A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Army, Government Cracking Down on Sectarian Violence

Egypt's interim government and Armed Forces Council has been moving over the past few days to protect churches and defuses the sectarian tensions created by the Imbaba deaths. Churches are being protected y the Army, while the Justice Minister has warned of an "iron fist"; tensions are still high. Some 190 people were arrested after the violence, and arrests are continuing.

According to Zeinobia, the authorities have now arrested Salafi Sheikh Abu Anas,
who was shown on a widely circulated YouTube video threatening to burn all the churches of Imbaba and denouncing Christians, insulting Pope Shenouda, and generally inflaming the situation. He reportedly subsequently denied saying these things: don't these people understand they're on video all over the Internet? For those who understand Egyptian Arabic you can find Abu Anas' video here,  but I will not embed it here since it's inflammatory hate speech of the first order and I'm not going to have it on this blog.

The supporters of the Revolution have generally been horrified by the deteriorating sectarian situation. The Muslim Brotherhood denounced the violence but has also sought alliances with some of the same Salafi forces behind the troubles. Neither the Salafis nor the Brotherhood — nor the Coptic Church hierarchy, to be fair — supported the January 25 youth movement until late in the game, if ever. Many of the young revolutionaries are calling for harsh roundups of religious radicals. At first the Army said those arrested would be tried in military court, though ending military trials of civilians is a key demand of the revolutionaries. There are some reports they may be tried in civilian court eventually.

The Army, much criticized by the Copts, is talking tough now, but seems to be closing the barn door after the horses have fled.

None of this is encouraging news, except for the arrest of the rabble-rousers.

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