21. Sedition sets Egypt on fire

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Article summary: 

The author argues that the government, certain Web sites, the Azhar, and the church are responsible for sectarian strife in Egypt.

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The author blames four parties for being involved in igniting sedition in Egypt; the government, a number of Internet Web sites, the Azhar and the Church.
The author argues that the government provides the suitable atmosphere for sedition, while pointing to certain Web sites that further ignite the sectarian fire, as mentioned below. He additionally points to the Azhar and its silence, and the Church with its calmness.
The author highlights the diversity of incidents of sectarian strife and conflicts caused by sectarian elements.
The author refers to the recent conflict in Tūmah village [Reviewer: See AWR 2009, week 23, article 17]. He provides a historical background on the incident and the Tūmah village.
He stated that the Tūmah village was inhabited by Copts only; the village is named after Saint Thomas [Tūmā in Arabic]. Inhabitants however, welcomed Muslim settlers. Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the village cooperated and worked in collecting scrap. Gradually Muslim inhabitants increased, and the first mosque was constructed.
Three months ago, a neighboring factory owner built a mosque, and people who came to the mosque were calling on Christians to convert to Islam. The author marks this point as the start of sectarian tension in the village.
As for the recent story of a Coptic young woman Nermine Jamāl Mitrī, 16 years old, the author reports on her story as narrated by Nermine herself.
She stated that she left her home to sit an exam when she met her neighbor and classmate who invited her to come over for a cup of tea before going to the exam. Nermine accepted the invitation.The author then reports on statements of one of Nermine’s relatives who said Nermine came back depressed and therefore "we sent her to a monastery to relax."
After that, he added, her family informed the police about their daughter’s kidnapping. The anonymous relative stated that a few days later, the claim was changed into a children’s dispute over a chicken!
He reported on the "manipulation" in the police minutes and they complained to the security apparatus in the region. Security intervened to hold a reconciliation session, however, things quickly developed and a store full of wood and cardboard belonging to Jamāl Mitrī’s family was set on fire. The narrators’ son Jamāl was sleeping in an annexed room and almost died in the blaze. The police were officially informed and a communiqué was documented.
Security attempted to foster a second round of reconciliation, but another development resulted in a conflict between three Muslim men and a Coptic man. Again the clash was documented at the police station.
The author stated that the security apparatus remained silent with regards to the aforementioned incidents. To top it off, the governor of al-Gharbīyah governorate denied the existence of any tension.
The author criticized the government’s silence toward all those incidents that developed into the latest clashes between the Mitrī Coptic family and a Muslim family. He argues that the government shoulders the responsibility for providing the tense atmosphere that erupted.
Web sites increased the tension. The author mentions a Web site called al-Marsad that called on Muslims for jihād against Copts and attacked the Coptic Orthodox Church and Copts. They also called for the saving of women who have embraced Islam and were imprisoned in the church.
An Azhar fatwà was published on the Web site stating that whoever hands a convert to Islam over to the church is considered an apostate. On the same Web site, a video of al-Zawāhirī, the second man in al-Qā‘idah, was uploaded calling for the liberation of women who had converted to Islam and are allegedly imprisoned in the church.
On the other hand, the author reports that Christian web sites publish materials about Copts beings persecuted, converts to Christianity being chased, and women who converted to Christianity being tortured.
The author wonders why the government maintains silence on such Web sites that ignite sedition while it bans pornographic Web sites and those that attack high ranking governmental figures.
The author also criticized the Azhar’s silence regarding the prevalence of fundamentalist thinking. "The same mistake is committed by the church when leaving millions of Copts in Egypt to feel persecuted," he said.

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