28. Monday Press Review 1: Coptic Pope Meets with Muslim Leaders, Christians Demonstrate

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Egyptian newspapers on Monday appeared to carefully avoid charges of stoking the fires of sectarianism, largely refraining from sensationalist reporting on the Alexandria church attack, and instead giving much attention to unification efforts between Muslims and Christians, as well as ongoing investigations...


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The bombing of the Church of the Two Saints, Saint Mark and Pope Peter in the Egyptian city of Alexandria early on New Year’s Day continues to dominate Egyptian news papers on Monday, with the focus being on reports of meetings between senior Muslim figures and the Coptic pope, speculation and early leads regarding perpetrators, arrests that have been made, and Coptic anger that spilled over into angry demonstrations on Sunday.


However, the papers appear to be careful avoiding charges of stoking the fires of sectarianism by sensationalist reporting. Particulalry noteworthy is that the coverage of Christian protests by the Lebanese-based pan-Arab Al-Hayāh and Al-Sharq al-Awsat was much more prominent than that of local publications, where the reports were largely relegated to inside pages.


It is also noteworthy that confusion remains over the number of victims. While most papers, quoting health ministry officials, say that there were 21 dead and 97 injured, al-Wafd, also quoting a ministry of health official, reported that the dead numbered 17.


State-supported Al-Ahrām leads its front page with the banner headline: “Egypt has Downed the ‘Debased Conspiracy’ of the Forces of Darkness.” Front page sub-headlines include: “Pope Shenouda: I Shall Hold Christmas Prayers Next Thursday so that Terrorism Does not Deprive Us of our Celebration,” "Shaykh of the Azhar: Crime Aims at Transforming Egypt into Another Iraq: Today a Church, Tomorrow a Mosque,” “Presidential Directive that Injured be Treated at State Expense. ‘Arab Contractors’ [leading company] Commissioned to Repair Church and Mosque.”


The front page was dominated by a picture of the Azhar Grand Imām, the Muftī, and the endowments minister meeting the Coptic Pope at the Coptic cathedral in ‘Abbāsiyyah, Cairo on Sunday.


Page seven included a report on the Coptic demonstrations, accompanied by photographs, under the headline “Angry Coptic Processions in Different Parts of Cairo and the Provinces.” A small separate report claimed that 43 policemen where injured in demonstration at the cathedral. Another report headlined:“Al-‘Ādlī [Minister of the Interior]: Too Early to Reveal Identity of Perpetrators.”


Left-leaning Rose al-Yūsuf reported on page three “Churches Full of Worshippers, Copts Flock to Sunday Mass; Priests Call for Calm and Confrontation of Attempts at Fitnah Tā’ifīyah [Sedition].”


Pan-Arab Al-Sharq al-Awsat led its front page with a report headlined: “Trepidation in Egypt and Worry about a Fitnah Ṭā’ifīyah.” Sub-headlines included: “Azhar Shaykh Accuses [Vatican] Pope of Interfering in Egyptian Affairs” and “Demonstrators Assault Cars Belonging to Endowments Minister and Muftī.” The report, however, carried a large photograph of a Muslim woman in a head scarf brandishing a large metal cross alongside a Muslim crescent.


Pages five and seven of the newspaper are also devoted to the Alexandria bombings. Headlines include "Egypt Reinforces Security Measures at Churches, Vital Installations, and Airports,” “Seventeen Suspects Arrested over Church Bombing,” “Eyewitness Gives al-Sharq Al-Sharq al-Awsat ̣Description of Suspect in Alexandria Bombing,” and  “Christian Demonstrators at Papal Headquarters Assault Cars of Azhar Shaykh, Muftī’, Minister of Endowments.”


Al-Hayāh frontpaged a report on the Alexandria bombing, while providing more expansive coverage on inside pages. Headlines were: “Azhar Shaykh Criticizes [Vatican] Pope, Describes his Call for ‘Protection of Christians’ Interference in Egyptian Affairs,” “Investigation Focuses on Local Group, Iraqi Angle.” A picture of the Coptic pope meeting senior Muslim officials was also frontpaged. Inside headlines included: “Egypt: Coptic Resentment, Security Bodies Have ‘Identified those Involved’ in Church Explosion” and "Azhar Shaykh: Terrorism Seeks to Transform Egypt into Another Iraq”. The paper included a photograph of protesting Christians.


State-supported Al-Akhbār devoted practically its entire front page to reporting on the Alexandria bombing and its aftermath. Headlines include: “Continuous Efforts to Identify Perpetrators in Alexandria Church Bombing” and “People Declare their Rejection of Terrorism; Large Solidarity Demonstrations by Muslims and Copts.” The front page carried photographs of the Coptic Pope and senior Muslim officials at their press conference, as well as the young Muslim woman brandishing a cross and crescent, as mentioned above.


Inside page coverage, also very extensive, was headlined: “Al-‘Ādlī [Minister of the Interior]: Too Early to Reveal Identity of Perpetrators. Reinforcement of Security Measures at All Vital Installations,” “Important Information on Two Saints Church Event: Perpetrator of Attack Sought to Detonate Inside Church to Cause Maximum Casualties,”  "Islamic Jam‘iyyah: Random Explosions is al-Qā‘idah’s Style,” “Public Attorney: What is Being Said is Mere Speculation, No Confirmed Version So Far,” “Azhar Shaykh: We Have to Unite in Facing Conspiracies,” “Holiness the Pope: Everyone in Egypt is Sad, but We Shall not Cancel Christmas Celebrations,” and “Thousand Muslims and Copts in Solidarity Anti-Terrorist Demonstration.” Photo coverage included pictures of the Coptic Pope and the Azhar shaykh, as well as Muslims and Copts waving Bibles and Qur’āns in an expression of solidarity.


Al-Jumhūrīyah runs two "front pages," the first of which is devoted to the aftermath of the bombings. Headlines include: “Noose Narrows around Perpetrators, DNA of Three Bodies Analyzed,” "Public Attorney Expedites Criminal Lab Report,” "Cabinet Raises Level of Security Preparedness at Vital Installations,” “Azhar Shaykh to the Pope: Today a Church, Tomorrow a Mosque, if We do not Confront Terrorism,” and “Medical Examiner Reports: Nails and Aluminum Strips in Victims’ Bodies.”


Visuals included the meeting between the Pope and senior Muslim officials and a cartoon depicting a female figure symbolizing Egypt cutting off the hand of an arm labeled "terrorism."


Inside page coverage was very extensive. Headlines included: “Alexandria Treats its Wounds, Calm Returns to Sīdī Bishr,” “Bells of Two Saints Church Rang for Sunday Mass,” “Al-Tayyib, Zaqzūq, and Muftī Offer Condolences to the Pope,” “People’s Assembly: Incident is Terrorist, not Sectarian,” “Bishop Bīsantī: Agitation of Coptic Youth Caused by Shock, and Temporary,” and "Pope’s Alexandria Representative Denies [Cabinet] Ministers Assaulted During Victims Burial Rites.” Photo coverage included injured victims in hospitals and many of government and parliamentary figures attending meetings dealing with the attack.


Opposition al-Wafd, a mouthpiece of the populist al-Wafd party, which traditionally draws support from both Muslims and Christians, provides extensive coverage of the explosion aftermath. A front-page banner headline in red, alongside a photograph of a grieving woman, reads: “Terrorism Shock Shakes Egyptians,” “Angry Copts Chant Anti-Government Slogans during Victims’ Funeral,” "Preliminary Investigations Indicate Two Persons Committed the Act with Two Explosive Belts,” “17 Arrested on Suspicion,” “U.S. Embassy Commissions FBI Agents to Gather Information on the Incident,” and “Angry Coptic Demonstrations Sweep Cairo and Governorates.”


Page three coverage includes: “Injured Give Details of Terror Moments,” “Maria Screams in Bewilderment: I Lost my Daughter in Cowardly Act,” and ”Yunan: Fire Burned my Body, then I Felt Nothing until the Hospital,” and "[State of ] Emergency in Alexandria, Barriers around Papal Headquarters.”


The paper included photographs of the hospitalized victims, as well as a large cartoon titled "Events of December 31" showing an aircraft labeled "terrorism" colliding and damaging a church steeple alongside a mosque minaret.


Independent daily Al-Dustūr banners its front page “Egypt Defends its Churches” over a large photograph of a solidarity demonstration in which participants waved crosses and Qur’āns. Also carried was a report and photograph of lawyers rallying in front of their syndicate headquarters in protest of the Alexandria attack. Other headlines include: “Immediate Assistance from Trade Unions and Ministries to Victims’ Families” and “Azhar ShaykhMuftī, and Minister of Endowments Extend Condolences to Pope.”


Extensive inside coverage included: “Large Alexandria Muslim-Coptic Demonstration against Terrorism” "Security Forces Spread around City Entrances, Exits to Apprehend Perpetrators,” “Ninety Hurt as Angry Demonstrators Clash with Security Forces,” "Head of Evangelicals: We Shall not Cancel Christmas Prayers or Celebrations as Strong Message against Terrorism,” “Islamists Discount al-Qā‘idah, Salafī Involvement in Alexandria Blasts, Accuse Mossad,” and “Experts on Islamic groups: al-Mujahadīn Network Statement not Proof of al-Qā‘idah Involvement in Alexandria Explosions.”


Photos included Muslims and Copts at a solidarity demonstration in Alexandria, grieving relatives of the dead, and Coptic women attending Sunday services at a church.


The main headline of Independent daily Al-Misrī al-Yawm reads: “Alexandria Slaughter Investigations: 15 Foreigners who Entered Egypt in December Suspected. Witnesses Provide Suspect’s Description: Tall, Thin, White Skinned, Clean-Shaven, Wears Glasses.” Sub-headlines include: “Clashes between Copts, Security Forces in Cairo and Governorates,” “Security Preparedness Raised, Washington Offers to Assist Egypt in Repelling Attack,” and "Al-Misrī al-Yawm Readers: Perpetrator not a Muslim, Shed Blood is Egyptian, not Coptic.”


Photo coverage includes a picture of Copts clashing with security forces outside the Cairo television building, and one of intensified security around the Two Saints Church in Alexandria.


Inside page coverage includes: “Security Preparedness Raised Throughout Egypt in Anticipation of New Terrorist Attacks” and “Demonstrations, Clashes between Copts and Security Forces in Cairo and Governorates.” The paper also carried a large cartoon showing a mosque and a church side-by-side and labeled 2011, being approached by an ogre in a threatening manner.


Independent daily Al-Shurūq leads its front page with the headline: “Interior Ministry Promises Quick Identification of the Perpetrarators” over a large picture of the victims' funeral. Also included on the front page: "Al-Barād‘ī : What is Taking Place between Muslims and Copts is Shameful."


Inside page coverage included: “Muslims Distribute Flowers, Sweets to Churchgoers in Benha and Shubrā” / Alexandria Salafīs Denounce Blast, Consider it Evil,” “30 Suspects Detained in Alexandria,” “Deputy Head of Human Rights Council: If not for Emergency Law, We Would be another Iraq,” and “Rights Center Calls for Execution of Perpetrators in Public Square, Declaration of National Mourning."


Another photograph of the victims’ funeral was printed, in addition to a weeping woman descending rubble-strewn steps, presumably those of the targeted church.


On a separate page, the paper headlined: “On Second day after Alexandria Terrorist Incident: Clashes between Protesters, Police in a Number of Governorates,” “Thousands of Copts, Activists Demonstrate in a Number of Cairo Areas; 47 arrested, 20 Cars Smashed,” "Muslim-Coptic Procession Commences with ‘Long Live the Crescent with the Cross, Ends with anti-Government Chants,” "Activists Carry the Qur’ān, Bible on Alexandria’s Shores,” “Eyewitnesses: We Saw Iraq in our Street,” “Bishop Mūsá: Perpetrator of Alexandria Crime a Traitor, Love is the Answer,” “Following his Reception of Azhar Shaykh, Pope Confirms He Will head Christmas Mass,” "Al-Fiqi Calls on Satellite Channels not to Inflame Things Concerning Alexandria Events,” "Names of Recent Visitors to Egypt Reviewed,” and “Radi: We are Close to Knowing who Commited the Act.”


Photo coverage included the Coptic Pope with visiting senior Muslim officials, as well as angry Copts demonstrating on the Corniche, Cairo’s famous Nile-side road.


Image from allvoices.com

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