|Justin Wilkes/European Pressphoto Agency|
The fighting began on Friday in the town of El Khusus, a town north of Cairo, igniting after a group of young Christians allegedly vandalized a local mosque (1). Four Christians and one Muslim were killed during the ensuing violence, with police forces arriving hours after the fight ended. On Sunday, a funeral was hosted for the four deceased Christians in the central Coptic Cathedral, located in Cairo and known as the seat of the Coptic Pope, with both Christians and sympathetic Muslims attending. According to Egypt's Interior Ministry, Christians leaving the funeral damaged several cars and chanted slogans against the ruling Muslim brotherhood party, sparking further sectarian violence which killed two, with one victim identified as a Christian and the other a Muslim, and injured over 80 others, including 11 police officers (2). Further violence broke out that night in El Khusus, killing one more individual and injuring 14 others (1).
The Christians have historically been excluded from power and even oppressed by the Mubarak regime, and these feelings continue to persevere even with the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood party. According to multiple news reports, the riot police intervened on the side of the aggressing Muslim group the church , firing tear gas canisters on the besieged within the church campus and revealing a lack of neutrality. While the Muslim Brotherhood leadership vocally defended the rights of the Christians, it is unclear how much operational control the leadership holds over law enforcement organizations which have remained unchanged from the previous Mubarak regime.
The Christians are already calling for the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood led government, and, while they have little chance of actually overthrowing the regime, the renewed protests could effectively promote an expansion of possible anti-government protests. The Christians could add to their numbers through the use of an already reduced cost of participation, therefore providing a favorable environment for other individuals to express their private views. Further, any government committed offenses may give the protests legitimacy in the eyes of the general public, with the obvious exception of hardline Islamist groups. These events may serve as a possible catalyst for the public's grievances against the current Egyptian government and foster a favorable environment for mass protests and/or further sectarian violence.
1. Kirkpatrick, David D., and Kareem Fahim. "In Egypt, Attack on Christians Comes After a Pledge." The New York Times, 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/world/middleeast/in-egypt-attack-on-christians-comes-after-a-pledge.html?_r=0>
2. Taylor, Paul. "Two More Dead after Sectarian Clashes in Egypt." Reuters, 08 Apr. 2013. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/08/us-egypt-clashes-idUSBRE93503A20130408>