Sectarian Violence in Egypt
Following an 8-day visit to Egypt a couple of weeks ago, my big takeaways in a nutshell were (a) the mood about the political scene was overall more positive and upbeat than I had expected, and more positive than it had been a few weeks prior, (b) lots of uncertainty remained regarding the outcome of the upcoming elections and whether Egypt would progress as needed following those elections, but the elections were now being perceived as the legitimate avenue for political contestation, despite objections to the timetable and the process by which those elections were set up, and (c) the community that seemed the most anxious about the path ahead was the Coptic Christian community, in which fear had been particularly stoked by the rapid emergence of various radical Salafi groups.
Sadly, following yesterday’s sectarian violence in Imbaba in which at least 9 were killed, more than 100 injured, and a Coptic church was set on fire, things are only looking worse on that front. Following the Alexandria church bombing on New Year’s, Michael Hanna wrote (before the January 25 revolution) that “The actions of the Mubarak regime raise a suspicion that some degree of sectarianism and communal atomization is, in fact, a desired end.” Though Mubarak is now gone, the same dynamics remain on this front. The military council that’s currently running the country must now act assertively to hold people accountable for such violence if they are to prevent the escalation of similar suspicion.