One of the various misrepresentations regarding the Egyptian revolution was that the participation of some of Egypt’s Christians meant that there was no underlying Islamic agenda.
Many media outlets went out of their way to paint a picture of Muslims and Christians standing arm-in-arm in search of freedom. And in some isolated examples, that may have been an accurate portrayal.
But with the increasing influence of and attention on Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood in post-Mubarak Egypt, Christians are starting to feel the heat, as evidenced by a brutal clash between Muslims and Christians in Cairo on Tuesday that left 13 people dead and more than 140 wounded.
The armed confrontation was preceded by Muslims burning down a church in the Helwan neighborhood of Cairo last week. To rub salt in that wound, the Muslims returned to the burned-out church on Tuesday to conduct mass Islamic prayers on the site.
Coptic Christian spokesmen told reporters that as arguments between the Muslims and the Christians who gathered to oppose them escalated, Muslim gunmen opened fire, killing six Christians and resulting in a pitched street battle.
A Coptic priest told France’s AFP news agency that Tuesday’s battle was not the only trouble of late for Cairo’s Christians. After the burning down of the church in question last week, more than 1,000 Christians had publicly demonstrated at the weekend to demand protection and equality. They were fired on by Muslims.
The priest revealed that Muslims in the area have been regularly firebombing Christian homes and workplaces and throwing stones at Christians who try to publicly demonstrate for their rights.
Egypt’s new military rulers have taken to action to date against the offending Muslims.
During the 18-day revolution that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, while many news outlets were showing Christians and Muslims as a united front, a large number of Christians were actually being slaughtered by Muslims taking advantage of the general chaos in Egypt.
In one particularly gruesome incident, Muslims in southern Egypt massacred two entire families, including young children, for the crime of being Christian. In total, 24 Egyptian Christians were murdered in January.
A number of Christian sources also indicated that their community had in no way been fully behind the revolution, since many knew full well that it would eventually be taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. While Egypt under Mubarak was anything but ideal, a new Islamic Republic can only mean a life of severity as second-class citizens for Egypt’s Christians.