Egyptian Christians Targeted By Muslims In Retribution For Morsi Ouster
The aftermath of the removal of Mohammed Morsi from power is taking ominous turns:
CAIRO — The military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi has unleashed a new wave of violence by extremist Muslims against Christians whom they blame for having supported the calls to overthrow Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s first Islamist elected leader, according to rights activists.
Since Mr. Morsi’s ouster on July 3, the activists say, a priest has been shot dead in the street, Islamists have painted black X’s on Christian shops to mark them for arson and angry mobs have attacked churches and besieged Christians in their homes. Four Christians were reported slaughtered with knives and machetes in one village last week.
The attacks have hit across the country, in the northern Sinai Peninsula, in a resort town on the Mediterranean coast, in Port Said along the Suez Canal and in isolated villages in upper Egypt.
Tensions between the Christian minority and extremist elements in the Muslim majority are not new, but many cite anger among Islamists at the removal of Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power as fueling the recent increase in violence.
Many Christians were alarmed at the victories of Islamists in elections after the 2011 revolution that overthrew Mr. Morsi’s autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Although Christians by no means represented a majority of the anti-Morsi rallies that preceded Mr. Morsi’s downfall, Christians did participate in the campaigns to remove Mr. Morsi that so deeply antagonized his supporters.
“They thought Christians played a big role in the protests and in the army’s intervention to topple Morsi, so this is revenge for that,” said Ishaq Ibrahim, who has documented the violence for the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, or EIPR.
Many Islamist leaders blamed Christians and holdovers from the Mubarak era for the mass protests against Mr. Morsi that took place on the June 30 anniversary of his swearing-in. Even rank-and-file Islamists maintaining a sit-in in a Cairo suburb calling for Mr. Morsi’s return often have spoken spitefully of what they described as Christian collusion.
In some places, Christians were admonished not to participate in the anti-Morsi protests. Fliers distributed in the upper Egypt province of Minya, documented by EIPR, warned that “one liter of gas can light up your gold, wood, plumbing, tractor, carpentry shops, buses, cars, houses, churches, schools, agricultural fields and workshops.”
They were signed “people who care for the country.”
If the aftermath of this coup turns into sectarian violence, then Egypt may find itself heading down a path that will be bad not only for its own future, but for the future of the entire region.