There have been many clashes between the Muslims and the Copts throughout Egypt. The recent conflicts between the two religious groups began on June 8, 2007. It began with rioting, and looting in the Coptic quarter of the city of Zwyet Abdel-Qader. On June 12, 2007, another uprising broke out between two construction workers, culminating with vandalism of a Coptic church. The next clash occurred at Saft Maidoum. It arose over a bicycle accident between a Coptic man and a Muslim girl. After the accident, the girl fainted. Believing that their daughter was dead, the child’s parents attacked the Copt’s family. Four people were injured and 35 were arrested. A couple days later, 20 people were detained and 13 people were injured, over a controversial court ruling regarding the appropriation of land to some of the Copts.
The Copts are a Christian sect. They compose 10% of the Egyptian population. They have had a rivalry with the Islamic militants. The most deadly clash between the Copts and Muslims was in 2000, when 22 people were killed in once incident, 21 Copts and one Muslim. The tensions had been more relaxed in the past few years.
The Copts have faced discrimination from the government. Until recently, they had to get approval from the government, for any minimal improvements done at a church. The children born into the Coptic Church are made to tattoo crosses on their wrists when they are very young. This separates those who were born into the Coptic Church, from those who convert to Christianity later.
The Copts have not been protected by the Egyptian government, despite the fact that they have suffered greatly as the hands of militants. Yet the government is slow at capturing the Copts attackers. For example, no one involved in the attack in 2000 where 21 Copts were killed are still in prison. It is possibly because the Egyptian government is looking for a way to excuse its aggressive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The problem with the government’s reasoning is the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is a political group, while the Copts are a people group.
Al-Ahram. Fanning the Flames. 21 June 2007.
IPSnews. Egypt: Clashes Could Bring Sectarian Conflict. 21 June 2007.
BosNewsLife. Egypt Detains Six After Clashes Between Muslims and Christians. 16 June 2007.
Gulf Times. 13 hurt in Egyptian sectarian conflict. 17 June 2007.