Egypt burns again with sectarian strife. For the past week, Dahshur, a small village just south of Cairo, in the governorate of Giza, has been boiling with violence, death, and unjust detentions. Just now, has the 35-day old President taken notice and decided to act on the matter. Mr. Morsy, on Friday, has asked Christian families to return to their homes, on Saturday, he has asked the governor of Giza to contain the violence, secure the situation, and enforce the rule of law. Just Friday has a special committee composed of Muslims and Christians been sent to the area to reconcile the matter. On Saturday, the National Council for Human Rights sent a fact-finding committee to investigate the events. After 16 Christian homes and properties robbed and torched; 130 Coptic families escaped, with the assistance and encouragement from police forces, the village for the fear of their livelihood, as has been the case in recent years; a church damaged; and 2 Copts arrested and under investigation for possession of explosives and attempted murder, and 5 Muslims arrested in connection with the initial violence; numerous calls by politicians, political parties, intellects, and religious figures, and protests in front of the Presidential Palace, Mr. Morsy finally turned his attention to the matter.
The Dahshur violence was ignited by an ironing job gone badly. A Coptic launderer burned the shirt of a Muslim customer, resulting in a verbal confrontation, following with the initial violence the next day, Friday, July 27, in which investigators found that 1,000 Muslims gathered to burn, and succeeded, the launderer’s home as well as attempting to kill him and his family members. Additionally, mobs, then, had attempted to damage the church but were reportedly stopped by security forces. Both sides exchanged Molotov cocktails. Violence was heightened on Tuesday, July 31 after the funeral of Moaz Mohamed, who was, accidently, struck and burned (dying in a nearby hospital days later) by a Molotov cocktail while in the vicinity of the fighting. Coptic homes ands shops were pillaged and burned and the local church windows destroyed as security forces withdrew from the area immediately following the escalation of events. Since the fighting started, over 100 Coptic families have been displaced and many Coptic homes and shops have been charred and looted.
Today, a video released by Mosireen, a non-profit media collective, shows the village relatively calm with Christian homes wooded and locked up to prevent return to their homes and two interviewees indicating they want the return of the Copts to the village, upon the wronged Muslim family attaining retribution. The video also interviews the village Mayor who declares the Copts were not driven out but rather left willingly, and that State Security is no longer existent, but instead, “freedom and justice” (the name of the political party belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood). When asked had the situation been reversed and the Muslims were targeted, would the Muslims leave the village and their homes, he responds with “that is personal business. They’re the ones who are afraid so they left. Death and family feuds occur in our village all the time.”
Additionally, Giza security forces today arrested 9 individuals connected with the looting and burning of the homes, with investigations showing that 4 of which are with criminal records. Police continue to hunt for an additional 6 suspects.
The sectarian violence has once again lead to the age-old question. Is this religious sectarianism or a simple family/civil feud? Generally, sectarian violence in Egypt has been ignited by land disputes, old familial feuds, or romantic relationships. But what, or who, are the roots of the tensions?
Who to blame?
Who can be blamed for sectarianism now? All of the prior scapegoats, in large, have disappeared from the Egyptian political scene. The National Democratic Party is not in governmental offices. Muburak and his interior minister are not in office. Could it possibly be the time to put our naïve-ness and denial aside and call a spade a spade? If this country is to move forward by any stretch, we, governmental officials and laypersons alike, must acknowledge the fact that sectarianism is a serious issue to be resolved at its roots.
Impunity, regarded as a reason for sectarianism by the National Council for Human Rights, or light criminal sentences for perpetrators must cease and the rule of law must be enforced. Town hall-like reconciliation sessions are not reasonable nor are they appropriate and must be stopped. Hard-line religious programming, unjust and hateful religious edicts, and incitement and hatred roaring throughout the streets of the country during Friday prayer services must be halt and reproached and hate filled text books charred. With a growing hard line Islamist movement and monopoly of the political scene, the situation has become too grave and the Copts are direly seeking equal protection and citizenship. Governmental officials and leadership must take notice and act quickly to bring justice to those who are wronged and severely criminally punish the genuine perpetrators. As noted by Hossam Bahgat, head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the graveness of the violence this time “was not only expected by preventable, and security forced failed to prevent it even though they had prior knowledge.”
Where art thou, Mr. President? Where is your promise to be a President for all Egyptians? Why not vow (and uphold such vow) to defend the Copts’ humanity, livelihood, religious freedoms, citizenship, and dignity rather than concern yourself with defending the Armed Forces against insults? As for the Copts, don’t leave your homes and land. As one social media user noted, Israel (like Dahshur’s Mayor) declares that the Palestinians sold their land willingly.