the Nile, where the trouble began. The military clamped a curfew on the area until 7 a.m.
The clashes spread to nearby Tahrir Square, drawing thousands of people to the vast plaza that served as the epicenter of the protests that ousted Mubarak. On Sunday night, they battled each other with rocks and firebombs, some tearing up pavement for ammunition and others collecting stones inÂ boxes.
At one point, an armored security van sped into the crowd, striking a half-dozen protesters and throwing some into the air. Protesters retaliated by setting fire to military vehicles, a bus and private cars, sending flames rising into the nightÂ sky.
After midnight, mobs roamed downtown streets, attacking cars they suspected had Christian passengers. In many areas, there was no visible police or army presence to confront or stopÂ them.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people, blame the country’s ruling military council for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak’s ouster. As Egypt undergoes a chaotic power transition and security vacuum in the wake of the uprising, the Coptic Christian minority is particularly worried about the show of force by ultraconservativeÂ Islamists.
The Christian protesters said their demonstration began as a peaceful attempt to sit in at the television building. But then, they said, they came under attack by thugs in plainclothes who rained stones down on them and firedÂ pellets.
“The protest was peaceful. We wanted to hold a sit-in, as usual,” saidÂ Essam Khalili, a protester wearing a white shirt with a cross on it. “Thugs attacked us and a military vehicle jumped over a sidewalk and ran over at least 10 people. I sawÂ them.”
Wael Roufail, another protester, corroborated the account. “I saw the vehicle running over the protesters. Then they opened fired at us,” heÂ said.
Khalili said protesters set fire to army vehicles when they saw them hitting theÂ protesters.
Ahmed Yahia, a Muslim resident who lives near the TV building, said he saw the military vehicle plow into protesters. “I saw a man’s head split into two halves and a second body flattened when the armored vehicle ran over it. When some Muslims saw the blood they joined the Christians against the army,” heÂ said.
Television footage showed the military vehicle slamming into the crowd. Coptic protesters were shown attacking a soldier, while a priest tried to protect him. One soldier collapsed in tears as ambulances rushed to the scene to take away theÂ injured.
At least 24 people were killed in the clashes,Â Health MinistryÂ official Hisham Sheiha said on stateÂ TV.
State media reported that Egypt’s interim Cabinet was holding an emergency session to discuss theÂ situation.
Writing in his Facebook page, Prime MinisterÂ Essam SharafÂ said: “What is happening now are not clashes between Muslims and Christians but attempts to spark chaos and divisions. I call on all the children of the nation who care about its future, not to comply with calls of sedition, because it is fire that will burn usÂ all.”
The protest began in the Shubra district of northern Cairo, then headed to the state television building along the Nile where men in plainclothes attacked about a thousand Christian protesters as they chanted denunciations of the militaryÂ rulers.
Shocker in Egypt:
We tried to tell you. The Sharia being implemented in Egypt will not be Paper Sharia, the theoretical constructs entertained in Western academic exercises about what Sharia could, would, should, or ought to be. Egypt’s Christians will not face the “moderate” Sharia prototype on someone’s drawing board. They will get the production model, whose performance is already on display. “Christians fear Islamist pressure in Egypt,” by Maggie Michael for theÂ Associated Press, October 8 (thanks to JW):
CAIROÂ (AP) â€” On her first day to school, 15-year-old Christian student Ferial Habib was stopped at the doorstep of her new high school with clear instructions: either put on a headscarf or no school this year.
Habib refused. While most Muslim women in Egypt wear the headscarf, Christians do not, and the move by administrators to force a Christian student to don it was unprecedented. For the next two weeks, Habib reported to school in the southern Egyptian village of Sheik Fadl every day in her uniform, without the head covering, only to be turned back by teachers.
One day, Habib heard the school loudspeakers echoing her name and teachers with megaphones leading a number of students in chants of “We don’t want Ferial here,” the teenager told The Associated Press.
Habib’s was allowed last week to attend without the scarf, and civil rights advocates say her case is a rare one. But it stokes the fears of Egypt’s significant Christian minority that they will become the victims as Islamists grow more assertive after the Feb. 11 toppling of President Hosni Mubarak. It also illustrates how amid the country’s political turmoil, with little sense of who is in charge and government control weakened, Islamic conservatives in low-level posts can step in and try to unilaterally enforce their own decisions.
Wagdi Halfa, one of Habib’s lawyers, said the root problem is a lack of the rule of law.
“We don’t want more laws but we want to activate the laws already in place,” he said. “We are in a dark tunnel in terms of sectarian tension.Â Even if you have the majority who are moderate Muslims, a minority of extremists can make big impact on them and poison their minds.”
In the past weeks,Â riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angered by church construction. One riot broke out, near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand by local ultraconservative Muslims, called Salafis, that a cross and bells be removed from the building.
Islamic law, which we’re accused of being Islamophobes for citing, but curiously keeps being put into practice by Muslims,Â forbidsÂ crosses and church bells, and forbids the construction of new churches or the repair of old ones. More “moderate” Islamic countries just make it dangerous and difficult to try.
The violence is particularly frustrating for Christians because soon after Mubarak’s fall the new government promised to review and lift heavy Mubarak-era restrictions on building or renovating churches. The promise raised hopes among Christians that the government would establish a clear legal right to build, resolving an issue that in recent years has increasingly sparked riots. ButÂ the review never came, and Salafi clerics have increased their rhetoric against Christians, including accusing them of seeking to spread their faith with new churches.
The propagation of non-Islamic religions is also forbidden under Islamic law. A proposed law on building houses of worship (churches or mosques) wasÂ a non-starterfor Coptic, Catholic, and Anglican leaders. It would only have added another bureaucratic barrier, setting up a permit system comparable to the one that has stacked the deck against building churches in Indonesia.
Habib’s experience was startling because in general, Egypt’s Christians, who make up at least 10 percent of the population of 80 million, have enjoyed relative freedom in terms of dress and worship. The vast majority of Muslim women in Egypt put on the headscarf, known as the higab, either for religious or social reasons, but there’s little expectation that Christians wear it.
The demand that all students wear the higab [sic] was a decision by administrators and teachers at the high school in Sheik Fadl, 110 miles (180 kilometers) south of Cairo in Minya province. They said the headscarf was part of the school uniform, necessary to protect girls from sexual harassment….