Post-”Spring,” Egypt seems to be having some trouble exhibiting national unity. David Kirkpatrick reports from Cairo on violence surrounding Egypt’s Christians:
A night of street fighting between hundreds of Muslims and Christians left at least 12 people dead and two churches in flames on Sunday in the latest outbreak of sectarian tensions in the three months since the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
By lifting the heavy hand of the Mubarak police state, the revolution unleashed long-suppressed sectarian animosities that have burst out with increasing ferocity, threatening the recovery of Egypt’s tourist economy and the stability of its hoped-for transition to democracy.
Officials of the Interior Ministry said at least six Christians and at least six Muslims had died, and about 220 people were wounded, including at least 65 who were struck by bullets.
The Egyptian authorities vowed a swift response. The military council governing the country announced military trials for 190 people arrested in the violence. Civilian authorities promised increased security at houses of worship and a new ban on demonstrations outside such institutions. The interim prime minister, Essam Sharaf, canceled a trip abroad to preside over an emergency cabinet meeting, and Egypt’s most respected Muslim religious authority, the sheik of Al Azhar, denounced the violence.
“Egypt has already become a nation in danger,” Justice Minister Abdel Aziz al-Gindi said after the cabinet meeting, vowing to strike “with an iron hand” to preserve national security.